Focus back on red-ball cricket as World Test Championship nears

Rory Dollard 18:05 29/07/2019
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Australian Test squad.

Ashley Giles has welcomed the introduction of the World Test Championship, hinting it could lead to a sea change in England‘s priorities following their World Cup triumph.

This week’s Ashes opener at Edgbaston will be the first Test to count towards a new points table in the format, with 72 matches between the top nine nations taking place over a two-year period before a grand final in 2021.

It is the International Cricket Council’s latest attempt to bolster the five-day game, which is widely acknowledged as the most prestigious but suffers from ailing attendances in many parts of the world.

The long and storied rivalry between England and Australia needs no additional gimmicks to sell its importance to the two nations, but hopes are high that the context of a league table will increase the relevance of less celebrated series.

For Giles, managing director of the England men’s team, it is a chance to commit to glory in the red-ball game after finally landing the biggest prize in limited-overs cricket.

“We’ve had a focus on the white ball for the last four years and perhaps the time has come to redress that balance,” Giles told Sky Sports News.

“It was important that the pendulum didn’t swing back to 50-50, it had to swing right back to white ball cricket, which we’d never done in this country.

“Perhaps that affected the Test team but we needed to do it if we were serious about winning the 2019 World Cup, which we’ve done.

“It was great strategy by Andrew Strauss, and led by Eoin Morgan and Trevor Bayliss, and it was the right thing to do but now we need to look at that. It won’t happen overnight but Test cricket is important to us and it’s important we win.”

Reflecting on the potential impact of the inaugural Test Championship, he added: “I’m a fan. Test cricket has obviously been marginalised in some parts of the world with the pressure of the shorter forms and the popularity of white ball cricket.

“This country doesn’t really struggle with that, Test cricket remains popular and the Ashes is sold out this year. England versus Australia doesn’t need any more promotion but around the world it’s not that easy.”

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