Cricket is perhaps the only game on the planet which has undergone a number of changes since its inception in the 19th century. The beautiful game has also made an effort to keep up with the needs and demands of the time. Every now and then, we witness the game incorporating one or another rule to make the game easier.

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A major change was witnessed in the Over rule too. At present, six balls constitute an over. However, it was not always like this. Since 1979/80, all Test cricket has been played with six balls per over. But before that, overs in Test cricket originally had four balls per over. In fact, there have been varying numbers of balls per over around the world before it six-ball per over was made a law.

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Prior to the Laws of Cricket (1980 Code), law 17.1 (Number of balls [in the over]) did not explicitly specify the number of balls to be bowled in an over. The older rule stated that the number of balls in an over would depend on the two captains before the toss. Usually, six was the usual number of balls, it was not always the case. From the 1980 code onwards, law 17.1 was amended to read, “The ball shall be bowled from each end alternately in overs of 6 balls”.

BCCI
Credits – AFP

In India, West Indies, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates (venue, not host) and Ireland all Test matches have been played with six ball overs. However, the likes of Australia, England, Pakistan, South Africa and New Zealand had seen different practises.

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Here is a list showing the number of balls in an over in those five nations before 1980:

In England:

1880 to 1888: 4
1889 to 1899: 5
1900 to 1938: 6
1939 to 1945: 8
1946 to date: 6

In Australia:

1876/77 to 1887/88: 4
1891/92 to 1920/21: 6
1924/25: 8
1928/29 to 1932/33: 6
1936/37 to 1978/79: 8
1979/80 to date: 6

In South Africa:

1888/89: 4
1891/92 to 1898/99: 5
1902/03 to 1935/36: 6
1938/39 to 1957/58: 8
1961/62 to date: 6

In New Zealand:

1929/30 to 1967/68: 6
1968/69 to 1978/79: 8
1979/80 to date: 6

In Pakistan:

1954/55 to 1972/73: 6
1974/75 to 1977/78: 8
1978/79 to date: 6