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 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. This match had started on 3 March. South Africa had set a target of 696 for England to win. By the time England had to leave to catch their boat home, on 14 March, England had reached 654 for 5 (the highest ever first-class fourth innings score). This is the longest Test cricket match on record.
- Frindall, Bill (2009). Ask Bearders. BBC Books. pp. 216–217. ISBN 978-1-84607-880-4.
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