According to Guinness World Records, the longest recorded Test match in cricket history was the fifth and final Test of the England tour of South Africa played at Kingsmead, Durban in March, 1939. With England leading the five-match series 1-0, the final Test was, by prior agreement, to be ‘timeless’ or, in other words, played to a conclusion.
Nevertheless, the match still expected to be completed within five days, with England scheduled to play a final tour match against Western Province in Cape Town – 1,000 miles, and two days, away by train – four days after the anticipated finish. However, the final Test lasted from Friday, March 3 until Tuesday, March 14, or a total of twelve days, including rest days on both Sundays and a whole day lost to rain on the second Saturday, before being abandoned as a draw.
In a total of 43 hours and 16 minutes playing time, 5,447 balls were bowled, the new ball was taken twelve times and 1,981 runs were scored. In near perfect batting conditions, prolonged by heavy rain and rolling to prevent deterioration of the pitch, six players – Pieter van der Bijl, Dudley Nourse, Alan Melville, Paul Gibb, Bill Edrich and Wally Hammond – scored individual centuries, with Edrich top scoring on 219.
South Africa won the toss and elected to bat, scoring 530 in the first innings, with England scoring 316 in reply. The hosts added a further 481 runs in the second innings, leaving the visitors with an eye-watering fourth-innings chase of 696. Agonisingly, England were 645-5, or just 42 runs short of an unlikely victory, when rain returned to Kingsmead, removing the prospect of further play.