Four-day Test matches diminish the epic scale that is the format’s greatest strength

Hurray! Four-day Tests! They’re much the same as five-day Tests, only with the unique selling point somewhat compromised. Who can fail to support an idea as clear and appealing as that one?

People are too busy

There’s often talk about how Tests should be four days, not five – and some of them are these days.

There are reasons why it makes sense (having all Tests start on the same day of the week is quite a good one) but the most common argument seems to be that everyone’s much busier these days, so cricket has to respond.

Are people really busier these days? Busy doing what, exactly? Busy wasting all the extra free time generated by all the millions of labour-saving devices they possess? Busy with work – a relatively modern invention? Busy with their family and friends, which have of course only become popular in the last decade or so? Busy in traffic maybe – we’ll give you that one.

People aren’t busy; they’re dicking about pretending they’re busy; making out that the mundane, pointless errands they’re running are of earth-shattering importance when they clearly – clearly –  aren’t.

And if they are busy, why would a Test match having fewer but longer days be any more appealing to them? Is the problem that people often have four consecutive free days but not five? Are people only unwilling to commit to that fifth day for some hard-to-discern reason?

Do the job properly

If you’re going to shorten a game of cricket to suit these supposedly modern attention spans, do it properly. Make the game last a single day. Make it 20 overs a side if you really want to go all in – maybe even shorten each innings to 100 balls.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll need something different for all the people who aren’t satisfied with a match being done and dusted in a day. The longer this new format is, the better – because the duration and epic nature of the contest will be its unique selling points.

We actually have nothing against four-day Tests in any practical sense. We just don’t understand the reasoning. You wouldn’t make the Tour de France 20 stages instead of 21 in a bid to make it more popular. You’d actually be eroding the main thing that makes it a big deal in the first place.

The evolving story

It’s a myth that Test cricket doesn’t fit modern lifestyles. Have you ever been on Twitter? Test cricket fits the modern world perfectly.

You can dip in and out of a Test match. You can follow the story passively. You can stay in touch with what’s happening without being glued to a TV screen. You can watch snippets of action whenever something significant happens and you can tune in and give it all your attention when you get a sense that it’s a crucial passage of play.

At the end of each day’s play, you take stock and you talk about where things stand. The end of each day of a Test match is a cliffhanger. Why would you want three of them, not four?

This is an updated and extended version of an article originally published in December 2015.


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34 Appeals

  1. Timeless tests on flat feather-bed pitches are clearly the solution.

    Just imagine, the 2010 Brisbane test would still be going on as Cook just ignored all imperatives to up his strike rate, Strauss refused to even countenance even the least sporting of declarations and Trott excavated a 6 foot hole from obsessively marking his guard.

  2. Wise words indeed, KC.

    Even worse than the four day test idea is the “revert to three day county championship matches” idea, to help solve the fixture congestion problem.

    I’d write more on this subject, but I am far too busy.

    Just as you, KC, seem to be far too busy to check your e-mail. Or at least too busy to rummage through the junk folder, where my e-mails and submissions seem automatically to go these days! Are you trying to tell me something?

  3. Surely the point of this suggestion is so administrators and chief executives don’t lose money when Tests fail to go into a fifth day.

    Also: there are so many problems to be sorted out in cricket at the moment and what are we reading about? Whether they should scrap the toss and the relevance of the fifth day.

    Head, meet desk.

  4. Wait, were KC not advocating 3 day tests recently to force the result? We could still have 1 day test cricket if the pitch is suitably prepared.

  5. Are 4 day Tests being seriously considered at the moment, or is this just a bit of diversion so that other things slip under the radar while Right Thinking People are busy bayoneting a straw man?

    The idea has been floating around for ages, although admittedly the new-ish ECB chairman is a fan.

    As Sam has already said, there are clearly bigger priorities for cricket as a whole than this.

  6. 24hr cricket. Day-Night.

    Enough time for 4 ‘days’ of cricket if you have one extended session.

  7. Attention spans these days are getting much

  8. Surely this would lead to more draws, which no-one really wants to see?

  9. Stormin' Turd Dancer

    December 8, 2015 at 8:05 am

    We (and it’s all about me) have endured the introduction of T20 cricket. We have accepted no return to timeless tests. We love the fact that in the UK you can occasionally get to a test match on spec on the last day without having to shell out a small fortune for a ticket. We love that some of the greatest tests ever have developed into a thrilling win/loss/draw/ tie (for Ged) on the 5th day.

    Why the f**k would one (that’s all you w*nkers administering the game) look to reduce the standard test down to 4 days?

  10. Stormin' Turd Dancer

    December 8, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Oh, and confiscate those bloody light meters…

  11. if this means that instead of a minimum of 2 test matches of 5-days each, we will instead have atleast 3 matches of 4-days each in EVERY series then I am fine with this change

    • King Cricket

      December 8, 2015 at 2:30 pm

      Think it’s more about clearing space than clearing space to fit in a decent enough number of matches.

  12. Top recycling effort there, KC.

    I got all the way down the page thinking, “I’m sure KC wrote a similar article a few years ago”…

    …then I got to the comments.

    My views on this topic haven’t much changed in the last four years either…

    …except that I do now see the sense in shorter tests for emerging (and possibly also for regressing) test nations.

    • Is England a regressing Test nation? We certainly seem to be going backwards in every other aspect of public life.

      Bit of politics for you there.

    • King Cricket

      January 2, 2020 at 10:43 am

      We added a comment at the bottom saying we’d recycled (and massively extended) the article, but then thought it wasn’t necessary. Now we remember why we sometimes do that.

      • I rather enjoyed the puzzlement followed by the relief that came with enlightenment. In any case, you owed me one for my Lord Megachief and Top Trumps teasing on the previous thread.

        As for you, Sam, most of us around here blame you for the UK’s perilous political predicament, because you signally failed to make a fool of the current Prime Minister in interview during the most recent election. Where were you, Sam? Too busy watching five day test matches or summat?

      • I was probably too busy drinking ale with some dodgy characters in a public house in t’north.

  13. Absolutely KC. if the motivation for this move is attracting more people to Test cricket, can anyone come up with any single person, real or archetypical who feels that five days is far too long for a single game of sport, but four days is acceptable and they will begin watching. Even if some bone headed, blinkered consultant has come to the excruciatingly simple conclusion that because short forms are more popular, ergo shortening any form will make it more popular, one would have thought that SOMEONE at the ECB actually understands cricket and would have said “it doesn’t quite work like that”.

    I get quite worked up on the subject and may have delivered the same rant on the last post, but I don’t have the attention span to check.

    • King Cricket

      January 2, 2020 at 12:56 pm

      That’s fine. Things get lost. Rant away.

      One thing we would say in favour of four-day Tests – and we’re branding this a ‘collateral improvement’ because it’s largely accidental – is you could conceivably end up with matches starting on a predictable day of the week (Thursday).

      It seems a fairly big ‘could’ but actually they’ll want to play back-to-back Tests all the time, so it’s probably fairly likely.

    • King Cricket

      January 2, 2020 at 12:58 pm

      Oh and Dave from Cricket 365 pointed out that it would bring the draw back into consideration as a credible target for the team that’s doing less well. That would potentially add tension to the later stages of quite a lot of games. Five day Tests can sometimes end up a little processional now they’re played at a more hurried rate.

      Set against that, teams would presumably hurry more and we’d probably end up back where we are now.

      • But how many people are saying “I would watch test cricket if it always started on a Thursday and there was more tension due to the increased possibility of a draw”? Not many I suspect. Those collateral improvements might make it a better game for the likes of us, but I think there is ample evidence that the likes of us like it the way it is.

      • King Cricket

        January 2, 2020 at 1:42 pm

        They’re not big, persuasive things, but they are issues nonetheless.

        For years and years and years a big group of us, who live all around the country, would go to day three of the Old Trafford Test, which was on a Saturday. As the start day slid around and Old Trafford Tests ceased to be a predictable annual thing, fewer and fewer of us would go. It sounds trivial, but as soon as there was a single question about what the plan would be, there was a drop-off.

        ‘Saturday, day three,’ used to be an assumption and everyone could just work to that without any great debate.

      • All true. This year I thought I had first day tickets for Old Trafford, only to discover I had the second day and had to suffer watching Smith make the ugliest double century in history as a consequence. My comments were based on the assumption, though, that the idea of the 4 day tests was to attract new viewers, not looking after the choir. The obvious solution to making tests all start on the same day, like they used to, would seem to play a couple fewer every summer, but I suspect I would be marched to the door of the ECB by security.

      • King Cricket

        January 2, 2020 at 3:56 pm

        Well, you say that, but they are actually playing six Tests again this year, as opposed to the seven that was the default for quite a few years.

        On the other point, the aim of the four-day thing is not just to find new fans but also get existing ones into the grounds. We get the impression they think there’s an issue with both aspects.

      • I agree with your point about “appointment to view start days” – it has certainly been an issue for our regular Edgbaston gathering, The Heavy Rollers.

        But there is no law of physics (or employment) that says that you cannot start a test match on a Thursday after finishing its predecessor on the Monday.

        In England, I fear we’ll have more weather-affected draws if we do the four day thing. The fifth day is rarely needed except when the weather intervenes – but the weather does tend to intervene – here in Blighty more than it does in most other places.

  14. I wonder what became of Stormin’ Turd Dancer?

  15. Hmm. I was just about to suggest a 24 hour test, then I see I already did that when this article was first written.

    Good suggestion, 2015 me.

    (also, 2015 me – brace yourself for some bad news over the next few years)

  16. You’ll be able to recycle one of your old “why oh why do they risk injury playing football to warm up for cricket?” articles next.

    Rory Burns’s ankle…

    …as in, damaged ligaments…

    …he isn’t pedaling a bicycle with his foot at a jaunty angle or anything like that.

    • King Cricket

      January 3, 2020 at 9:10 am

      You know what, we’re going to do precisely that. Thanks for the suggestion (and also for the Burns gag).

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