Four-day Tests – slightly less of the duration and epic scope that define the game’s longest format

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Hurray! Four-day Tests! They’ll be much like 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?

The thinking seems to be, ‘well, maybe if each match isn’t quite such a big commitment, some countries might play a few more’. Here’s a full account of why four-day Test cricket makes no sense.

It’s also been announced that there’s going to be a Test championship – the ICC delaying the move for many years until precisely the point at which everyone’s already tired of it.

Confusingly, every Test in the championship will be a five-day affair. They haven’t worked out the points system yet because you don’t want to rush these things.

“I would like to congratulate our members on reaching this agreement,” said ICC chairman Shashank Manohar, whose congratulatory bar seems set sufficiently low that he’d doubtless give you a hearty handshake for successfully scaling a flight of stairs.

We still believe that administrators would be far better off making some effort to bind the formats together rather than forever pitting them against one another.

We know the format-spanning points system is widely-ridiculed because no-one cares about it, but there is a nugget of something in there in our opinion.

As we’ve written before, whatever the current state of the longest format, cricket, in a broader sense, is in relatively rude health. The problem really is that the formats are cannibalising each other when they should be working together.

A Test world championship is symptomatic of that thinking. It reflects an insular view of the game where T20s, ODIs and Tests are all different. In reality, they’re all cricket – so why not treat them as one?

A format-spanning cricket world championship would provide context for everything and an incentive to play and perform well in the longest format as a by-product of that.

Alternatively, you could just implicitly diminish the status of a bunch of Test matches and hope that this somehow provides the format’s salvation.


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  1. “Each competing country will play in six series over that time”, they say. In a sensible world that means there will be 7 teams per division – all play all – but I fear it will actually mean that they just play 6 series and some teams won’t play some other teams.

    The ODI one implies this too: 13 teams will play in 8 series, so that’s not going to be a group of 9 and a group of 4.

    Why is cricket so useless at thinking up fair tournament formats?

      1. Marvellous. So with 9 teams playing 6 series, it’s impossible for the top 5 teams to all play each other without forcing re-matches amongst the bottom 4 teams. You can do it with the top 4 teams playing each other, but Australia are currently fifth and would perforce end up not playing one of the top four, which could be quite controversial.

        Since a two-Test series is allowed to count, they should just play all 8 and add some triangular series to get through the extra calendar-load.

  2. This proposition reminds me of the old adage that a camel is a racehorse designed by a committee…

    …not least because the proposition is giving me the hump.

  3. I welcome a 4-day test match, for the simple reason that it gives me a chance to catch all days of the action, without having to take much time off, office work.

    For the organizers also, most of the time they sell the 5th day for free by bundling it with the 4th day. So 4-day test matches spare them the cost of the 5th day.

    I would still have the 5th day as back-up, but most likely it wouldn’t be needed.

    Ideally start a “4” day, day&night test match on thursday late morning & complete by Sunday or Monday morning, if there is a spillover.

  4. I think they should play 2 day Tests. Non-stop. 48 hours. Let’s add some sleep deprivation into this, like Le Mans.

    The 9:3 split is stupid, presumably that’s because the other teams don’t want to be forced to play Ireland, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, and would rather stick with the more lucrative games?

    It’ll be interesting (read: depressing) to see what happens to fast bowlers when they have to fit the same amount of bowling into fewer days.

  5. I still think Test matches are different from limited overs cricket, and deserve their own stage. 2022 could paint a different picture. Today, yes, T20 is cannibalising meaningless ODI, but neither is eating up test cricket. Don’t have an opinion on 4-day games because Test championship matches are 5 days, SA-Zim is not a bad place to experiment with 4 days just to see what happens, that’s all there seems to be to it. SA-Bangladesh recently, for example, may have thrown up new dynamics in a 4-day game. ODI could have been spruced up with more than just World Cup qualification. All said, I don’t mind any of these changes.

  6. Bring back Timeless Tests (and, by implication, the need to finish Tests early so that the touring side can catch their flight/train/boat/helicopter home).

  7. As for democratisation of the game, where everybody plays everybody, that’s not happening today either. It’s just that with these steps, an Ind-SL ODI, or an Eng-NZ Test carries much more weight than it did. It was disturbing that the ICC statement mentioned ‘broadcasters, sponsors, and fans’ in that order. Should this have been a 4 year cycle with 12 Test series and 16 limited overs series, yes, but this is a pilot, and corporate horizons simply aren’t that long. If this goes well by 2022, we could yet see a 4 year cycle. Hope still runs cricket.

  8. I do think there are issues with the proposal – many expressed more ably than I could – but using 4-day Tests for matches between a high-ranking side vs Ireland/Afghanistan/Zimbabwe does make some sense for now. The fifth day is unlikely to take place anyway (well it would happen regardless unless an early victory heralds the end of the observable universe somehow, but there may be no need for cricketing during it), removing the fifth day does increase the chance of the underdog getting a somewhat respectable draw (do we really want to see them rack up records for consecutive defeats?), and making the matches more financially viable and more easily timetabled means these countries will get more Test cricket than they would otherwise (safe to assume the ICC isn’t going to force higher tier nations to play them as part of the schedule, sadly, so a focus on viability is important).

    Four days isn’t ideal in many ways but it does produce some good first-class county cricket, as does the ICC Intercontinental Trophy that Ireland and Afghanistan have got used to (effectively second-tier “mini-tests”).

    1. The hope would have to be that good performances in four-day matches would see these nations promoted to proper five-day ones but I’m not at all sure the ICC will deliver that in a timely fashion…

      1. I’ve wondered about the format of these ICC directional meetings. A combination of Monty Pythons Crimson Permanent Assurance scene in The Meaning of Life, and old duffers falling asleep in their postprandial Rotterdams.*

        *Come on Bail-out, I know you love my obscure phrases really. Well, maybe not.

  9. Btw, while some here may be acquainted with Occam’s razor, I learnt a beautiful other ‘razor’ the other day, that’s been helping me. Called Hanlon’s Razor, it goes ‘don’t attribute to malice, what can be adequately explained by stupidity.’ This may yet be a classic example.

  10. You want to improve test cricket attendance and make the game overall more appealing? Simples. Follow this five-point strategy:

    1. All attendees of a test match will be provided with 6 free pints of beer.
    2. If a particular test match enters a typical “boring” session, ICC will immediately suspend the action temporarily and summon Ravi Shastri and Michael Vaughan to mud-wrestle naked on one of the practice pitches. The gruesome spectacle will make anything that follows welcome.
    3. If Point#2 is applies to a particular match, Point#1 is modified to free Pints#7,8 as well.
    4. At the end of the match, the attendees supporting the losing team should be allowed to beat up the ones supporting the winning team. Or perhaps the other way around, I don’t know. In any case, mayhem should be encouraged. This seems to work for football so I see no reason why it can’t work here.
    5. All commenters of the KC blog should be given unrestricted access to the VIP clubhouse in every stadium around the world (perhaps with the exception of Ged for whom this might be a downgrade). They shall also be provided with Scotch and Thai massages, preferably not in that order.

    1. Intrigued by the Scotch massage. Does this involve being wrapped in sausagemeat and breadcrumbs?

      1. Surely Scotch massage is a euphemism for having the shite kicked out of ye? Probably the inevitable consequence of trying to force even a solitary day of test cricket on the general population of Glesga.

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