A timeless Test is a match of Test cricket played under no limitation of time, which means the match is played until one side wins or the match is tied, with theoretically no possibility of a draw. The format means that it is not possible to play defensively for a draw when the allotted time runs out, and delays due to bad weather will not prevent the match ending with a positive result. It also means that there is far less reason for a side to declare an innings, since time pressure should not affect the chances of winning the game.
Although the format should guarantee a result, it was ultimately abandoned as it was impossible to predict with any certainty when a match would be finished, making scheduling and commercial aspects difficult. In the modern era teams often play back-to-back tests in consecutive weeks, something that would be impossible without the five day limit.
The last ever timeless Test (or the longest cricket match in history) was the fifth Test between England and South Africa at Durban in 1939, which was abandoned as a draw after nine days of play spread over twelve days, otherwise the England team would have missed the boat for home. The game started on 3rd March 1939 and play continued on the 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th and the 14th. Play was scheduled for the 11th, but none was possible because of rain, giving 9 days of actual, and 10 days of scheduled play. By the evening of 14 March England were 316 and 654 for 5 chasing South Africa’s 530 and 481 needing just 42 more runs for victory. But England needed to leave Durban on the 15th to catch their boat home, so, despite being a ‘timeless’ Test, a draw was agreed. England’s 654 is the highest score ever recorded batting last.
|Close of play|
|Fri, 3 Mar||– day 1 – South Africa 1st innings 229/2 (PGV van der Bijl 105*, B Mitchell 4*)|
|Sat, 4 Mar||– day 2 – South Africa 1st innings 423/6 (AD Nourse 77*, RE Grieveson 26*)|
|Sun, 5 Mar||– rest day|
|Mon, 6 Mar||– day 3 – England 1st innings 35/1 (L Hutton 24*, E Paynter 6*)|
|Tue, 7 Mar||– day 4 – England 1st innings 268/7 (LEG Ames 82*, DVP Wright 5*)|
|Wed, 8 Mar||– day 5 – South Africa 2nd innings 193/3 (AD Nourse 1*, KG Viljoen 1*)|
|Thu, 9 Mar||– day 6 – England 2nd innings 0/0 (L Hutton 0*, PA Gibb 0*)|
|Fri, 10 Mar||– day 7 – England 2nd innings 253/1 (PA Gibb 78*, WJ Edrich 107*)|
|Sat, 11 Mar||– day 8 – no play|
|Sun, 12 Mar||– rest day|
|Mon, 13 Mar||– day 9 – England 2nd innings 496/3 (WR Hammond 58*, E Paynter 24*)|
|Tue, 14 Mar||– day 10 – England 2nd innings 654/5 (218.2 ov) – end of match|
The ICC is considering implementing a timeless test for the final of the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, which is scheduled for 2017