Four-day test trial in cricket shakeup

Manawatu Standard - - Sport - MARVIN FRANCE

A new dawn for in­ter­na­tional cricket has been con­firmed but ICC chief ex­ec­u­tive Dave Richard­son has no doubt that more still needs to be done if the test for­mat is to sur­vive.

Fol­low­ing the ICC board meet­ing in Auck­land yes­ter­day, Richard­son, as ex­pected, an­nounced the es­tab­lish­ment of a test cham­pi­onship (from 2020) and one-day in­ter­na­tional league (from 2020).

In do­ing so, the for­mer South African wick­et­keeper also re­vealed that four-day test cricket would be ex­plored on a trial ba­sis un­til the 2019 World Cup, with the first try-out set to take place between South Africa and Zim­babwe in Port El­iz­a­beth on Box­ing Day.

Led by Eng­land and with high­level back­ing from Sir Richard Hadlee and Shane Bond in re­cent weeks, four-day matches are seen as a way to re­vive in­ter­est in coun­tries where the five-day game is dy­ing.

Richard­son ad­mit­ted that there re­mained wide­spread scep­ti­cism, among play­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors alike, as to whether four-day tests

are the way for­ward. But he said there was uni­ver­sal ap­proval from the ICC board to push ahead with tri­als as they seek to pre­serve the purist form of the game.

‘‘Our pri­or­ity has been to de­velop an in­ter­na­tional struc­ture that gives con­text and mean­ing across all three for­mats, in par­tic­u­lar test se­ries. But we still have to ac­knowl­edge there is a ques­tion around the the sus­tain­abil­ity of test cricket.

‘‘Is four-day cricket go­ing to pro­vide a bet­ter prod­uct, one that more peo­ple will be in­ter­ested in? Who knows, but un­less we trial it we’ll never know.

‘‘Sim­i­lar to the way we’ve con­ducted day-night test matches with the pink ball and us­ing tech­nol­ogy, we’re go­ing to do the same now with [four-day matches].’’

The play­ing con­di­tions still need to be fi­nalised by the ICC cricket com­mit­tee but they are likely to be sim­i­lar to the first-class for­mat, with six-and-a-half hour days con­sist­ing of 98 overs.

It is hoped four-day tests will re­duce costs and lead to more op­por­tu­ni­ties for de­vel­op­ing na­tions while, ul­ti­mately, cre­at­ing a more at­tack­ing brand of cricket.

New Zealand Cricket wel­comed the in­tro­duc­tion of the test and ODI leagues, although chair­man Greg Bar­clay said they were ‘‘am­biva­lent’’ on the four-day ex­per­i­ment.

Bar­clay said their pri­or­ity is the con­tin­u­a­tion of five-day tests and have no plans for any trial matches at this stage.

‘‘There are a num­ber of coun­tries that prob­a­bly lend them­selves to four-day cricket for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons ... so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how the trial goes,’’ Bar­clay said.

‘‘From our point of view, we will keep an open mind. We are cer­tainly not op­posed to it but at the mo­ment we con­tinue to sup­port the sta­tus quo.’’

The test cham­pi­onship will see nine teams play six se­ries over two years – three home and three away.

The bi­lat­eral se­ries will be con­tested over a min­i­mum of two matches and a max­i­mum of five, with points to be al­lo­cated for ev­ery se­ries and the top two teams meet­ing in a one-off fi­nal.

The 13-na­tion ODI league, mean­while, will op­er­ate between World Cups and also be used to de­ter­mine which teams qual­ify for the show­piece 50-overs tour­na­ment ev­ery four years.

The goal is to pro­vide con­text and mean­ing around ev­ery test and ODI se­ries as the long­est for­mat strug­gles for rel­e­vance, crowds and broad­cast­ing rev­enue.

The ICC board will now set about fi­nal­is­ing a play­ing sched­ule for the open­ing edi­tion as well as the points sys­tem and com­pe­ti­tion terms.

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