Four-day tests 'permitted under new ECB rights deal'
The England and Wales Cricket Board “can see benefits” in reducing test matches from five to four days, but says “careful consideration” is required before such a fundamental change is made the traditional form of the sport.
The International Cricket Council is believed to be open to the prospect of reducing tests from five days of 90 six-ball overs to four days of 105 overs, with South Africa’s home match against Zimbabwe at Port Elizabeth in December expected to be used to trial the format.
The move is being considered as part of efforts to revive the popularity of test cricket and it is thought that shorter matches would appeal to broadcasters in terms of programme scheduling, while freeing up the players to take part in more domestic Twenty20 matches, especially as fewer tests now last the full five days anyway.
While the ECB has yet to commit one way or another, it is thought that chairman Colin Graves and chief executive Tom Harrison are in favour of a switch to four-day matches, as already seen in England’s County Championship.
Moreover, this would not contravene the terms of the governing body’s new broadcasting rights deals, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
At the end of June, UK pay-television operator Sky retained live rights to England’s home international matches and domestic cricket, while public-service broadcaster the BBC will offer highlights and a selection of live matches from the country’s new Twenty20 competition, in contracts worth a total of £1.1 billion ($1.5 billion) over five years, starting in 2020.
In a statement yesterday, the ECB said it “has no firm position on the staging of four-day Test matches. We can see benefits that more compact scheduling might deliver but are sensitive to the potential effects of any change to the traditional format. Careful consideration is required to support the right decisions for the wider game, and on-field matters are key.
“We would welcome more insight on the effects for players and fans in order to help the game make a fully-informed decision on any proposal,” added the ECB. “It is important that cricket is prepared to innovate in all formats of the game where it can help drive interest, accessibility or improvement.
“Above all, ECB is committed to a healthy and competitive future for Test match cricket, here and around the world.”
The ICC is set to address the proposal for four-day test cricket at a meeting of its board next month when it will also consider the international schedule for 2020 onwards, including plans for a test match league to take place over two years involving the top nine countries and aimed at giving more context to the format.
Australia, Pakistan and England have already staged day-night tests, a new innovation aimed at increasing attendances and TV viewing figures, and more are planned in the coming months.
• The ICC has launched USA Cricket, a fresh brand for the sport in the country, as the next step on the road to the launch of a new national governing body.
The brand and the new USA Cricket social media platforms were rolled out yesterday in coordination with Adrenalin, a US creative agency, which won a competitive pitch process to develop the concepts.
In June, the ICC committed to launch a new governing body for cricket in USA after its council voted to expel the USA Cricket Association.
USACA had been suspended since June 2015, with the ICC citing concerns over the governance, finance, reputation and cricketing activities of the association.
The development of a new national body is being overseen by the ICC Americas USA Project team and local advisory groups, with elections planned and a board expected to be in place by April 2018.