The Australian test cricket summer has followed the same path of so many before it in recent years.
Michael Vaughan has stated that no side, bar India, can compete with Australia in their own home conditions. As the West Indies, England, Sri Lanka, and now Pakistan and New Zealand have fallen by the wayside, it’s difficult to see any flaw in his logic.
Each of the test matches this season has progressed via a similar storyline. In three of the four matches Australia has batted first, most recently at the request of the visiting captain, and compiled a score that has in effect insured them against defeat.
Their lethal attack has then proceeded to take 20 wickets in order to win the match by a wide margin. The only time Australia has bowled first this season they took a 340-run first innings lead, and the result was the same.
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None of this summer’s test matches has lasted into a fifth day. As I write the Australians have declined to enforce the follow-on in the Boxing Day test to rest their bowlers, which is the only reason that New Zealand look like lasting longer than the leftover turkey after Christmas lunch.
There has been a recent clamour to introduce four-day test cricket, and at first I held my hands up in complete opposition, as a lover of the traditional game. I am, however, coming around to the fact that it may not be the disastrous idea that I thought it might.
The fact of the matter is, the duration of test matches has shrunk naturally in recent years. Whereas over 77% of test matches went into the fifth day in the 1980s, this percentage has declined to less than 60% since 2010.
The plan of the ICC is to play 98 overs per day in four-day test matches rather than the 90 per day in the five-day game, meaning that matches will be only 58 overs shorter; long enough to obtain a result in the majority of instances.
Opponents of this move argue that it will see the end of one of test cricket’s more fascinating scenarios, namely the battle for survival on the fifth day on a wearing wicket.
It could be contended however that some aspects of test cricket previously lost could return.
The tactical declaration could come into play far more in a four-day match than in a five-day encounter. Also the lessening of the time in which a result can be obtained would encourage more attacking cricket from teams seeking a positive result.
Another negative may be that the loss of a day’s play would be more keenly felt in a four-day encounter as the proportion of the time lost is greater. For this reason I would like to see the fifth day retained as a reserve day, whereupon if, say, more than twenty overs are lost to the elements, this number of overs can be bowled to allow a result to take place.
One thing of which administrators are becoming more and more aware is the need for innovation in test cricket, so that it may remain relevant in the post 2020 market place. Where the attention span of the 2020 human becomes ever shorter, so shortening test matches may well be worth a try.
Times change - cricket needs to move with them.