Cricket is played across three disciplines – Test, One-day International and T20. The former is played across four or five days depending on the tier of the match and the remaining two are completed in one day. In test cricket, both competing sides are supposed to bat twice alternatively.
According to the Law 15 of the Laws of Cricket, a team’s captain can choose to declare the innings if he or she feels that enough runs have been posted and that the team can bank on this total for a victory. Declarations marks the completion of the team’s innings. The captain can signal the declaration at any stage of the innings when the ball is dead.
The first declaration in cricket dates back to 1890, when Charles Wright declared the Nottinghamshire innings to set Kent a target of 251. The gamble nearly paid off as Kent were 98/9 at the end of the day’s play, leading to a draw.
The decision to declare an innings has to be a very tactical one. Many times, premature declarations have proven costly and teams have often lost the match in the process.
Declaration must not be confused with forfeiture. Forfeit is when an entire innings is considered completed without the posting any total on the board. Such a situation arises when the captains of both sides mutually agree in order to produce a positive outcome of the match. In matches where weather has played spoilsport, the captains may decide to forfeit one innings each to produce a result.