Timeless Tests

The first Timeless Test was played in 1926, when the first four tests on Australia's tour of England produced draws and the authorities decided to allow the fifth and final test to take as long as was necessary to produce a result. In the event the match finished in four days, England winning by 289 runs after bowling Australia out for 125 in their second innings.

Including that first one, a total of 34 timeless tests were played over the next 13 years. England were involved in all but seven of them, winning 13 and losing 12. Two timeless tests were drawn, in each case because the visiting team (it was England both times) had to catch their boat home.

The first drawn timeless test was played at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica in 1930; the second was at Kingsmead, Durban in 1939. Each of these two matches lasted nine days without producing a result. The 5th test at Durban in 1939 was the last ever timeless test. South Africa batted first and scored 530, then bowled England out for 316 in their first innings. South Africa scored 481 in their second innings, meaning that England needed 696 to win the match. They came tantalisingly close, scoring 654 for 5 before the 'timeless' test ran out of time. This remains the highest ever score in the fourth innings of a test match. Top scorer was Bill Edrich with 219.

In 2011 there was talk of the final of the inaugural World Test Championship, which was scheduled to take place in 2013, being timeless. This was given short shrift by most observers, but in the event the tournament was never held because of financial difficulties. (There have since been further proposals for such a competition, but at the time of writing – in 2017 – it seems that there is unlikely to be one before at least 2025.)

© Haydn Thompson 2017