England news March 18, 2017

ECB chief backs four-day Test concept

ESPNcricinfo staff

Tom Harrison said four-day Tests could be viable if the conditions were right © AFP

Tom Harrison, the chief executive of the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB), has signalled his support for a move towards four-day Tests, as part of a wider plan to keep the format viable amid the inexorable rise of T20 cricket.

Speaking to The Times, Harrison warned there was a "risk of loving [Test cricket] to death" unless the sport's governing bodies were willing to compromise on its status within a packed global calendar. That, he explained, could mean playing fewer matches, over fewer days, but providing more meaning and context to each contest as a trade-off.

"It's about understanding the benefits from a consumer perspective," Harrison said. "Can we create a better product by introducing a four-day format in certain conditions? My personal view is that I don't think it works everywhere; like day-night Test cricket, it has to be the right time, right place, right conditions.

"We have to take a look at the pressure on boards to keep Test cricket at the heart of their proposition. Four-day Test cricket is a really interesting debate and will evolve and I'm sure we will get there in the end."

Harrison's comments bring him more into line with the views of the ECB chairman Colin Graves, who has been an advocate of the merits of four-day Tests for some time now.

"I had to be convinced because when I started out I was massively against it [four-day Tests], but I am for it because with Test cricket there is a risk of us loving it to death. We have to adapt."

Harrison insisted his change of heart was not simply a ploy to create more space for more T20 cricket in the English summer, not least the new city-based competition that is set to get underway in 2020.

However, Harrison did concede that the rise of privately-owned tournaments - in particular the IPL and the Caribbean Premier League, both of which overlap with the English season - was all the more reason to clarify the status of Test cricket in a crowded market. Failure to do so, he added, would be tantamount to "managing [Test cricket's] decline".

"I am absolutely convinced the game can flourish over three forms," Harrison said. "The balance between international and domestic cricket will change. We have to be careful about that and that is my fear about private ownership. Controlling private ownership will be difficult and controlling the ambition of very successful tournaments will be difficult.

"Test cricket will become special and unique. It's there and healthy and there will be less volume, which should be seen through the context of it being more positive. In this country Test cricket will be special, an occasion rather than a diet to serve the appetite of the grounds.

"Test cricket remains absolutely central to the diet that we put out to our fans every year. We are still filling grounds for Tests and we are still the team that everyone wants to come and play against. A Test series in England is still regarded as the pinnacle for many players from overseas."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 2.14istherunrate on March 21, 2017, 4:51 GMT

    In the aftermath of the latest Test in Ranchi, is it not obvious that this attitude is a red herring of the worst order. The issue should be left in the bin and people should stop even talking about saving Test cricket. The scaremongers should be looking elsewhere for their jollies and leave this form of the game out of their plans for change. Ranchi needed precisely 5 days to become the classic it was.Beat that if you can! And bowling more overs in a day would mean lowering the quality.

  • RoJayao on March 21, 2017, 4:24 GMT

    One doubts any administrator in the world has the best interests of test cricket in mind, so take this garbage with a huge grain of salt! Imagine all the exciting finishes lost because they shortened test matches to stuff in more meaningless and forgettable T20 cricket!

  • sjm5000 on March 20, 2017, 14:52 GMT

    So plenty of flat slow pitches from any home side that considers itself the underdog. That should really pull the crowds in. Why don't they just go for the real problems, such as the catatonically slow over rates or the seemingly endless hours spent debating just exactly how many inches wider to push third man (four times an over), drinks breaks when the temperature isn't even above 20C, etc etc. It's the tempo that is soporific not the length of the game. If they bowled 100 overs a day and scored at close to 4 an over, plenty of people would turn up. Or as Bumble would say just "get on with the game".

  • Orangetable on March 20, 2017, 13:39 GMT

    Test cricket is loved by players and TV audiences but not enough people want to go to the ground and watch the games. In countries that are struggling to get crowds they should make entry free.

  • Dave on March 20, 2017, 11:40 GMT

    Dear Tom Harrison,

    Wanna tell those folk involved in the final day of India-Australia as players and spectators that 4 day Test cricket is the way to go?


  • Nutcutlet on March 20, 2017, 10:04 GMT

    It's little wonder that any serious cricket lover doesn't feel that the ECB is on his/her side. Harrison is full of market-jargon (nothing to be proud of and only impressing gullible minds) and has become infected with Graves' 'let's-run-cricket-like-a-supermarket-chain mentality. In this mind set, everything is geared at keeping quality at a the lowest acceptable minimum and maxing the profits.Thus, reduce the first class game to a skeleton (lowest acceptable minimum) and stuff the calendar with as many t20 matches (to bring in passing consumers who have very little idea of what the real 'product' tastes like) to get the wedge in the bank. Meanwhile, top-end customers should pay as much as they can stand to watch Test cricket. Next point on the agenda: the price of tickets for Tests... No more reduced pricing for Day 5, eh lads? Lose day 5! Who said this business was difficult?

  • AshesErnie on March 20, 2017, 8:41 GMT

    Harrison will lose genuine cricket lovers in para 3 with his ghastly "consumer perspective" and "better product". But I ploughed on to check he is a puppet for the Graves regime and, sure enough, that's what he has become. If T20 is the necessary commercial element of cricket for Tests to survive, let's not cut off one limb of every Test, but instead get rid of the tedious bi-lateral ODI series that mean nothing to anybody. These used to be the commercial necessity but have now been surpassed by T20. We don't want or need both.

  • trentbridge11 on March 20, 2017, 6:54 GMT

    I'm not sure what is being hoped to achieve by reducing tests from 5 to 4 days. I suspect it is about reducing the duration of test series to enable more time for T20 cricket. However a 5 test series will be reduced by a total of 4 days by such a change, hardly significant for the resulting drop in quality. Any suggestion of increasing the number of overs in a day would also diminish the quality. There are already too many tests being played, and playing fewer tests is a better way to go forwards.

  • Alfers on March 19, 2017, 20:07 GMT

    @CRICFAN44810102 - Don't remember Strauss expressing any opinion on the length of test matches. The evidence for your statement is thin, putting it kindly.

  • Alfers on March 19, 2017, 17:33 GMT

    As has already been noted, 4 days or 5 days is a pretty trivial issue in comparison with the real challenges facing test cricket - sparse crowds in many countries, poor quality of pitches, lack of central control over scheduling and resulting lack of context for many matches. For all the fine words about 'loving it to death' and the ritual marketing buzzwords, Mr Harrison shows a disappointingly poor grasp of the issues.

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