BRISTOL – The England and Wales Cricket Board insisted on Sunday that it had “no firm position” on playing four-day Tests, adding they were “sensitive to the potential effects of any change to the traditional format”.
It had been reported that English cricket chiefs were in favour of reducing Tests from their current five days to four to fit in with modern trends such as Twenty20, which have made shorter-form cricket ever more popular.
Cricket South Africa have announced plans to stage a four-day Test against Zimbabwe at Port Elizabeth starting on December 26, although the move is still subject to International Cricket Council approval.
There is a view that moving to four days would, as is the case with professional golf tournaments, ensure two good “corporate” days on Thursday and Friday, while increasing the chances of matches finishing in prime television viewing time at the weekend.
Advocates also argue that a move to four-day Tests would give players more time to rest between matches in what are increasingly crowded fixture schedules.
Supporters of four-day Tests have said teams would bowl more overs in a day to compensate for the loss of a fifth day.
But critics point to how many Test sides struggle to bowl the scheduled 90 overs in a current standard day’s Test play as evidence of how a move to four days could reduce the amount of playing time.
England staged their inaugural day/night Test against West Indies at Edgbaston last month – a match that ended inside three days after the tourists lost 19 wickets in a day.
“ECB has no firm position on the staging of four-day Test matches,” said a spokesman for the national governing body on Sunday.
“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,” he added.
“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,” the spokesman said.
“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.”
ECB chairman Colin Graves had previously come out in support of four-day Tests, telling the MCC’s website in 2015: “Personally, I think we should look at four-day Test cricket and play 105 overs a day starting at 10.30am in the morning, and finish when you finish as all the grounds now have lights.
“Every Test match would start on a Thursday, with Thursday and Friday being corporate days, and then Saturday and Sunday the family days.
“From a cost point of view you’d lose that fifth day, which would save a hell of a lot of money from the ground’s point of view and the broadcasters,” he added.