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It’s the ICC’s job to create more Test matches for women

Proteas women bowler Nonkululeko Mlaba celebrates taking the wicket of England's Amy Jones during day two of the Women's Test match at The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire/PA Images/BackpagePix

Proteas women bowler Nonkululeko Mlaba celebrates taking the wicket of England's Amy Jones during day two of the Women's Test match at The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton. Photo: David Davies/PA Wire/PA Images/BackpagePix

Published Jun 30, 2022

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Johannesburg - Is there room for more women’s Test cricket?

It was the burning question in the build-up to the one-off Test between South Africa and England – the Proteas’ first in eight years and just the 13th played by an SA team in 62 years.

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The future of women’s Tests is somewhat murky. Only England and Australia, as part of the women’s Ashes, play Tests with any regularity, and while broadly expressing support for more matches, even SA’s captain this week, Sune Luus, reckoned she would wait until after the match to make known her feelings about the format.

The ICC’s independent chair Greg Barclay caused controversy with remarks in a recent interview with the BBC, hen he said he couldn’t “see women’s Test cricket evolving at any particular speed.”

That comment was met with disappointment, and that’s being diplomatic. The problem, of course, is that the ICC – and it must be added, many of its affiliates – seem less enthusiastic about the Test format in the men’s game too.

Besides the ‘big three’, none of the other member nations are involved in four- or five-match Test series in men’s cricket. Five of the Proteas men’s last six Test series have been made up of two matches.

The focus will be overwhelmingly on the white-ball formats over the next decade with at least one limited-overs event on the calendar every year until 2031 for men. At least the men know where they will be playing. The ICC haven’t announced a venue for the 2025 Women’s World Cup yet.

Regarding Test cricket for women, the challenges involve infrastructure. Not enough countries play multi-day cricket, and that includes SA. While Proteas head coach Hilton Moreeng expressed the desire for such a competition locally, especially to assist the foundational aspect of the game for young players, the fact is, it is expensive to run. Right now, Cricket SA aren’t exactly flush with cash, and sponsors have not come knocking to back the men’s domestic tournaments.

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It is perhaps where the ICC can step in. Rather than Barclay seeming to give up on women’s Test cricket because as he said, outside of England and Australia, the infrastructure doesn’t exist, then why doesn’t the ICC create it?

The women’s game has shown plenty of potential for growth, and what it needs from the sport’s global mother body is support and ideas for expansion.

Test cricket is struggling for space on a calendar that is jam packed with white-ball tournaments while the continued expansion of the IPL, and the money it is drawing, along with other franchise leagues, is further prohibiting growth in the five-day format.

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Yet, as the match in Taunton has shown, the skill level, drama, not to mention the pace at which the women play compared to their men counterparts, makes for a compelling spectacle. It’s deserving of more attention and aid from the ICC, which should, among other things, be looking to grow the game, no?

It will be a very challenging exercise, but that is the ICC’s job.

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