Hello. And welcome to a new look TFT. I hope you like it. I’ve still got some playing around to do but the basics are all in place.
Why the change? It’s because I wanted a site that’s (a) simpler and easier to read (b) prioritises written content above everything else, and (c) uploads faster. Plus, if I’m being honest, finding suitable images to use was proving increasingly hard and time consuming. The new look site focuses on the text alone. And that’s the way it should be.
There are two things I wanted to talk about today. The first is Moeen Ali’s sensational century in the ODI at Bristol. Talk about destructive. His first thirty odd runs came at a relatively sedate run a ball … and then he went completely bananas and scored an incredible 61 off his next 14 balls! That’s absolutely insane when you think about it.
The great thing about Moeen’s hitting is that it looks so easy. He’s so fluent that he hardly seems to be breaking sweat. When guys like Aaron Finch score quick runs it’s a real macho effort. It’s the product of hours in the gym building muscle. Mo is the complete opposite. He just swings languidly and the ball disappears into the stands.
Most modern batsmen are like Vikings bludgeoning the opposition with a battle-axe. By contrast Moeen is like a skilled swordsman fencing with a rapier. It’s elegance personified … and England supporters are beginning to love him more and more every day. Is he the most popular cricketer in the country? I think he probably is.
The next thing on the agenda is the ECB’s apparent determination to press ahead with four-day test cricket – something I see as a complete betrayal of the sport. I’m absolutely seething to be honest with you. I cannot believe that the ECB wants to violate the purist form of the game like this. They’re supposed to be custodians of test cricket. Instead they’re turning into butchers.
Test cricket has been around for decades. It’s an institution. And it’s not broken. The only thing that’s problematic is a lack of context for matches … something a world test championship would easily solve. Am I wrong? Falling attendances at test matches worldwide (a problem we fortunately don’t have in England) will not be solved by dispensing with the fifth day. Reducing games to four days just makes bore draws more likely.
What’s more, increasing the number of overs bowled during a day will just make life more demanding for players and spectators alike. If kids thought watching 90 overs in a day was tough, just wait until they have to watch 100 or more! And I thought the ECB was determined to make the game more accessible to young children. Doesn’t look like it to me.
Generally when the benefits of an idea aren’t immediately obvious, it’s because the benefits are minimal … or aren’t actually benefits at all. Good ideas usually leap off the page and soon generate a consensus. The concept of four-day test-cricket, on the other hand, just seems random and rash. And it’s going down like a lead balloon with most cricket followers.
What really bugs me is the timing of all this. Is it really a coincidence that the ECB want to shave a day off test cricket at the precise moment they’re trying to shoehorn another bad idea – Harrison’s harebrained city T20 have a hit – into the calendar? Personally I suspect not. The move towards four-day test cricket looks suspiciously like an attempt to milk the T20 sow even further … even though it means sacrificing decades of tradition.
As with most things the ECB do, it all seems to come down to money. Games that are scheduled to last five days but ultimately don’t frequently register a loss. TV broadcasters also get a little twitchy. However, sports should not and cannot be governed by financial considerations alone. Would they shave 15 minutes off a football match if it was more profitable? I don’t think so. And I doubt they’d shave three holes off St Andrews if the golf broadcasters asked them to. Some things are sacred … and test cricket is one of them.
The idea that few test matches reach the fifth day is entirely bogus too. In fact, ever so slightly more test matches are going the distance now (58.3% as opposed to 58.2%) than they were ten years ago according to the Telegraph. The bottom line is this: if more than half of test matches are reaching the fifth day, then I’d argue vociferously that fifth days are an integral and vital part of modern day test cricket. To argue otherwise would be disingenuous and insane.
I guess the debate can be summarised thus. If there was one good cricketing reason for the implementation of four-day tests then Harrison and Graves would tell us. They’d be shouting it from the mountaintops. The fact that they’re saying very little says everything in my book. All we’re getting are vague justifications surrounding scheduling, broadcasting, and player welfare.
The latter reason really grinds my gears. If the ECB really cared about player welfare they wouldn’t be squeezing five test matches against India into a seven-week period next summer. And they wouldn’t be trying to squeeze yet another T20 tournament into the summer calendar either.