Some of my baseball-loving friends are still confused over the difference in cricket between a draw and a tie. So, this post is my way to try to resolve that confusion. There are three main forms of the game of cricket. One of them—the first-class game, or (when played between nations) the Test match—is limited by how many days the game goes on: three, four, or (in the case of the Test match) up to five days. The other two forms of the game—the 50-over or one-day game, and the 20-over (or Twenty20/T20) game—are limited by the number of balls that each team can bowl.
The limitation of balls in the two shorter forms of cricket means that ninety-nine percent of the time one team wins (i.e. scores more runs in the allotted number of balls) than the other. Occasionally, however, both teams score exactly the same number of runs, as recently happened between India and England in the World Cup. England needed two runs to win, and India needed to stop England from scoring to triumph. As it turned out, England scored one run off the final ball, and the scores were level. This, in cricketing parlance, is a tie.
Now, in the longest form of cricket—the first-class game/Test match—there are two innings, instead of one, per side. By the end of the fifth (or whatever) day, a team may have failed to score the requisite amount of runs to win the match and not lost all of their wickets and have run out of time. In such a situation—i.e. when neither team takes twenty wickets—the game is called a draw.
Here’s an example of a fictional draw: Australia score 286 all out, and England score 242 in reply. Australia go to bat for their second inning, and score 346 for 5 wickets before ending their innings (it’s called “declaring“). What this means is that Australia believe that, given the amount of time left in the match, they think they can get all of England’s batsmen out in the second innings for less than that 389 it would take for England to win the game. As it turns out, England stymie the Australian efforts and, by the end of the fifth day, have scored 256 for the loss of 7 wickets. Time runs out. Nobody wins. A draw.
Now, very rarely indeed, the teams in first-class games/Test matches may battle it out for five days and score exactly the same number of runs. In other words, with the final ball being bowled after all that time, they are level. And that is a tie. It’s only happened twice in the entire history of Test cricket, so I wouldn’t worry too much about the rule here!