Test cricket is the oldest and the longest format of the game, which spans over five days with two innings per side. It is also the format that tests the skills, stamina and strategy of the players and the teams. In a test match, there are two intervals taken in a day’s play, apart from the drinks breaks. The first interval is the lunch break, which lasts for 40 minutes, and the second interval is the tea break, which lasts for 20 minutes. Here, we have a look at the tea break and its significance in test cricket.
The origin of the tea break in test cricket is not very clear, but it is believed that it dates back to the late 19th century or the early 20th century. According to some sources, the tea break was introduced by Lord Harris, who was the captain of England and later became the governor of Bombay. He was fond of tea and used to have it during the breaks in play. He also invited the opposing team’s captain to join him for tea, which became a tradition and a gesture of sportsmanship.
Another possible origin of the tea break is that it was influenced by the social customs of the British aristocracy, who used to have afternoon tea as a part of their daily routine. Since cricket was initially played by the upper class, they incorporated their tea habit into the game as well.
The tea break in test cricket is not just a time for refreshment and relaxation, but also a time for reflection and planning. The tea break provides an opportunity for the players to regroup, strategise, rest, rehydrate and recharge their batteries before the final session of the day. The tea break can also have an impact on the momentum and outcome of the game, as it can disrupt or enhance the performance of the players.
For example, if a batsman is well set and scoring runs freely before the tea break, he might lose his concentration and rhythm after the break and get out soon. On the other hand, if a bowler is struggling to take wickets before the tea break, he might get some useful tips from his captain or coach during the break and come back with renewed vigour and confidence.
The tea break can also be used as a tactical tool by the captains to influence the game. For instance, if a team is close to taking a new ball or declaring their innings, they might delay or hasten their decision depending on whether they want to take advantage of or avoid the tea break. Similarly, if a team is chasing a target or trying to save a match, they might try to score more runs or play more defensively before or after the tea break.
According to law 11.4 of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which governs the laws of cricket, the pre-decided tea interval can be changed if both captains agree to do so in consultation with the umpires. This usually happens when playing time is lost due to bad weather, poor light or other exceptional circumstances.
Moreover, law 11.6.1 states that “If an innings ends when 30 minutes or less remains before the agreed time for tea, the interval shall be taken immediately. It shall be of the agreed duration and shall be considered to include the 10-minute interval between innings.”