Four-day test cricket

Anyone have any strong opinion on the mooted change to the length of test matches from five to four days? The arguments I’ve heard in favour are: 1) it allows a quicker turn-around so matches could be played weekly from Thursday to Sunday; and 2) it will encourage a more even contest between bat and ball.

I’m not hugely convinced by either of these. On the other hand, I don’t feel strongly against the idea although I’m a little worried there will be a return to the cricket of my childhood (the 80s) where it seemed most matches fizzled out in a very unsatisfying draw (unless the West Indies were involved.)

On another topic, what about Darren Lehman’s idea to do away with the toss and give the choice to the visiting team?

I don’t like the idea of four-day tests, although i admit that my hesitation is largely a function of traditionalism. The test format is still my favorite type of cricket, and the idea of screwing around with it just doesn’t sit well with me. I love the long games, the relaxed feel, and the build-up of tension over the course of the match.

I recognize, though, that test cricket has been dying, in terms of crowd support. A generation brought up on 50-over and 20/20 matches just doesn’t seem that interested in the long game anymore. If moving to four days, possibly combined with a day/night timeslot, like the recent experiment in Adelaide, gets more people to watch test cricket, then maybe it will be worth giving up the fifth day.

If they added ten overs a day, that would make a four-day match into a 400-over affair, compared with the 450 overs allowed for under the current five-day setup. On the one hand, plenty of test matches over the last couple of decades have been won and lost in under four days, or at least under 400 overs. None of the five Ashes tests played earlier this year even made it to 350 overs. Not one of them made it to Day 5, and two of them didn’t even reach stumps on Day 3. Still, in my years of watching test cricket, i remember plenty of really exciting matches, even drawn matches, being decided in the last couple of sessions on the fifth day.

I’m also worried, if they combine shorter tests with the day/night format, about the effect the pink ball will have on the nature of the game. It’s fundamentally different from the traditional red ball, and i worry that it would change not just the overall structure of the game, but the very nature of the contest between batsman and bowler. Some people have also expressed concerns that the shorter tests would push spinners out of the game, although i don’t think that need necessarily be the case, depending on the type of pitches that are prepared for the matches. Shane Warne and other top-class spinners did plenty of damage in the first few days of test matches.

I don’t mind the idea of doing away with the toss. If you give the choice to the visitors, it certainly gives the home team, and its grounds crew, incentive to prepare a pitch that is not outrageously weighted towards either batsmen or bowlers. A four-day test, combined with eliminating the toss, could fundamentally change the way that pitches are prepared. I’ve never really liked the idea that, on some pitches at least, the 50/50 coin toss can have such a massive effect on the outcome of the game.

And that could also address your concern about a larger number of draws. Basically, they can design pitches that are not too batting-friendly, resulting in a higher likelihood of being able to bowl each side out twice in 400 overs. It does seem that we get fewer drawn matches now than we did in the 1980s, but i don’t think the '80s were too bad, at least not for Ashes tests. Each Ashes series from 1981 to 1991 had 2 draws (out of 5 or 6 tests). The 1960s were far worse, averaging over 3 draws per Ashes series, almost exclusively in 5-test series.

One possible problem would be cricket on the subcontinent. The obsession with one-day and 20/20 cricket, and with swashbuckling batting performances, means that many Indian and Pakistani pitches are flatter and deader that a parking lot. Use pitches like that in a four-day test, and you’ll have nothing but draws.

Whilst I think there is something in this, I don’t think now is the best of times to be making this observation, given the general opinion that the pitches in India for the current Test series are a friggin’ minefield - with the pitch in Nagpur getting an official rating of Poor. Only one bat on either side is averaging 40. In 3 and a half Tests, one guy has scored a ton. Only the freak of nature that is AB De Villiers has managed a 50 for SA in the series. The England-Pakistan series in the UAE had one terrible pitch that still nearly managed a result (in Abu Dhabi) - and would have done so if Ian Bell hadn’t dropped 193 runs in Pakistan’s first innings.

In general, as I mentioned above, there is something to be said for this viewpoint, but I think the pitches in the subcontinent are no worse than pitches elsewhere - they just have different characteristics (i.e. a good one should break up on Day 4 and spin like hell from then on, rather than being dead throughout - just as in England, you’re looking for something to seam about a bit on Day 1, become easier to bat on until Day 4 and then start to break up from there). Test cricket is meant to be hard, playing away from home is meant to be hard squared and adapting to alien conditions and making the best of them is a key facet of this.

On the substantive issue, I’m not super keen on 4 day Tests but recognise this is perhaps innately conservative of me. I’d start by making sure that every game bowls its allocation of overs during the day (slow over rates are a pox on cricket and bad for the paying punter). I’d also consider 8 ball overs and 70-75 overs a day (thus increasing the number of deliveries per day by 20-60. Then let’s see where we are from there.

The players may take this out of our hands anyway - Day 5 is increasingly becoming a reserve day except for matches on the flattest of decks (Abu Dhabi, Perth, recently), as the players seem to want to play a lot of shots and keep getting out! No game in The Ashes went to Day 5, for instance, and no game in India at the minute is going to get to Day 5 either by the looks of things (as SA subside to 79/5 as I type).

They need to abolish ODI and convert T20 to a two innings per side affair. 20 overs per innings, mx of 10 overs per bowler over two innings.
D/N tests are a good idea and would also increase the potential season in places like England and the Sub continent. Four Day tests? Yeah it will lead to lots of defensive play and draws. The recent England-Pakistan series would have seen all tests drawn instead of a close survival for Pakistan in one and two last day wins.
They should execute whoever came up with the idea of finishing the toss. There should also be an ICC Panel of Groundsmen.

Regardless of how we get there, I think ensuring as much as possible that the allocated overs are bowled is the key thing.

Punitive measures for a slow over rate would be great. (add on 10 runs for every over not bowled during the day). There is absolutely no earthly reason why 15 overs cannot be completed in a full hour of play. That’s 4 minutes for 6 balls. 40 seconds per ball.

Also, allow for making use of all the natural daylight and good weather, be flexible with both start and end times. If you know you are likely to lose time to rain in the afternoon then it makes sense to have a potentially earlier start time. I’m not against using floodlights to extend the day as well. Do what you can to bowl the overs and hopefully more results will follow.

I think that’s be a great shout, I’d probably keep the 50 over game as well though. Maybe the two-innings T20 format could be a hybrid event for the Olympics (would love to see cricket in the Olympics)

I don’t know. That a captain, purely by chance, can be given a disadvantage in each test of a series seems horribly arbitrary.
Personally I’d suggest a toss at the start of the series. The captain winning the toss chooses whether to give the bat/bowl choice to his opponent or have that choice themselves. Then, the bat/bowl choice alternates for the rest of the test.

My, doubtless unworkable, idea for punishing slow over rates is also a scoreboard rather than a financial one (as they’re currently fining match fees and all that). I’d take the over off which the batting team scored the most runs and make that the allocated penalty. So is they batting team blitz 20 off an over, you’d better make damn sure you get on the over rate, as 5 overs shy during the day and you’ve lost 100 runs.

That would be pretty punitive, but I’d argue that there should be damn punitive action in place, so players get on with the game.

I’d also agree with your other points re: flexible start times. I don’t see any reason why we have to start at 11am and finish at 6pm. We could start at 10:30 and finish at 6:30 during the summer in England, weather permitting, to get the overs in. Use of floodlights to force the overs in also worthwhile. And if a team comes up short on the overs, start earlier the following day (I appreciate that this means spectators will need to check start times on a day by day basis - but people don’t turn up on time anyway and I would argue that if you’re willing to spend the cash on the ticket, you should probably want to know something about the game you’re going to watch and would pick up on that anyway).

According to various reports D/N Test was a success.

THe ratings forAustralia were very high, second highest for the year infact. Only a little game called the World Cup final were higher.

Stadium was sold out all three days.

Now that I think of it, you could easily extend the English season to Mid October at least. A second series of tests.

The Sub continent could also allow for cricket in the summer outside of Sri Lanka; a morning session and an evening session of 50 overs each. Say from 9-12 in the morning and 6-9 in the evening.

Isn’t the whole point of 20/20 to get the match completed in three hours or so? If it’s 40 overs a side, you might as well make it a regular one-day match. Henry Blofeld hit the nail on the head when he commented after seeing a baseball game that it was the future of cricket.

Here’s a crazy idea: how about limiting the first innings per side to 20 overs or five wickets? The same batsmen who were batting at the end of a side’s first innings (replacing one who lost a side’s fifth wicket, of course) start the side’s second innings. Note that if a side lost fewer than five wickets in its first innings, it would have more than five available in its second innings.

Yes, this does run the risk of a side that loses five wickets in its first 20 overs having to depend on 7-11 in the order in its second innings, so it may not last very long, but is that really a problem?

I am glad that the D/N game appeared to be a success and I’d like to see it trialled elsewhere if possible.

I find the idea a little fanciful, that it would allow the English season to be extended to mid-October. It rains a lot here. It rains much more in the Autumn than even in Summer, despite what people might tell you about out summers. It’s also telling that the D/N game was played in the most arid of the Australian states in the middle of summer - even in the middle of summer in England, dewfall makes D/N games very tricky (in limited overs games, the side who doesn’t have to bat under lights wins more often than not in the UK).

If it were trialled here, it would be interesting but I think it more likely to be successful in the UAE, which hopefully would mean more of the migrant worker population from Pakistan could attend Tests in the evening. That’s where I would try this next - and other similarly arid venues, so as to minimise potential issues with dewfall.

Yeah, I lived in London for years so am quite familiar with English Autumn (going to a Uni Class at 4 p.m in darkness is a singularly depressing experience), but there are problems elsewhere as well, and its doable. Adding 4-5 weeks meaning 2 or maybe three tests can be a big money spinner for the ECB. Maybe they could even be free to air which would abolish the current situation of peak audience on Sky in 2015 being millions less than average audience on the Beeb back in 2005. Its worth a try IMO.

I don’t think that the U.A.E is going to be worth it, its already a big money loser and the P.C.B wants out in a couple of years tops. With the vastly improved security landscape at home, they would probably look to get out sooner rather than later.

Yes, but the problem with ODI/T-20 is that they are both single innings games. T20 is basically an ODI with the boring bits (for the casual fan) taken out, which is why ODI is struggling to find meaning. It got a stay of execution after a surprisingly good 2011 WC, but since then its been a borefest.

If you alter it to a multi innings game over a single day then its new and not just an obsolete version.

Point taken.

Living in the US, i sometimes fall behind in keeping up with the cricket, especially when the Australian team is not involved. I didn’t know what was going on in the the current series in India until i looked it up after your comment.

I agree with what people have said about slow over rates and possible in-game penalties rather than merely financial penalties. I also agree regarding the possibility of extending the play each day by starting earlier and finishing later, especially at the height of summer when the days are nice and long and the light is usually pretty good.

The change for the English County Championship next year sees a reduced need for the toss. The visiting team can choose to either bowl first, or go to the toss. We’ll see how it works.

In other words, don’t “abolish” ODIs, but turn them into two-innings matches of 20 (or 25) overs each.

Is it intended that this results in the better batsmen score more runs on account of they will bat twice per match now? If it wasn’t, then perhaps it should be; do you really need the specialist bowlers to bat?

Except it is abolishing ODI, since it changes the format. Right now T20 and ODI are in essence the same thing, a single innings , limited overs affair and remember ODI settled on 50 overs only in the late 1990, before that ODI have been as much as 60 overs and as less as 40.

If we switched it two a two innings contest its a new game.

I honestly think we should ditch one of the shorter formats. We don’t need three separate formats of the game, I think we should drop 50 over cricket and concentrate on 20/20 and test matches.