ECB to lobby ICC for greater Test match flexibility after Old Trafford washout

ECB to lobby ICC for greater Test match flexibility after Old Trafford washout

Day five of the fourth Ashes Test saw no play due to rain – Getty Images/Stu Forster

England will put pressure on the International Cricket Council to allow for greater flexibility in the schedule to prevent Test matches being scuppered by the weather.

Rain in the fourth Test at Old Trafford saw only 30 overs bowled on day four and the fifth day completely washed out, ending England’s hopes of a series-levelling victory to set-up a winner-takes-all showdown in the final Test at The Oval.

Richard Thompson, the chairman of the England & Wales Cricket Board, has advocated that “schedules can be more flexible” to mitigate the impact of bad weather.

Thompson, speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said that introducing reserve days in Test cricket is “a debate that we need to have”. Thompson said that he intended to raise the matter with the ICC.

“I will talk to Greg Barclay, the chair of the ICC, for sure, just in the sense of him understanding what England has done to Test cricket,” he said. “We’ve elevated that format and reinvented the way Test cricket has been played now.

“There’s significantly more excitement and interest around Test cricket now, and this is part of that broader conversation, to ensure that schedules can be more flexible to accommodate this type of strange eventuality. But we need to have that conversation.”

Thompson said that England could also look at whether there could be greater flexibility in the hours of play. Over the first three days at Old Trafford, 26 overs were lost to poor over rates – the equivalent of a session of play, which could potentially have given England enough time to take the five extra Australian wickets that they needed. The hours of play in each country are determined by the home board, rather than the ICC, with several other countries starting days earlier when overs have been lost in the previous days of a Test.

“You could have a look at the schedule, in terms of the times you play,” Thompson said. “Fundamentally, people are buying a ticket expecting play to start at a certain time and end at a certain time, so from that perspective, you’re going to have to inject certain flexibility to broadcasters’ schedules, people with travel arrangements, all sorts of practicalities.”

There is currently only a reserve day for the World Test Championship final. In 2021, after the Test had been marred by rain, New Zealand defeated India late on the sixth day to win the inaugural World Test Championship final.

“We are in the entertainment business,” Thompson said. “You want people to leave happy and entertained. Having a reserve day – as there was in the World Test Championship [final] – would be a great idea but you’d need to do that for each Test. That’s another five days you’d need to find in the schedule. There will be a lot of debate after this series.”

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