To those unfamiliar with the sport, cricket can be a bewildering and convoluted game to follow. Not only do you have so many intricate rules, but a variety of formats that seem to change the whole complexion of the sport from match to match.
This can make it a daunting challenge for anyone wanting to start watching or playing cricket, particularly without prior experience or understanding. So, read on for a brief rundown on what does and doesn’t change across each format of the game.
What’s consistent across all formats?
Firstly, it’s a good idea to focus on what doesn’t change across formats. Fundamental equipment like cricket bats, balls, stumps and the pitch stay relatively consistent because these form the basis of the sport. Players also wear similar garments, mostly just changing colours across different formats.
Protective equipment like helmets, pads and gloves are also fundamental across all formats, as well as specialist cricket shoes that help footing on the pitch. Of course, there can be a significant difference in the quality of equipment and venues used in between amateur and professional cricket, but the fundamental aspects of the game remain. So, what are the different formats?
Test cricket is the pinnacle of the sport around the world and is only played at an international level by the very best professional players. The format is the longest of them all, lasting a maximum of 5 days with around 90 overs played every day (bar any disruptive rain). A red ball is traditionally used in this longer form of the game.
There can be 4 innings over the 5 days, with each team batting and bowling twice – the aim being to outscore the opponents across the 4 innings. The format is perhaps the most traditional in cricket, having not changed much in centuries. All players will wear white, as opposed to limited overs formats where different colours are used.
4-day cricket is played beneath the international level by counties, states and regions all around the world. The 4-day game is meant to replicate the Test format, developing talent for the international game and further continuing the traditional aspect of the sport.
The one-day format was the first to be considered as ‘limited overs’ cricket. Each team has 50 overs to bat and the ultimate aim is to outscore the opposition again. This format is played at all levels of the game, from international cricket through to amateur club cricket.
The fundamentals of the format are the same, but the pace of the game is different – with batsmen looking to score more quickly within the limited overs available. Teams are more likely to wear different colours above amateur level and a white ball is used.
The T20 format was developed after one-day cricket, as an even shorter and more explosive version of the game. This format led the commercialisation of the sport and is again played through all levels of the system. In this shortened format, each team has a maximum of 20 overs to bat and this dramatically changes the mindset of batsmen and bowler.
The Hundred is a brand-new format developed by the ECB which is starting in the summer of 2021. This format is an even shorter version of the game, aiming to engage with younger audiences and a more diverse demographic of spectators. The tournament is only being played in domestic English cricket to begin with, but the format is already starting to be played by amateur teams this season.