Four-Day Tests could help in the survival of the longer format

Adithya Sundar 14:21 01/01/2020
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The International Cricket Council is looking to make Test Cricket snappy and are considering shifting to four-day games instead of the conventional five-day events for the longer format from 2023.

While cricket enthusiasts adore the attritional nature of Test cricket, new found admirers are hard to come by for a game that lasts five days and is punctuated with meal breaks.

Changes as big as playing under lights with a pink ball to something as small as having numbers and names printed on jerseys, have been implemented to try and pep up Test cricket. Finally, they are looking to inject some urgency into the slow burn format and decrease the duration.

India, the top-ranked team in Test cricket, has played 33 Tests in the last two years and only eight have gone into the final or fifth day. Cutting short Tests, could facilitate longer series and could prove cost effective.

According to the new proposal from the ICC’s cricket committee, 98 overs are to be bowled per day instead of the conventional 90. That would mean, only 58 overs will be lost in the new four-day format.

The absence of a fifth day could lead to more aggressive or sporting declarations from captains in an attempt to force victory. Conversely, a visiting team or an underdog have the option of batting long and hard to eke out a draw to keep a series alive or to protect a lead in the series. That would at least keep the possibilities of a blockathon still open.

With 20 wickets required to win a Test, batsmen may not have enough time to rack up big scores. Similarly, the turnaround time or rest between innings could be reduced for bowlers, which may not be ideal.

The move could also bring about a change in mindset with regards to enforcing a follow on. In the recently concluded game between Australia and New Zealand at Melbourne, the hosts chose to bat again in spite of having a first innings lead of 219 runs. The Kiwis were bowled out with ten overs to spare on the fourth day, while chasing a fourth innings target of 488.

With one day lesser to survive in such a game, a team would display more grit in trying to hang on for a draw and, for this reason, the opponent may be tempted to call for a follow-on at the end of the first innings. Scoring rates are bound to increase too and this opens the door for more aggressive batsmen to feature in Test teams.

As the duration of the game decreases, the influence of the weather becomes a bigger factor. This would mean that soon, some variation of the Duckworth-Lewis might just sneak in to add purpose to the proceedings.

The England Cricket Board, a body that has been a proponent of reducing the duration of the game in recent years, has spoken in favour of four-day Tests.

However, a couple of Australian players, Nathan Lyon and Travis Head, and New Zealand pacer Neil Wagner, have expressed their disapproval of depriving fans and players of the fifth day ‘fever’ of a Test match.

Whether four-day Tests will draw more crowds remains to be seen but change is inevitable and Test cricket will never be the same again if the proposal goes through.

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