The advent of cricket as an international sport happened in 1877 with a game between Australia and England, later termed as a Test match. Since then, 3000 Test matches have been played and the number of these Test-playing nations have gone up from two to 10.
Only five years after that first Test match between Australia and England, did the first ever bilateral ‘tournament’, by the name of Ashes start. England lost a series to Australia and a mock obituary of English cricket in a newspaper spoke about the “body [of English cricket] will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.”
Since then, the two sides participate in the Ashes, and it is the longest-lasting rivalry in international cricket.
South Africa joined the two countries in 1889 as the third Test-playing nation, followed by West Indies in 1928, New Zealand in 1930 and India in 1932. After partition of India and Pakistan, the latter became the seventh Test playing country to join the fray in 1952 and there was a considerable gap of 30 years before another team joined the group. It was in 1982 that Sri Lanka was allowed Test-playing status, while in 1992, it was the turn of Zimbabwe to start playing Test matches.
The last team to have attained Test match-playing status was Bangladesh in 2010 and as things currently stand, Ireland look to be pushing their case to become the 11th country to join the elite list.
A Test match is currently played over five days, with 90 overs bowled each day and the two opposing teams expected to bat twice apiece. If none of the teams are able to win the game in those five days, the match ends in a draw. There have been times when the games have been played over three, four and six days as well, but what takes the cake is the concept of Timeless Test matches that was tried in the early part of the 20th century.
Teams had to play to finish the game, and there was no drawn game allowed, whether it took seven, eight or nine or more days to finish it. Thankfully, Test cricket moved on from that experiment.
Some of the famous Test cricketing rivalries are the Australia-West Indies series (who play for the Sir Frank Worrell trophy), England-West Indies series (for the Wisden trophy), India-Australia series (for the Bordder-Gavaskar trophy) and England-South Africa series (for the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy).