Test cricket to stay behind paywall for years: Adams

Despite the fervour heightened by Ben Stokes’s Headingley heroics on Sunday, Test cricket is not likely to return to free-to-air television in the foreseeable future, sports minister Nigel Adams has confirmed.

Interest in the ongoing Ashes series boomed through England’s thrilling third Test victory on Sunday, a result that levelled the series 1-1 and sparked hopes Test cricket might return to terrestrial TV.

Those calling for the move included Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who tweeted that Stokes’s unbeaten 135 was “Yet another reason that Test cricket should be free to watch on TV.”

The third Test sparked hopes a special arrangement might be made to have the last two matches of the series shown free-to-air.

But while Test broadcaster Sky Sports last month agreed to share live rights to the World Cup final with Channel 4, the satellite broadcaster has reportedly ruled out a similar move with the current Ashes series, according to The Daily Telegraph.

And though debate has resurfaced about restoring Test cricket to the “crown jewels” list of sports reserved for terrestrial TV – a list currently being updated for the first time in 20 years – Mr Adams says it is not being considered, saying the game relies heavily on its income from satellite TV deals.

“Cricket also needs the cash,” Mr Adams said, referring to the England and Wales Cricket Board’s lucrative agreement with Sky.

“You simply wouldn’t see the county game as it is without the money that comes in from the broadcasting deals. It’s as simple as that. The money would not be around.”

Earlier this month, a report from the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank recommended returning Test cricket to terrestrial TV as one of several steps which would help strengthen the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

However, Mr Adams told the Telegraph free-to-air broadcasters should be competing with Sky for the rights to broadcast Tests.

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