Data | The indirect impact of T20s on Test cricket

Since 2007, there has been a significant reduction in the number of Tests ending in draws

Updated - May 25, 2023 05:27 pm IST

Published - May 25, 2023 05:26 pm IST

Indian batsman Virat Kohli in action during 4th and final Test match between India and Australia at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday March 12, 2023.

Indian batsman Virat Kohli in action during 4th and final Test match between India and Australia at Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Sunday March 12, 2023. | Photo Credit: VIJAY SONEJI / The Hindu

Ever since the introduction of T20 matches in cricket, scoring rates in all formats of cricket have increased and coincidentally, risk-taking by batsmen has also gone up. The increased risk-taking by batsmen in pursuit of quicker runs has seeped into other forms of cricket. This has, in turn, allowed bowlers to have higher probabilities of inducing mistakes and taking wickets in these formats, unlike T20s, which allow for only 20 overs and a maximum of only four overs for each bowler.

As a result, formats such as Tests, which are not as disadvantageous to bowlers as T20s, allow them greater leeway and opportunities to grab wickets, which could in turn lead to more decisive matches or conversely fewer drawn matches. There are several other factors that determine whether a Test is decisive or not — pitch conditions, for e.g., but all things considered equal, it seems that bowlers have a greater opportunity besides the ability to bowl out batting lineups and secure victories for their teams.

To verify if this hypothesis about Test cricket holds true, we divided the history of Test cricket into four eras — 1877-1939 (274 matches), 1940-1974 (476), 1975-2006 (1075) and 2007-2023 (678) and looked at the proportion of drawn Tests to the overall in each of these eras. There are specific reasons to classify Test matches based on these periods.

Between 1877 and 1939, there were more than a few “timeless” Tests played which were per force held to produce a result (although this did not always work). Tests were also played on uncovered pitches for the most part during this period, rendering an advantage to bowlers. Fully covered pitches reportedly were used in Australia from 1954-55 and went on to become the norm later in other parts of the world over a period of time.

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The next era, 1940-1974, comprises of Tests played before the introduction of limited overs cricket, while the succeeding period, 1975-2006, coincided with the burgeoning of the one-day internationals (ODIs) which also saw the introduction of helmets and protective equipment and enforcement of rules such as limitation on the number of bouncers that could be bowled in an over.

Finally, 2007 marked the year when the first Twenty20 World Cup took place and within a year, the IPL bonanza began. Interestingly, 2008 was also the year when the decision review system (DRS) was introduced, which clearly has had an impact in terms of umpiring becoming more aggressive with leg-before-wicket (LBW) decisions, and therefore helping bowlers and aiding in making matches more decisive.

Chart 1 | The chart shows the share of drawn Test matches during different periods - pre-1940s, pre-ODI period, ODI period and T20 period.

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Chart 1 shows the highest percentage of drawn matches occurring in the pre-ODI period (and after 1939). The lowest share of drawn matches every year happened during the T20 era (2007 onwards). 

Table 2 | The table shows the share of drawn Tests, median average and batsmen averaging above 50 across different periods

CategoryMatchesDrawsDrawn (%)MedianAverage above 50
2007 onwards67814020.6553.0317
Grand Total2,50378631.40

Table 2 quantifies the numbers — prior to 1939, 28% of all Tests were drawn, and this went up to 42.23% between 1940 and 1974, reduced to 34.33% in the ODI era (1975-2007) and reduced drastically to just 20.65% since 2007. A decadal look at this metric (% of drawn tests) also shows a significant fall in the 2010s and 2020s (table 3).

Table 3 | The table shows the share of drawn Tests in each decade, the median average of the top 20 batsmen and the number of batsmen averaging over 50 in each of these periods

DecadesMatchesDrawsDrawn (%)MedianAverage above 50

Chart 4 takes a decadal look at the duration of Tests (including rest days) over time. While Tests are getting more decisive in the post-2007 period, more Tests are getting completed before the fifth day — an indication of the prowess of Test bowling. In sum, bowlers may get the rough end of the stick in T20s by design, but this has also helped them thrive in Tests played in this era.

Chart 4 | The chart shows the share of days taken for Tests across decades (including those with rest days). More Tests ended in 3-4 days since the 2000s than in the past.

Note: Inputs were provided by S. Ram Mahesh. Analysis was made possible with the help of Yashaswi Pasumarthy, Arghya Roy, Ayush Maurya, Maharnav Singhal, Tanveer Ul Mustafa, Aishani Pandey, Rewanth Talasila (students at IIIT-Hyderabad).

Source: ESPNCricinfo

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