ECB offer cautious backing for four-day Tests plan to ease player workloads

England are supporting plans for four-day Test matches to ease the workload on players.

The International Cricket Council will consider the Test calendar beyond 2023 in January, when the idea of reducing matches from five days to four is likely to be discussed.

“We’re definite proponents of the four-day Test concept, but cautiously so, as we understand it’s an emotive topic for players, fans and others who have concerns about challenging the heritage of Test cricket,” the England and Wales Cricket Board said in a statement.

“We believe it could provide a sustainable solution to the complex scheduling needs and player workloads we face as a global sport.

“One of our top priorities is to underpin a healthy future for Test cricket while we continue to build accessible ways for new fans to enjoy our sport.

“We are strongly behind a thorough and considered consultation where all opinions are explored.”

Five-day Tests have been set since 1979 and some of the format’s most thrilling finishes – including the draw at the Oval which sealed England’s historic 2005 Ashes win – have been played out on the final day.

CRICKET England 96
England sealed their famous 2005 Ashes triumph on the fifth day of the final Test at the Oval (Chris Young/PA)

The ICC, however, has permitted certain Tests since 2017 to be played over four days.

These matches are outside the World Test Championship, such as England’s historic meeting with Ireland at Lord’s in July.

Last week, Cricket Australia’s chief executive Kevin Roberts said mandatory four-day Tests are “something that we have got to seriously consider.”

England v Ireland – Specsavers Test Series – Day Two – Lord’s
Last summer’s Test between England and Ireland at Lord’s was a four-day contest (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Four-day Test matches would be likely to follow the playing conditions used for the handful of recent four-day Tests, with 98 overs scheduled for each day rather than 90.

Any changes would need to be approved by the ICC’s cricket committee in 2020.

These would then have to be voted through by the chief executive’s board, which comprises representatives from member nations.

The shortening of Test series in the cricket calendar is seen a possible way of easing the strain on players and the international schedule.

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