South Africa host Zimbabwe in a four-day Boxing Day Test. (Source: CSA Twitter)
ICC board meeting in Auckland this week permitted playing of four-day Test matches between Test playing nations by bilateral agreement. This is not the first time four-day Tests will be played with the early days of the sport seeing matches played over three or four days. The decision comes at a time when the sport tries to keep Test matches relevant and draw crowds to the stadiums. ICC approved the trial of four-day Test matches to run through until 2019 World Cup following which a Test Championship, also agreed at the ICC board meeting, would kick in.
“Our priority was to develop an international cricket structure that gave context and meaning across international cricket and particularly in the Test arena. This has been delivered and every Test in the new League will be a five-day Test format,” said ICC Chief Executive David Richardson.
“However throughout the discussions about the future of Test cricket it became clear that whilst context is crucial we must also consider alternatives and trial initiatives that may support the future viability of Test cricket. The trial is exactly that, a trial, just in the same way day-night Tests and technology have been trialled by Members.”
“Four-day Tests will also provide the new Test playing countries with more opportunities to play the longer version of the game against more experienced opponents, which, in turn, will help them to hone their skills and close the gap with the top nine ranked teams.”
This could pave way for Ireland who play Pakistan in May 2018 to be played over the course of four days. Ireland (and Afghanistan) had attained Test status earlier this year. They had previously played four-day Test matches in the lower tier.
Further, South Africa’s plans to host Zimbabwe in a four-day Boxing Day Test got the approval with the decision. However, Dean Elgar and Faf du Plessis had opposed the decision taken by the country’s cricket board. “I’m a five-day Test specialist, and it must stay that way in my opinion,” said Elgar.
“I am a fan of five-day Test cricket,” du Plessis had said. “I believe the great Test matches have gone to the last hour of the last day on day five. That’s what is so special about Test cricket. In four-day cricket or first-class cricket, it does feel easier because there are only four days.
“For five days you have to graft it out. Bowlers have to bowl a lot more and batters have to construct much bigger innings. This Test proved that a day five was needed. If it was a rain-off yesterday, it would have been very disappointing so I am a fan of that.”