The Three Formats of Cricket

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What is cricket – the three formats
Cricket is unique as a sport with three different formats of the game at the very highest level. Test cricket, One-Day International cricket and Twenty20 International cricket are the three and how the three formats work is explained right here.


There are three formats of cricket played at the international level – Test matches, One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals. These matches are played under the rules and regulations approved by the International Cricket Council, which also provides match officials for them.

Test cricket is the traditional form of the game, which has been played since 1877 and now settled in a five-day format which comprises two innings each. It is considered the pinnacle form because it tests teams over a longer period of time. Teams need to exhibit endurance, technique and temperament in different conditions to do well in this format.

The leader of the MRF Tyres ICC Test Match rankings (as on 1 April each year) gets a cash prize of $1 million, with the next three teams in the rankings also getting cash awards.

One Day Internationals, also known as ODIs, are a pacier format which started in 1971 but gained in popularity from the 1980s. These are one-innings matches of 50 overs per side, in which teams with a blend of technique, speed and skill are expected to do well. The ICC’s pinnacle event, the ICC Cricket World Cup, is contested every four years in this format.

The 50-over format has developed in more recent years with the ICC also organising the Champions Trophy for the top eight ranked teams, the ICC Women’s World Cup every four years and the ICC Under 19 Cricket World Cup every two years.

Twenty20 Internationals are the newest, shortest and fastest form of the game. This format of 20 overs per side has brought in new audiences since its advent in 2005 and also triggered new skill sets and innovations. A Twenty20 International match is usually competed in three hours and with huge hitting, skillful bowling and amazing fielding it has been hugely popular with fans right around the world. 

The ICC World Twenty20 is the premier international T20 tournament which started in 2007, and it has been hosted a further five times since then with the advent of the ICC Women's World Twenty20 being hosted alongside the men's event since 2009. However, the next edition, to be played in the Caribbean in 2018, it will be a standalone event for the first time.

As of now, there are 12 ICC Members with Test Match status, which means they also enjoy ODI and T20I status, following the inclusion of Afghanistan and Ireland in June 2017. Starting 2019, the ICC World Test Championship will come into existence, with the top nine teams taking part in a competition over a two-year cycle. The top two teams at the end of the cycle will take part in the ICC World Test Championship final.

A further four countries have ODI status, which means there are 16 ICC Members with ODI status.

That aside, all 104 member nations have been granted T20I status – for women, it came into effect on 1 July 2018, while for the men, it will be effective from 1 January 2019.

These teams are ranked on the respective MRF Tyres ICC Team Rankings in the three different formats of cricket.