What Are The Different Formats Of International Cricket, And How Do They Differ?

Cricket Club based in South Bank, York

Whilst cricket is not close to being one of the oldest sports in the world, it is one of if not the oldest true sports in England. The sport came to be in the mid to late 1800’s with the first international cricket match occurring between the United States and Canada in 1844. Since then, the sport has grown to be the second most popular sport in the world. This page will help explain the development in cricket and its playing formats since it’s creation in the 19th century.

In today’s game, there are 3 major formats of cricket: Tests, ODI’s & T20’s. The Hundred and T10’s are still popular but nowhere near the popularity as the previous 3. There will be analysis of all these formats and a comparison at the end of the page.


Tests were the first form of cricket. As mentioned above, the first international cricket match between the United States and Canada in 1844 was a test. Since then, tests have been the standard form of international and domestic cricket around the world.

How long do cricket tests take?

Tests are known for being the longest form of cricket. In most international and domestic games, each team has to have 2 innings each in a maximum of 5 days. Typically, they start at 11:00am and finish at around 6:00pm (in the UK). There are plenty of breaks during the day to keep the players energised and fed. There is around a 45 minute break for lunch and tea with drink breaks scattered across the day.

An example of a test between England and Australia in the Ashes:

Thursday 11:00 – 6:00pm

Friday 11:00 – 6:00pm

Saturday 11:00 – 6:00pm

Sunday 11:00 – 6:00pm

Monday 11:00 – 6:00pm

There is no maximum number of overs in a test. However, as both teams have to bat 2 innings, some teams may declare and forfeit their innings early, despite not losing all of their wickets.

What does it mean to declare in cricket?

In cricket, “declaring” is a strategic choice made by the captain or coach of the batting team during a Test. They choose to stop their innings before all of their batters are out. This can be down to a number of reasons:

  1. Timing – If the captain thinks that they need more time to get the opponents out when they bat, then a captain may choose to declare.
  2. Target setting – If the team has a large score that will be difficult for the opponents to achieve, then a captain could consider ending the innings early so that they have more of a chance of getting the opponents out.
  3. Draw – If the match looks to be heading towards a draw and the batting team need to win, declaring can set up a situation where both teams have the opportunity to win or to lose. This is a very risky move but one that results in a fun watch for spectators.

One-Day Internationals (ODI’s)

One day internationals (ODIs) are a middle ground between tests and t20’s. They last 1 day and consist of 50 overs per team. Unlike tests and t20’s, ODIs are played in the day and the night. They tend to start at 1pm and finish in the evening. Since an ODI is not as long as a test but longer than a t20, it’s hard to manage the strategy because the team doesn’t want to be too defensive (like in a test) and too attacking (like in a t20).

What if it rains during an ODI?

In 1999 the ICC adopted a method called Duckworth-Lewis. It was a way of trying to make it fair on both teams to win if there was a stoppage in play (most likely due to weather).

What is Duckworth-lewis?

Duckworth-Lewis is a mathematical formula that adjusts targets for the batting team to achieve. It considers overs and wickets remaining to determine a fair score for the batting team to achieve based on their current performance and the performance of the bowling teams batting innings.

Twenty-Twenty’s (T20’s)

T20’s are the most common shortest form of the game globally. The name implies how many overs each team gets. They get 20 overs each. T20 is growing to be the favourite format amongst global viewers because of its aggressive and entertaining features. Since each team has only 20 overs to score runs, they attach the ball in the hopes of gaining as many boundaries and runs as possible. Another reason why t20s’s are growing in popularity is because of famous leagues around the world. There is the t20 Blast in the UK, Big Bash in Australia and more importantly, the IPL in India. The teams competing in these tournaments spend lots of money to attract the best cricketers from around the world.

How long does a t20 game last?

Each innings in a t20 game tends to last around 1:30hrs. With a short break in-between plays, you can expect to be watching the game for around 3:30hrs.

What is a super over?

A super over is used in ODI’s and t20’s when both teams achieve the same total. A super over consists of 6 legal balls for each team. It is basically the same format for the whole game but in a super exciting over at the end of the game. One team will try to score as many runs as possible whilst batting and then will have to defend the score in the field. The 2019 Cricket World Cup final (ODI) was won by a super over.

The Hundred

The Hundred is a brand new format of cricket that was introduced in the UK in 2021. It is like a t20 but instead having a fixed number of overs (like 20 or 50), there are 100 balls bowled in each innings. It was created to help introduce new fans to the sport as the ECB acknowledged that shorter formats of the game were more enticing for new fans because of its action compared to 5-day tests. Unlike other formats of cricket, there are 2 games of the Hundred on the day same. The women play a game before the men play.

How many teams are in the Hundred?

There are 8 teams who play in the Hundred (both male and female)

  • Northern Superchargers
  • Welsh Fire
  • Birmingham Phoenix
  • London Spirit
  • Manchester Originals
  • Oval Invincibles
  • Southern Brave
  • Trent Rockets

Long does a Hundred game last?

Since the Hundred has innings of 100 balls compared to a t20 innings of 120 balls, each Hundred game will be shorter. You can expect each Hundred game to last around 3 hours.

Ten-Ten’s (T10’s)

 T10 is a rare format of the game that only consists of 10 overs for each team. Like T20s, this format is designed to be extremely entertaining due to the aggressiveness of the batters. There are t10 leagues across the world but they are yet to drum up popularity since the games don’t last as long.

How long does a t10 game last?

Since a t10 is half the amount of overs as a t20, you can expect it to last around 2 hours as there are breaks during the game and halfway through.

Cricket Format Comparison Table

The asterisk (*) indicates a rough average