Wednesday 8 January 2020 8:12 pm

Four-day Test matches are a divisive issue but they might have their place for emerging cricketing nations

England’s dramatic victory over South Africa in Cape Town on Tuesday came at a good time for them, but also for the wider cricketing community.

With the International Cricket Council set to discuss the idea of reducing Test matches to four days to create space in the schedule and ease players’ workloads, England’s gripping 189-run win in the final session of the fifth day provided the perfect example of why the game should be played over five days. 

The atmosphere at Newlands was brilliant, with the Barmy Army helping fill up the ground and add to the spectacle. Watching on as Ben Stokes clinched the final three wickets it didn’t seem like a format in decline. 

Read more: Ben Stokes once again England’s hero in South Africa win

When the best take on the best in Test cricket you want it to unfold over five days. Series like South Africa against England and the Ashes are not where the problem is.

Empty stadiums

The idea of a four-day Test has obviously been put on the back foot by the events of this week and the opinions of current and former players.

However, empty stadiums for Test matches elsewhere in the world show the need for the ICC to consider possible solutions.

Newlands crowd
The crowds at Newlands showed five-day Test cricket is still popular (via Getty Images)

It is a tricky issue and changing something with so much tradition is difficult, but I am not opposed to four-day Tests completely.

For countries who are struggling to attract spectators and those nations still emerging in the format it is worth experimenting with. 

It is not a new thing. England played Ireland in a four-day Test last summer, with the game finishing inside three days, and South Africa did the same against Zimbabwe in 2017. 

Flexible approach

In theory less time should encourage a faster pace and could potentially mean better viewing. If cricket is going to evolve then it needs to be flexible and take into account the younger generation. 

There are some caveats though. Four-day Tests would see the day of play extended by 30 minutes and the number of overs per day increased to 98 and I think that is unrealistic. 

You can fit 98 overs into a day of county cricket, but Tests naturally move at a slower pace and there is already difficulty in managing 90 at the moment.

Dom Bess
Spin bowling could be put under threat by four-day Test matches (via Getty Images)

Another factor to consider is spin bowling, which would suffer in this scenario. Currently when a match reaches the fifth day the spinner has to stand up and try and bowl the opposition out to force a win.

There is spin on the fourth day, but I think it would be a shame to diminish their role.

Overall, I would like Tests to remain as five days for the established nations. The best thing is to trial more four-day Tests with the emerging sides to see if they have the desired effect before making any drastic changes.