Men’s Test matches may be played across four days instead of five in the future. (AAP: Scott Barbour)
The Australian men’s team wants Test matches to continue to be contested over five days, amid speculation they will be played across a four-day format in the future.
- Travis Head has joined Australia captain Tim Paine in supporting the retention of five-day Tests
- The ICC is reportedly looking at the option of reducing Tests to four days
- Cricket Australia wants the idea of four-day Tests considered to protect the interests of the game
A reduction in the length of men’s Tests by even one day would be a dramatic overhaul for the game, but the International Cricket Council is reportedly considering using four-day fixtures as part of the World Test Championship from 2023 onwards.
Cricket Australia (CA) had already raised the idea of adopting an abridged version of the traditional format and the fact the national men’s team has won all four of its Tests so far this domestic season with a day to spare may add to its growing interest.
But Australia captain Tim Paine — speaking after his side’s 247-run triumph over New Zealand in the Boxing Day fixture at the MCG — declared he wanted Test matches to stay as five-day fixtures.
Paine was today supported by Australia teammate Travis Head, who similarly dismissed the idea of Tests being contested in a four-day timeframe.
“Five days, I think, is the ultimate test,” Head said in Sydney ahead of Australia’s final Test against New Zealand starting on Friday.
“I guess we’ve gone through a rare period now where we’ve been able to win a couple of Tests in four days. But it’s quite rare.”
Paine had highlighted this year’s Ashes series in England as proof that Tests should be played across five days, with three of the five matches having stretched into the final day.
“We might not have got a result in the Ashes had we done that (reduced the length),” he said.
“I think that’s the point of difference with Test cricket. It’s five days, it’s harder mentally, it’s harder physically and it tests players more than the four-day first-class fixtures do.
“I think that’s what it’s designed to do. I hope it stays that way.”
Travis Head does not want to see a change in the length of men’s Test matches. (AP: Andy Brownbill)
Head, who scored his second Test century in the Boxing Day clash, said keeping the five-day format meant tactics played a more significant role, especially with pitch conditions varying late in matches.
“I think that (five-day Tests) plays a lot with the wicket, brings spin into play,” he said.
“So I’d like to keep it at five days.”
CA wants four-day Tests ‘seriously’ considered
The sentiments of Head and Paine are seemingly at odds with CA’s appetite for four-day Tests.
CA chief executive Kevin Roberts said the reduced length of Tests was an idea cricketing authorities around the world needed to “seriously consider”.
Roberts questioned whether five days was still appropriate for Tests.
“It’s something that can’t be driven by emotion but by fact — what’s the average length of Test matches over the last five to 10 years both in terms of time and overs,” he told SEN during the Boxing Day Test.
“In the interests of fans and the health of the game, we need to make sure over rates don’t continue slowing.”
Retired England captain Michael Vaughan said it made sense to consider introducing four-day Tests.
He cited financial reasons, and the need to grow crowds and cricket’s global audience as why he believed five days was no longer the best format.
“If you actually dissect a five-day Test match, the fifth day is costing the game a lot of money,” Vaughan wrote in the British newspaper The Telegraph.
“We always have to remember that cricket is an entertainment business. At the minute the white-ball game has overtaken Test cricket.
“Apart from those of us who already love Test cricket, I don’t think Test cricket has done enough to reach a new audience.
“So we need to make it more relevant and more appealing. It might just bring a little more relevance if it gets shortened.”