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.