What Is An Innings In Cricket? All You Need To Know!

An innings forms part of the foundation of the game of cricket. If you can learn what they are and how they work, you will quickly increase your understanding of the sport! Having said that, I’m often surprised how many newcomers to the game aren’t sure what an innings is, how many of them there are in each type of cricket, and how they are ended. If you’re itching to know the answer to any of these questions, or even if you just want to grab some extra info on this topic, stick with me because you’re going to find out exactly what you need to know by reading this post! First, let’s keep it basic…

What is an innings in cricket?

The word ‘innings’ in a cricket context refers to how long a team or an individual player spends batting. For example, a team innings is the total time that one cricket team spends batting. Additionally, the word innings can be used to describe the time that a single batsman spends at the crease.

Now, let’s expand my example a little further. Imagine England bat first in a test match against Australia and score 400 with all 10 wickets being taken by Australia. This score of 400 would be counted as a completed innings for the England team. Within that team innings of 400 runs, there are smaller individual innings’ belonging to each England batsman. For example, if Joe Root scores 150 runs as part of the team score of 400, then this would be a vital individual innings which contributed to a solid team innings! If Jos Buttler scored a swift 30 runs, then this would be a smaller individual innings that contributed towards the team total.

Now, let’s move on to a few more questions you may be wanting answers to…

How Many Balls Are There In An Innings?

The answer to this question depends on which type of cricket you’re talking about! Let’s explore a few different types…

First Class Cricket

If you’re talking about first-class cricket (this includes cricket matches that are played over multiple days like test matches and county championship games), then there is no limit on the number of balls that could be bowled over the course of an innings!

If one team were skilled enough to bat for 1500+ deliveries, then this could hypothetically be possible during a first-class match. However, a team innings could also be ended much quicker than this. A first-class innings will go on until the innings is ended by the bowling side, or until the batting side ends the innings themselves by declaring etc. A first-class innings could also be ended due to the end of the game occurring.

In first class cricket there is also no rule that governs how long a batsman’s individual innings can last. They can face as many balls as they like!

50 Over Cricket

Many international matches (One Day Internationals) and domestic limited overs games are 50 overs per side games. This means that each team has the opportunity to bat for a maximum of 50 overs during a match! As many of you will know, 50 overs = 300 balls, so the maximum number of balls in an innings of 50 over cricket is 300.

Of course, not every innings in 50 over cricket lasts for the maximum 300 balls. A team could be bowled out much earlier, meaning that the innings could last for only 100 balls, or maybe even 60 balls or less! A team batting second could also chase down the target score in 200 balls, rather than using the maximum 300 deliveries available. Therefore, the number of balls within a 50 over innings are variable up to the maximum of 300 deliveries.

There is no rule in this form of the game with regards to the number of balls a batsman can face in their individual innings. However, due to the bowling side only being able to deliver a maximum of 300 balls, one batsman could not possibly face more than 300 deliveries.

20 Over Cricket

In 20 over cricket matches, each team has the opportunity to bat for a maximum of 20 overs. 20 overs = 120 balls, so each team innings in this type of cricket will be a maximum of 120 balls long.

As with all types of cricket, the innings could end earlier if the batting team gets bowled out or chases down their target score successfully. So, all you need to know is that a team innings in 20 over cricket could last for any number of balls up to the maximum of 120.

In 20 over cricket there is no rule describing how many balls batsmen are allowed to face over the course of their individual innings. Although, no batsman would be able to face more than 120, seeing as this is the maximum number for the whole innings.

How Many Innings Are In Test Cricket?

In test cricket (and first-class cricket in general) each team has the opportunity to bat twice, meaning that there are two innings per team permitted in these games. This adds up to a total of 4 innings in test matches.

In most tests, you will see both teams have two innings each. However, this doesn’t happen in every test! Sometimes the team batting first will get such a big first innings lead that they can enforce the follow on (read more about that here), and this gives them the chance to achieve an innings victory! An innings victory basically means that one team can force a win whilst only batting once, compared to the two times that the opposing team batted.

In test matches that are affected by bad weather, you may also not get an opportunity to see both teams play the usual 2 innings each. For example, if 3 of the days are lost due to heavy rain, there will only be 2 days remaining in a test match for each team to bat twice! It is unlikely that 4 separate innings can be crammed in to 2 days, which is why games that are affected heavily by bad weather often end in draws!

How Is An Innings Ended?

As you’ll know if you’ve read the rest of this post, there are two types of innings in cricket: individual innings’, and team innings’. But, how do you know when an innings is over? What has to happen for one to be ended? Let’s briefly discuss this below.

Individual Innings

A batsman’s innings is ended in a few main ways. They are as follows:

  1. The Batsman Is Given Out By The Umpire – When the umpire raises their finger and the batsman is given out, their innings is over! The umpire will choose to give the batsman out due to various reasons, and if you want to learn about all those then click here to head over to one of my other posts that will explain them all!
  2. The Batsman ‘Retires Hurt’ Due To Illness Or Injury – If a batsman gets injured or ill during the course of their innings, they may leave the field and fail to resume their innings. If the batsman does not return to the field before the team innings is ended, then their individual innings is over!
  3. The Batsman’s Team Is Bowled Out – If you’ve ever been batting whilst the rest of your team mates are bowled out around you, you’ll know the pain of this one. Your innings can be ended if the rest of your team mates are given out by the umpire. Even though you yourself haven’t been given out, you could eventually run out of partners – which will end your stay at the crease.
  4. The Game Reaches A Conclusion – If the cricket match comes to an end whilst a batsman is midway through an innings, that innings will end with them being declared ‘not out’.

Team Innings

Team batting innings are also ended in a few distinct ways. Here they are:

  1. The Batting Team Is Bowled Out – If a batting team loses all 10 wickets, their innings will be over!
  2. The Batting Team Captain Chooses To Declare – When the batting team chooses to declare, they are voluntarily ending their own innings.
  3. The Game Reaches A Conclusion – If a cricket match concludes for any reason, such as either side winning the game, or a test match reaching the end of the scheduled 5 days, all innings that were in progress will automatically be ended. For example, if Australia are 250-5 chasing 350 to win a test match, but they run out of time, their innings will end with them 100 runs short!

What Is The Longest Innings Ever?

To end this post, I thought it would be useful to take a quick look back through the international cricket archives to see if we can find out what the longest international innings of all time are! In this section, I’ll take you through the longest team innings first, followed by the longest individual innings!

The Longest Team Innings

The longest innings ever played by an international team was a mammoth 335.2 overs long. The team responsible for this incredible feat was England, playing against Australia at the Oval in August 1938. To put this number of overs into perspective, it would take a modern test team almost 4 days of a test match to face this number of overs, given that only 90 overs are permitted to be bowled each day. This innings is also famous because it featured legendary England batsman Len Hutton’s score of 364, which he batted for 13 hours in order to compile!

Luckily for the Australian bowlers, test matches at this time often featured a rest day – which was a day during the test match where players would be allowed to take a day off. The rest day during this match fell between day 1 and day 2, which gave the Aussie bowlers some much needed time to put their feet up!

This was also a ‘timeless test’! Meaning that there was no limit on the number of days that could be played. The teams would continue until a winner had emerged! However, the game ended on day 4 after Australia were defeated by an innings.

The longest international team innings of the 21st century so far is Pakistan’s score of 765/6 declared vs Sri Lanka in February 2009. To achieve this score, Pakistan batted for 248.5 overs, with Younis Khan registering a triple century in the process!

The Longest Individual Innings

The longest innings ever played by an individual batsman at international level was 970 minutes long, and it was played by Pakistani batsman Hanif Mohammad against the West Indies in 1958. 970 minutes is equal to just over 16 hours at the crease – a truly phenomenal achievement!

One of the most remarkable things about this innings is that it came in Pakistan’s second innings, just after they had been forced to follow on by the West Indies. In their first innings, Pakistan were bowled out for a sub-par 106, but in the second innings, Hanif Mohammad tripled this score all by himself! In his 16 hours at the crease he scored 337 runs, and his heroics helped Pakistan to salvage a draw in this game.

The longest innings to date in the 21st century was Alastair Cook’s 263 from 528 balls against Pakistan in 2015 – in which he batted for 836 minutes (almost 14 hours!)


I’m confident that reading this post will have armed you with the knowledge you need to understand the basics of cricket a little bit better! If you still have some questions about how cricket is played, you should find plenty of other posts on the site that will cover some of the trickier topics.

Alternatively, if you’re struggling with technical issues or you just want to know how to improve your cricketing skills, head over to my bowling, batting and fielding tips pages and see if you can find something that will help you out!

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