August 10, 2011

Clocks be damned

The seemingly outdated concept actually makes perfect sense in deciding the Test championship
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There's no one left alive - must be a draw
So the Blackcap Barons toss a coin to settle the score
- "The Battle of Epping Forest", Genesis

Bring back the guillotine. How about the stocks, the ducking-stool or the jolly old witch trial? Or even, if you're Indian, third man. On the face of it, reviving such time-dishonoured practices would make no less sense than restoring the timeless Test. Consider the commercial ill-logic, the endless headaches for TV schedulers and box offices, the propensity for insufferable caution, the far from remote possibility that the contest would be about as stimulating as a hot date in a freezer.

Test cricket is the only major ballgame not to deploy some form of tie-break, most commonly extra time, overtime or, as instituted and beloved by Americans, sudden-death overtime. Then again, golf apart, other sports have plenty of scope for elongation. Baseball and tennis aside, imagining a sporting event of no fixed duration is almost as fanciful as envisaging a Twenty20 hundred by Chris Martin. An extended version of the planet's most languorous game is about as much in tune with 21st century rhythms as the waltz.

The history of the timeless Test, meanwhile, is long and spotty, and possibly a wee bit potty. With two exceptions, all Tests in Australia, where conditions rendered pitches less prone to decay, were played to a finish until 1937 (up to 1927, indeed, even Sheffield Shield matches were timeless; in 1925, New South Wales took six days to beat South Australia by 541 runs). A few Tests elsewhere were also free of temporal restrictions, including the 1912 Oval final of the Triangular Tournament between England and Australia, the Kingston nine-dayer of 1930, and most notoriously, the Durban conflab of 1939, a ten-dayer incorporating two rest days, 1981 runs and the equivalent of 909 six-ball overs, the last two records both untouched and, one fancies, untouchable.

Prior to the Second World War, moreover, even allowing for considerably zippier over rates, six Tests finished on the seventh day, one on the eighth. Such was the state of the pitches, nevertheless, five days were normally sufficient (the only draws in Australia before 1947 were in Melbourne in 1881-82, once because of rain, once because the MCC boat was due to set sail for New Zealand).

Developments in groundsmanship and machinery changed all that, the upshot being more durable surfaces and, in turn, an unwelcome shift in philosophy. There was "no need to get on with the scoring" according to Dudley Nourse, grinder-outer of one of the six centuries in that Kingsmead bloater. Small wonder the timeless Test died as the tourists boarded their homebound ship, without which timely interruption the game might have stretched into a fortnight.

No fewer than 74 Tests, meanwhile, have finished on day six, some designated as timeless, others as six-dayers; no fewer than 34 - and 11 of the last 14 - have been stalemates. Occasionally, matters were prolonged to settle a series, most memorably in Adelaide in 1978, when India made a marvellous fist of chasing 493 and fell 48 short, most recently in Kanpur in 1979. Inclement weather, though, was the cause in the 1980s and 1990s, when rest days were incorporated, including in the 1993 encounter between Sri Lanka and West Indies in Moratuwa, the last to go into a sixth day. There have also been extensions under exceptional circumstances, most famously at Sabina Park in 1968, where a spate of bottle-throwing cost 75 minutes on day five; when the time was tacked on the next morning, England, having scented an innings win before the riot, sank from 19 for 4 to 68 for 8 and almost lost.

Without unfettered Tests there would be fewer legends. Think Adelaide 1925, where England, set 375, began day seven on 348 for 8 and lost by 11 runs. Think Melbourne 1929, where England hauled down a target of 332 on the seventh afternoon, or Adelaide the next month, where Australia, manfully pursuing 349, were eventually repulsed 13 runs short as the game approached its second week. Think, above all, of Sydney 1894, where England followed on 261 behind yet won by 10 runs two minutes before lunch on day six.

SO MUCH FOR THE BACK STORY. As daft as it sounds, given the nature of the game and the times, there is a case to be made for reviving the timeless Test. Sadly Haroon Lorgat resisted making a coherent one during the recent Lord's Test, contenting himself with a tantalising "It's a thought" and sparking a bout of global guffawing. I yield to no one in my passion for the hard-fought draw, but the circumstances demand a reappraisal. After all, if any match has ever deserved a conclusive result it will assuredly be the inaugural World Test Championship final.

Say that the Test championship final was confined to five days. How, in the event of a draw, should we resolve the destiny of the title? By crowning the higher side in the rankings? Interest could evaporate after day two. By restricting each first innings to 120 overs? Worth examining for the long term but too big a leap for now. By first-innings lead? Perish the thought

An ICC working group, we understand, will address "the realities" of timelessness. When it comes to the public musings of Sourav Ganguly, many doubtless adopt the Groucho Marx approach - "whatever it is, I'm against it" - but when Lorgat grinningly reveals that the man who gave Indian cricket its snarl "thinks it's a wonderful idea", the sheer improbability of his enthusiasm compels respect. With Lord's as the slated venue, I'm with him.

In all probability, this will prove strictly academic. Pluvius permitting, there might not be any need for a fifth day, much less an nth. Fast becoming as fashionable as a bubble perm, the occasionally noble draw is languishing in a recession even the poor Greeks might blanch at. In the 10 years up to the end of the latest Lord's affair, just 116 of the 448 Tests had been left undecided - 25.89%, compared with the overall share of nearly 35%. Lord's, though, means England, which means an even chance of a sopping disruption or two.

On the other hand, so hectic is the pace of the contemporary game and so much spicier British conditions, the ratio of drawn Tests here since the outset of the third millennium - 19 out of 83 as of the end of the second Test against India - has actually been lower than the norm. At Lord's, following a dismal run of six featherbedded draws, not one of the five Tests prior to June's drenched visit by Sri Lanka lasted beyond tea on the final day. In terms of runs per wicket, of the 56 venues to have staged a Test over the past three years, St John's Wood (34.11) ranks 34th. Mick Hunt's tracks are becoming a byword for durability while being even-handed enough to guarantee results. Batting time, furthermore, is now as hip as the cassette. In England only two men - Gary Kirsten at Old Trafford in 1998 and Rahul Dravid at The Oval four summers later - have dug in for 10 hours since 1990, and neither survived into an 11th.

But just say that Test final was confined to five days. How, in the event of a draw, should we resolve the destiny of the title? By doing as Peter Gabriel's Blackcap Barons did in Epping Forest, concluding the match as it began? Not unless ridicule is the aim. By crowning the higher side in the rankings? Interest could evaporate after day two. By restricting each first innings to, say, 120 overs? Worth examining for the long term but too big a leap for now. By first-innings lead? Perish the thought. With all due respect to the Sheffield Shield, to favour one innings ahead of another would defy every principle of the two-innings format. A bowl-out would be even worse. Preferable would be a small-print determinant, such as run rate or over rate, but not by much. That way lies plasticity and perversity.

Which leaves a rather more enticing option: damn the logistics. In fact, while we're at it, let's make the semi-finals timeless too. Yes, excruciating longueurs would be almost inevitable, but imagine smelling that tension. Imagine the potential for plot twists and soapy operatics. Let the carpers carp and the romantics romanticise. Let nature take its course. Let the biggest games, the sternest tests, be played to a natural finish. Let the best men win. Let justice be done.

If convincing young people of Test cricket's unique attractions is the thorniest of the many challenges facing our grand old game, better, surely, to add to that uniqueness. In my experience young people are nothing if not curious (as in inquisitive rather than peculiar). They know, as their elders do, that the best scripted dramas available nowadays are not movies or plays but goggle-boxers such as The Sopranos, The Wire, 24 and Mad Men, protracted epics that grip and twist and unfold over months, offering sudden unexpected shifts, relishing the non-rush. Had their pockets been flush enough, they would surely have appreciated that riveting post-lunch passage on the Saturday of the Lord's Test, when Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid touched the heights before Graeme Swann came on and Stuart Broad came back, turning the mood inside out and upside down. Get the pricing right and, as those queues that snaked around the back streets of NW8 on "People's Monday" suggested, they will come.

The young, moreover, are as mistrustful of caution and convention as they are fond of the outrageous and the out-there. And 21st century life doesn't get much more out-there than a leisurely game without a clock.

Be brave, ICC, be brave.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • div09 on August 12, 2011, 2:39 GMT

    1st round qf - 1v8 2v7 3v6 4v5. - 5 days. if a draw takes place in the first round then that could be played in the 29 day break. 2nd round sf - EXAMPLE 1v4 2v3. - 5 days. if a draw takes place in the first round then that could be played in the 29 day break. 3rd round f - EXAMPLE 1v2. - 5 days. if a draw takes place in the first round then that could be played in the 29 day break. :(

    Days it will take = 122 days if in the finals you get a winner straight away then it will only take 93 days.....................can allow that many days for the oldest and the best form of cricket.

  • div09 on August 12, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    I guess teams should play 2 matches each in a knockout of the top 8 ranked teams of that time 1 match home for each team. For example quarter final 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 and then after a 5 day break 8v1, 7v2, 6v3, 5v4. Then the winner of the little 2 match series goes forward to the semis, if a draw series takes place then a 1 match series should be played on a neutral location for example ind v aus in eng. or saf v eng in ind. and if that a draw play another match if that a draw play 1 more match. I am sure you will have a winner. then winner of 1v8 v winner of 4v5 and winner of 2v7 v 3v6. And again a little 2 match series one home match for each team. If a draw again do the same 1 match on neutral location and wait for the winner to arise which cant take more than 3 matches. Specially because it a neutral location. Then the winner of 1st semi vs winner of 2nd semi. And again a 2 match series. 1 match home for each. A game on Neutral location. My other comment has the days it will take.

  • redneck on August 12, 2011, 2:10 GMT

    @popcorn, couldnt agree more. i think a round robin league needs to be established first, with all teams playing equal amount of matches against eachother home and away. however for the final a timeless test would be good, just dont see why it needs to be played at lords??? espechally if englands contesting in it! the final should either be 3 tests one at home one away and a third at neutral venue. or 1 timeless test a neutral venue. its wrong to pen lords in as the host venue if englands one of the teams challenging for the title!

  • Roger_Allott on August 11, 2011, 23:32 GMT

    Timeless tests would throw away the element of strategy that comes from a captain declaring their innings over. That is an important aspect of test cricket, so it's essential to have it in the Test World Cup Final.

    In the event of a drawn 5-day match, I suggest a tie-break match played on day 6 - 45 overs per side, test match rules (so no pyjamas, fielding circles, etc., same XIs as were selected for the main match). Allow spill-over into a 7th day to accommodate bad weather on day 6.

  • on August 11, 2011, 22:42 GMT

    Send all top 8 teams to Eng, Aus, Ind, they play best 2 tests 1vs8, 2vs 7 etc.. winners to semi's where they repeat best of 2, winners to final to play best of 2. All over in 6 weeks. This isn't too hard to do surely???

    Only exception would be final (both tests) where you play a test of 540 overs (or 630 or whatever) over however many days it takes. This is so you get rid of the weather factor.

  • on August 11, 2011, 14:38 GMT

    I'd love to see it for the pure endurance factor, but Dr. Vindaloo and Steven Davies-Morris make excellent points; it would take out almost all of the urgency in attempting to keep the match moving, and it would be frankly embarrassing if neither side managed to take twenty wickets in five days.

  • ultimatewarrior on August 11, 2011, 8:18 GMT

    looking upon the views of other comments (previously i was supporter of timeless test) i want to suggest 7 full days of match i.e. 90 x 7 = 630 overs match and have provision to extend days in case of rain and make ensure to make a 630 overs match disregard of weather distractions... Since most matches today are almost have the results (if weather allows full 5 days match) than it will be a good idea to increase the length by 2 days and negate any possibility of weather disturbances...i m 100% sure it will give a worthy winner and even if doesn't give result make both the joint winners as to bring match till 7th day for any team will require a great fight and skills.

  • on August 11, 2011, 8:08 GMT

    On a "dead" pitch, a Timeless Test would invariably lead to "win toss win game". The team winning the toss bats first, and bats on and on until the opposition fielders are too tired to stand. It doesn't matter how many runs they score in the process. Bat for 4 days, then declare and get 20 wickets. Some people have commented that batsmen won't last for that long, but that's only because they currently get exhausted trying to score runs, steal the 1s and 2s, etc. If they just have to stand there and block and leave the balls, hit a boundary once in a while, no reason why they can't do it. Boring!

  • on August 11, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    @Srusti Ranjan The first innings rule has been abused to no end in Ranji trophy matches, and makes for some really pathetic first class games. Statistically, you are right. The team that has first innings lead usually wins, but no thanks, I think we can live without the horrors of that rule in Test cricket.

  • pragmatist on August 11, 2011, 7:52 GMT

    Sorry Rob, you're wrong. Taking the time element out of Test cricket would stultify the contest - and remove one of the factors that makes Test cricket so compelling And why play the Test championship final under different rules to the rest?

  • div09 on August 12, 2011, 2:39 GMT

    1st round qf - 1v8 2v7 3v6 4v5. - 5 days. if a draw takes place in the first round then that could be played in the 29 day break. 2nd round sf - EXAMPLE 1v4 2v3. - 5 days. if a draw takes place in the first round then that could be played in the 29 day break. 3rd round f - EXAMPLE 1v2. - 5 days. if a draw takes place in the first round then that could be played in the 29 day break. :(

    Days it will take = 122 days if in the finals you get a winner straight away then it will only take 93 days.....................can allow that many days for the oldest and the best form of cricket.

  • div09 on August 12, 2011, 2:29 GMT

    I guess teams should play 2 matches each in a knockout of the top 8 ranked teams of that time 1 match home for each team. For example quarter final 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, 4v5 and then after a 5 day break 8v1, 7v2, 6v3, 5v4. Then the winner of the little 2 match series goes forward to the semis, if a draw series takes place then a 1 match series should be played on a neutral location for example ind v aus in eng. or saf v eng in ind. and if that a draw play another match if that a draw play 1 more match. I am sure you will have a winner. then winner of 1v8 v winner of 4v5 and winner of 2v7 v 3v6. And again a little 2 match series one home match for each team. If a draw again do the same 1 match on neutral location and wait for the winner to arise which cant take more than 3 matches. Specially because it a neutral location. Then the winner of 1st semi vs winner of 2nd semi. And again a 2 match series. 1 match home for each. A game on Neutral location. My other comment has the days it will take.

  • redneck on August 12, 2011, 2:10 GMT

    @popcorn, couldnt agree more. i think a round robin league needs to be established first, with all teams playing equal amount of matches against eachother home and away. however for the final a timeless test would be good, just dont see why it needs to be played at lords??? espechally if englands contesting in it! the final should either be 3 tests one at home one away and a third at neutral venue. or 1 timeless test a neutral venue. its wrong to pen lords in as the host venue if englands one of the teams challenging for the title!

  • Roger_Allott on August 11, 2011, 23:32 GMT

    Timeless tests would throw away the element of strategy that comes from a captain declaring their innings over. That is an important aspect of test cricket, so it's essential to have it in the Test World Cup Final.

    In the event of a drawn 5-day match, I suggest a tie-break match played on day 6 - 45 overs per side, test match rules (so no pyjamas, fielding circles, etc., same XIs as were selected for the main match). Allow spill-over into a 7th day to accommodate bad weather on day 6.

  • on August 11, 2011, 22:42 GMT

    Send all top 8 teams to Eng, Aus, Ind, they play best 2 tests 1vs8, 2vs 7 etc.. winners to semi's where they repeat best of 2, winners to final to play best of 2. All over in 6 weeks. This isn't too hard to do surely???

    Only exception would be final (both tests) where you play a test of 540 overs (or 630 or whatever) over however many days it takes. This is so you get rid of the weather factor.

  • on August 11, 2011, 14:38 GMT

    I'd love to see it for the pure endurance factor, but Dr. Vindaloo and Steven Davies-Morris make excellent points; it would take out almost all of the urgency in attempting to keep the match moving, and it would be frankly embarrassing if neither side managed to take twenty wickets in five days.

  • ultimatewarrior on August 11, 2011, 8:18 GMT

    looking upon the views of other comments (previously i was supporter of timeless test) i want to suggest 7 full days of match i.e. 90 x 7 = 630 overs match and have provision to extend days in case of rain and make ensure to make a 630 overs match disregard of weather distractions... Since most matches today are almost have the results (if weather allows full 5 days match) than it will be a good idea to increase the length by 2 days and negate any possibility of weather disturbances...i m 100% sure it will give a worthy winner and even if doesn't give result make both the joint winners as to bring match till 7th day for any team will require a great fight and skills.

  • on August 11, 2011, 8:08 GMT

    On a "dead" pitch, a Timeless Test would invariably lead to "win toss win game". The team winning the toss bats first, and bats on and on until the opposition fielders are too tired to stand. It doesn't matter how many runs they score in the process. Bat for 4 days, then declare and get 20 wickets. Some people have commented that batsmen won't last for that long, but that's only because they currently get exhausted trying to score runs, steal the 1s and 2s, etc. If they just have to stand there and block and leave the balls, hit a boundary once in a while, no reason why they can't do it. Boring!

  • on August 11, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    @Srusti Ranjan The first innings rule has been abused to no end in Ranji trophy matches, and makes for some really pathetic first class games. Statistically, you are right. The team that has first innings lead usually wins, but no thanks, I think we can live without the horrors of that rule in Test cricket.

  • pragmatist on August 11, 2011, 7:52 GMT

    Sorry Rob, you're wrong. Taking the time element out of Test cricket would stultify the contest - and remove one of the factors that makes Test cricket so compelling And why play the Test championship final under different rules to the rest?

  • popcorn on August 11, 2011, 7:25 GMT

    An unbiased way of judging the BEST TEST TEAM IN THE WORLD would be to play ALL Teams in a Round Robin Format - Each Team lays the other 9 - HOME and AWAY - 3 Tests each. The Top TWO Teams should the play a Best of three Finals. There is enough time to this, if the ICC schedules them rightaway.

  • on August 11, 2011, 1:36 GMT

    No timeless test, thank very much, Rob. Count me amongst the add a pair of reserve-only days to be used in the event of bad weather interrupting play. I can't see any curator producing a pampered-batting-prince road for a "Test Match Championship" final. Who'd care to be the doofus that didn't deliver a results-pitch for such an event? So a couple of days to be used as needed to make up lost time should suffice. Especially if the pitch has a touch of extra "green" up front! If the TV/ad/money-men are getting the heebie-jeebies over the extra time and what happens if it's not needed, have the teams commit to play an ODI on each of the reserve days with gate revenues and a portion of the TV money going to charity (etc). That way TV rights to the extra days can still be sold and everyone is happy. Nice classic prog-rock test-match-like (complex, ebbing and flowing, both sides in it) Genesis reference!

  • D.V.C. on August 10, 2011, 22:36 GMT

    A lot of people seem to be forgetting that conditions change throughout the course of a test match. You need to score quickly when the conditions are good for batting, or face tumbling wickets when dense air, rain and low light make batting difficult. Weather is part of Test cricket more than any other game, predicting it is part of a captain's task. In so doing he directs his team to make best use of the conditions: score when the scoring is good, shut up shop and hold on when it is difficult or declare if you think you can eat into your opponent's top order. That's the batting side of it, there's also the bowling, when to use which bowlers is something we're more familiar with, but in a longer game managing them becomes more important.

  • brittop on August 10, 2011, 17:58 GMT

    Don't like a league being decided by knockout matches. Presumably once the knockout games are introduced, the winners will be the test champion until the next lot 4 years later, so whoever is top of the table in between won't be no. 1 in the world any more. The top 4 places in the table will beome equivalent, and so series like this one between Eng & Ind won't matter so much in future.

  • Dr.Vindaloo on August 10, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    Timeless tests are not the answer. Time should always be one of your opponents in a test, because it creates a need for urgency whether with bat or ball. Not contrived and formulaic ODI urgency, but just that constant nagging pressure to move the game along. If your bowlers aren't incisive enough to take 20 wickets over an uninterrupted 5 day game then you do not deserve to win: the aim is to bowl sides out rather than bore them out. The exception should be when a game is affected by the weather, in which case a reserve day should be set aside if a certain number of overs have been lost over the five scheduled days. That would preserve the essential rhythm of test cricket while significantly reducing the number of drawn games.

  • on August 10, 2011, 17:42 GMT

    imagine chanderpaul and dravid batting for 3 days straight :)

  • ARad on August 10, 2011, 16:29 GMT

    Such a timeless Test could be a RECIPE FOR DISASTER. Declaration adds an extra element of interest to the game. Draws can still be EXCITING. A timeless Test can be boring since it would psychologically affect the batsmen and captains so they end up playing extra safe which may result in overcautious batting or lack of declaration that may sully the match (and Test Cricket in the eyes of newer fans) EVEN IF we get a result. 450 (or 500?) overs must be completed regardless of the number of days to accomplish it in case of weather disruptions. If American sports can convince the broadcasters to have best of 7 series (which means the broadcasters have to prepare for anywhere from four to seven matches) why can't the ICC do the same? (ICC chiefs are chosen for their LEADERSHIP SKILLS, aren't they?) Either declare the teams joint champs or schedule an extra match if we still get a draw. ICC curators must work with regular ground curators WEEKS in advance to prepare a good wicket too.

  • on August 10, 2011, 16:00 GMT

    It's going to be interesting trying to get the TV broadcasters on board with "We don't know what day this game will end. It could be two days, it could be 10 days." It's not without precedent in other sports, but it'll be tough to sell this to the cricket world of 2011 anew. Still, there's something to be said for the old school nature of it.

  • on August 10, 2011, 15:43 GMT

    Just decide on first innings lead. Its fair , very rarely team has came back and won in 2nd innings. In either case if we can keep a bowler friendly pitch and leave it all to the batsmen to find the way to get out !!

  • py0alb on August 10, 2011, 12:53 GMT

    Actually the solution seems far more obvious to me than messing with the rules: Simply play a full test series but make it "first-to-2" or "first-to-3". The first team to win the prescribed number of matches wins the championship, whether it takes 2 games or 6 to get there. The idea of deciding a Test champion country after 4 years of toil with a single solitary game is utterly ridiculous. One morning of overcast conditions on day one and half a decade of preparation could be wasted. It would make a mockery of the entire sport.

  • AlanHarrison on August 10, 2011, 12:29 GMT

    I'm not exactly sure a world test championship is needed anyway.

  • Gizza on August 10, 2011, 12:23 GMT

    I think for a start there should be at least two reserve days. Most importantly, make sure you can get 450 overs bowled in the game before declaring it a draw. So if one day is washed out. Add another day at the end and so on. Also instead of a timeless Test, why not do a rematch one week later? No what the pitch and teams, a pair of teams cannot draw against each other indefinitely. At least for the second rematch final, the pitch will be given more pace, bounce, swing or spin because of the external pressure placed on the curators.

  • Jonathan_E on August 10, 2011, 12:01 GMT

    The answer's quite simple... host the final on a Headingley greentop in May...

  • dragqueen1 on August 10, 2011, 11:54 GMT

    it's the obvious solution. expect something hairbrained from the ICC.

  • D.V.C. on August 10, 2011, 11:12 GMT

    On balance I agree with you Rob. A Timeless Test is the best option given that the ICC have chosen a knockout final series for this (a concept that I wholeheartedly disagree with for a 4 year championship!). There is one other option you've forgotten though: a replay. Yes, in many sports a draw or tie on Grand Final day, leads to the whole thing being gone through again a week later. @alesbraae: you can still consider a declaration, you do so when the conditions will give your bowlers the edge.

  • scoopster35 on August 10, 2011, 11:10 GMT

    Bad idea. Just prepare a pitch as normal and let them get on with it. Just don't let them play a final on a flat track somewhere. If the cricket is dull and easy for batsmen to score and hard for bowlers, it doesn't matter who' playing, it will still be boring. Good wicket that will offer something for spinners later in the game. Just like it should be

  • tfjones1978 on August 10, 2011, 9:55 GMT

    A timeless test could easily create 1 to 1.5 run an over matches (look at the history) as players bat for time and not runs. Time on a deterating pitch is an important thing. Why make the other side bat after 3 1/2 days when you can force them to bat on a deadly pitch after 7 days!

    In a final a timeless test could bring about A 400 off 3 days, B 350 off 2.5 days, A 250 off 1.5 days and B needing 300 to win off a day 8 & 9 pitch.

    A better approach for the final would be to extend the match to 6 days and limit the number of overs that a side can bat to 270 overs per team per match, excluding 4th innings that concludes after 540 overs in the match (unless bowled out earlier). In the event of rain a 7th day would be available as a reserve day.

    The match umpires can shorten the maximum overs if it rains more then 90 overs worth.

    This approach should be used for all test championship matches with five days & 6th day rain, 225 overs per side, 450 overs in match.

  • on August 10, 2011, 9:50 GMT

    One option could be a sixth day but only to compensate for the time/overs lost to weather or due to slow over rate during the first five days.

  • BellCurve on August 10, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    Here is the solution. Schedule the Test for 5 days, but allow a further 3 days to ensure a minimum of 450 overs is bowled. That's it. Simple. This solution basically takes rain out of the equation, without messing about with the essence of the existing format. Otherwise you end up with a situation where teams play T20 cricket in the knock-out stages and then switch to 50-overs for the final. That would be unfair as the skill set required for 450 over matches and unlimited over matches are not the same. For instance, Sehwag is a no-brainer for a 5-day match, but would you pick him over Gambhir when it is an unlimited match played in England or South Africa? Timeless cricket renders his impressive strike valueless. The same would apply to Lara and Kallis, and Ponting and Dravid. Similarly, Dale Steyn's lethal strik rate would count for less in the unlmited format. You would rather pick five Mularis because they can bowl more overs.

  • on August 10, 2011, 8:59 GMT

    WI vs England 1974. england arrived in trinidad after 4 tests 1.0 down having been thrashed in the ist in trinidad followed by 2 of the grimmest backs to the wall draws in jamaica and barbados and a rain draw in guyanan. as the series was inconclusive it had been agreed to go to a 6th day to achieve a result . it was also the start of the rainy season in trinidad the equivalent of a days play was lost . the result was a thriller that finished with england winning a nail biting low scoring ( just over 1000 runs in four completed innings ) by 26 runs almost into the last ten of the mandatory 20 overs on that 6th day thus quaring the series . to this day the tension and eventual despair of the home supporters inside the pos oval on the last day stays with me . There were rest days then and so a game that started at 10.30 am on saturday finished at 17.15 on friday

  • clammerwhirl on August 10, 2011, 8:43 GMT

    Nice article. Here is my suggestion.... Let the teams play out 5 days. If its a stalemate at the end of day 5, both teams come back on Day 6 for 50 overs/side finale with test rules (No powerplays,no field restrictions, 2 bouncers per over, etc)... The winner takes all... This is the equivalent of Golf's 18 hole play-off for the winner in the 5th day.

  • harshalb on August 10, 2011, 8:17 GMT

    PART 2: I personally don't think that Cricket needs to be like other sports and ensure a conventional result. A close fought test match ending in a draw can be as exciting as any and the DRAW itself is a RESULT, it exemplifies the battlefield situation in which a group of soldiers retreat to safety after being under heavy enemy fire till almost the point of being eliminated or hang on in a bunker till reinforcements arrive. The real problem is the nature of the pitches made in the subcontinent which produce what can be called as 'boring draws' the like of which Indian and Sri Lanka are adept at churning out. No amount of additional time can make this matches exciting and no additional time should be given to these. In any case for planning purposes, even a so called timeless test would have to be limited to 7 days because you still need to schedule subsequent matches.

  • CliffM on August 10, 2011, 8:14 GMT

    I wholeheartedly agree with alexbrae and Dashgar. A Test would be a defensive grind without a time limit. The last thing that Test cricket needs is for its showpiece to be a demonstration of the worst aspects of the game. A draw is simply an indication that neither team was good enough to win; therefore no one is the champion.

  • puskas on August 10, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    @alexbraae has it right for me, so: not timeless Tests in terms of days and days of Trevor Bailey partnering Geoff Boycott, but a guarantee that there will be enough days to bowl five days worth of overs. Keep (pace @Meety) preparing five day pitches. If, after (say) 450 overs it is still a draw, then a draw it is (but fine the captains more than their match fees AND endorsements if the over rates drop). This would take out weather and light as ruin-the-match factors, but leave the subtle time pressures of real Test Matches

  • harshalb on August 10, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    PART 1: Timeless test is a good and a bad idea. The matches may actually become more positive as just drawing a match will not be possible. No captain would like to be batting on a 7th day pitch for example, or no team would think of playing slowly just because there is a lot of time and risk losing wickets and momentum, so teams will attempt to wrest the initiative early. The difference will be in two cases. Declarations will not be made out of time consideration. Games may actually get boring when the team batting 4th is 7 wickets down and still needing 300 runs to win on a 5th day evening. They could either try to hang on as long as possible and score those runs or just hang on and bore everyone and push the match into a 6th day which no one will care to watch. The real excitement of hanging on till the end of 5th day and drawing the match will be gone. Contd...in PART 2

  • on August 10, 2011, 8:03 GMT

    No, I don't think so. One of the key characteristics of test cricket is how the game can speed up or slow down depending on the circumstances of the game. For example, whwn would there be a need for a batsman to up the run rate. The game would be come a slog. And not in the 20/20 sense!

  • Noman_Yousuf_Dandore on August 10, 2011, 7:58 GMT

    Once again a beautiful piece from Rob! I'm really intrigued by the idea of a timeless test, and when I heard about it my reaction was the same, even the semi-finals should be timeless. Though as very aptly put by alexbraae, it'll take declaration out of question which makes cricket so much more compelling. The beauty of declarations was demonstrated so well in Ind v Eng Tests and more so in Zimb v Bang Test. So if there could be a compromise, say a 6-day or 7-day test, and/or time-addition for time lost by weather/bad light etc. or put in another way, having a restriction of min. no of overs to be bowled to complete the test (say 90*5 or 90*6), then it'll make a bit more sense. Cheers!

  • Truemans_Ghost on August 10, 2011, 7:35 GMT

    Allblue's comment (i.e needing at least 5 bowlers) is interesting.... you need 5 bowlers to insure against a 7 day epic- but that makes the 7 day epic less likely to occur. The problem is with this discussion is we are a bit of a self selecting sample group. Anyone interested enough to comment is no doubt a proper test buff. I would have no problems with 6 day or timeless tests- but i love full fat, 5 day test cricket.

  • John-Price on August 10, 2011, 7:18 GMT

    This is the worst idea I have come across since 'like-for-like 'substitutes were suggested - come to think of it, that was Rob Steen as well. Timeless tests would take the declaration right out of the game; if any team achieved a monster score, the entire match would be a never ending nightmare, holding the entire concept of test match cricket to ridicule. What happens if bowlers break down so a team is left with a depleted attack? All it needs is for the early batsmen of the side batting first to dig in, tire out the opposition bowlers (easier for some team than others), and the match could become a farce. As you might expect, the idea with most to recommend it is the one Mr Steen rejects outright. I say let the top ranked team take the trophy in the event of a draw. The challenging team will have to play attacking cricket and this should give the best chance of a lively match. Using run rates risk turning the event into a five day limited over type contest.

  • on August 10, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    A timeless Test would have robbed many games of their "epic" status. The Adelaide Test of 2006 comes to mind, where Australia snatched a victory from draw on the final day, and especially in the first session. If they had unlimited time left in the game, would England still play like they did, trying to save the game than score runs? Would Australia's victory mean anything special if they achieved it after lunch on Day 6?

  • sifter132 on August 10, 2011, 7:03 GMT

    It's a dumb idea. Imagine both teams batting for 3-4 days each. Why does one of them have to win?? I would argue neither of them deserve to win because neither could take 20 wickets in a decent amount of time. Cricket is as much about that as grinding down the opposition with the bat. Winning a timeless Test is more likely to be a Pyrrhic victory, and will hold LESS weight in the long run. I say just ensure that a certain number of overs are bowled (to allow for rain). Maybe it a 500 or 600 over Test (a normal Test being 450), but unlimited is stupid.

  • KP_84 on August 10, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    This is ridiculous. It's not like in the good old days that old-timers like Steen speak of, when teams usually played one Test series at home in the summer and one away from home in the winter. England have a contract with Sky Sports to provide 7 Test matches and 10 One-Day Internationals every summer. They would be hard-pressed to find a place for a Test Championship final in their schedule as it; making it timeless would make it almost impossible to meet the requirements of their contract with Sky Sports. India would find themselves in a similar position. Wouldn't it be a shame if the no. 1 Test side in the world had to forfeit the Test Championship final because of it's format? Besides, why should the final be timeless when the play-offs leading up to the final will be played according to the regular Test cricket format. You wouldn't decide a World T20 final with a 50-over game, would you? The higher ranked team should be awared the title in the event of a drawn final.

  • Woody111 on August 10, 2011, 6:00 GMT

    I love this idea; it's awesome. The ICC has an opportunity to just say 'we're doing it, that's all there is to it' and people will take a keen interest whether they were supportive of the idea or not. Any way you look at, annointing a winner from a drawn test by any method other than a natural result is contrived. It's not like we're talking about deciding tests in other series; it's something that will only happen every few years and do so only once when it happens. Bugger TV scheduling; just make it happen ICC! If you want it - make yourself heard people!

  • Dashgar on August 10, 2011, 5:14 GMT

    How about this, play 5 days and in the case of a draw nobody wins the trophy. Prepare a pitch that favours bowlers and will deteriorate so that the game won't be a draw.

  • alexbraae on August 10, 2011, 4:20 GMT

    I really disagree with the idea of a timeless test, because it removes the primary tool for captains to stamp their authority on the game - the declaration. Why would a captain declare leaving an opponent to score 350 if they had endless days to do it? Test cricket would simply become a slog. I huge part of the appeal of tests for me is that the captain has to outthink both the opposing captain and Father Time. A timeless test would have ruined Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh, as the real narrative in that match was about the intent and attitude behind Zimbabwe's declaration.

  • Meety on August 10, 2011, 4:13 GMT

    I'm all for a timeless test or at the very least a 6th day. In the advent of a draw I would of considered awarding it to the side who's Net wickets to Runs Ratio was the best. Then once I thought about it realised that, what would be the point of a team holding on for a draw if they were statistically behind? The problem I see with timeless test is, what would be the quality of the pitch at days 6 or 7? If a pitch is prepared to last 6 or 7 days or more, surely that would mean it would be a more true pitch to begin with? Therefore the pitch may actually result in a boring style of cricket - or rather a negative style. It would be interesting because I would assume spin bowling would play a larger part as the match wore on. -- -- -- As for the comment "Batting time, furthermore, is now as hip as the cassette" - I had to laugh as it is so true. How many batsmen around the world currently playing could stand to bat for 10hrs?

  • gloves71 on August 10, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    Bring it on, ICC, bring it on!!!!

  • allblue on August 10, 2011, 4:01 GMT

    You wouldn't want to go in with four bowlers that's for sure.

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  • allblue on August 10, 2011, 4:01 GMT

    You wouldn't want to go in with four bowlers that's for sure.

  • gloves71 on August 10, 2011, 4:12 GMT

    Bring it on, ICC, bring it on!!!!

  • Meety on August 10, 2011, 4:13 GMT

    I'm all for a timeless test or at the very least a 6th day. In the advent of a draw I would of considered awarding it to the side who's Net wickets to Runs Ratio was the best. Then once I thought about it realised that, what would be the point of a team holding on for a draw if they were statistically behind? The problem I see with timeless test is, what would be the quality of the pitch at days 6 or 7? If a pitch is prepared to last 6 or 7 days or more, surely that would mean it would be a more true pitch to begin with? Therefore the pitch may actually result in a boring style of cricket - or rather a negative style. It would be interesting because I would assume spin bowling would play a larger part as the match wore on. -- -- -- As for the comment "Batting time, furthermore, is now as hip as the cassette" - I had to laugh as it is so true. How many batsmen around the world currently playing could stand to bat for 10hrs?

  • alexbraae on August 10, 2011, 4:20 GMT

    I really disagree with the idea of a timeless test, because it removes the primary tool for captains to stamp their authority on the game - the declaration. Why would a captain declare leaving an opponent to score 350 if they had endless days to do it? Test cricket would simply become a slog. I huge part of the appeal of tests for me is that the captain has to outthink both the opposing captain and Father Time. A timeless test would have ruined Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh, as the real narrative in that match was about the intent and attitude behind Zimbabwe's declaration.

  • Dashgar on August 10, 2011, 5:14 GMT

    How about this, play 5 days and in the case of a draw nobody wins the trophy. Prepare a pitch that favours bowlers and will deteriorate so that the game won't be a draw.

  • Woody111 on August 10, 2011, 6:00 GMT

    I love this idea; it's awesome. The ICC has an opportunity to just say 'we're doing it, that's all there is to it' and people will take a keen interest whether they were supportive of the idea or not. Any way you look at, annointing a winner from a drawn test by any method other than a natural result is contrived. It's not like we're talking about deciding tests in other series; it's something that will only happen every few years and do so only once when it happens. Bugger TV scheduling; just make it happen ICC! If you want it - make yourself heard people!

  • KP_84 on August 10, 2011, 6:59 GMT

    This is ridiculous. It's not like in the good old days that old-timers like Steen speak of, when teams usually played one Test series at home in the summer and one away from home in the winter. England have a contract with Sky Sports to provide 7 Test matches and 10 One-Day Internationals every summer. They would be hard-pressed to find a place for a Test Championship final in their schedule as it; making it timeless would make it almost impossible to meet the requirements of their contract with Sky Sports. India would find themselves in a similar position. Wouldn't it be a shame if the no. 1 Test side in the world had to forfeit the Test Championship final because of it's format? Besides, why should the final be timeless when the play-offs leading up to the final will be played according to the regular Test cricket format. You wouldn't decide a World T20 final with a 50-over game, would you? The higher ranked team should be awared the title in the event of a drawn final.

  • sifter132 on August 10, 2011, 7:03 GMT

    It's a dumb idea. Imagine both teams batting for 3-4 days each. Why does one of them have to win?? I would argue neither of them deserve to win because neither could take 20 wickets in a decent amount of time. Cricket is as much about that as grinding down the opposition with the bat. Winning a timeless Test is more likely to be a Pyrrhic victory, and will hold LESS weight in the long run. I say just ensure that a certain number of overs are bowled (to allow for rain). Maybe it a 500 or 600 over Test (a normal Test being 450), but unlimited is stupid.

  • on August 10, 2011, 7:14 GMT

    A timeless Test would have robbed many games of their "epic" status. The Adelaide Test of 2006 comes to mind, where Australia snatched a victory from draw on the final day, and especially in the first session. If they had unlimited time left in the game, would England still play like they did, trying to save the game than score runs? Would Australia's victory mean anything special if they achieved it after lunch on Day 6?

  • John-Price on August 10, 2011, 7:18 GMT

    This is the worst idea I have come across since 'like-for-like 'substitutes were suggested - come to think of it, that was Rob Steen as well. Timeless tests would take the declaration right out of the game; if any team achieved a monster score, the entire match would be a never ending nightmare, holding the entire concept of test match cricket to ridicule. What happens if bowlers break down so a team is left with a depleted attack? All it needs is for the early batsmen of the side batting first to dig in, tire out the opposition bowlers (easier for some team than others), and the match could become a farce. As you might expect, the idea with most to recommend it is the one Mr Steen rejects outright. I say let the top ranked team take the trophy in the event of a draw. The challenging team will have to play attacking cricket and this should give the best chance of a lively match. Using run rates risk turning the event into a five day limited over type contest.