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ECB chief backs four-day Test concept

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."