Four Day Tests And Tom Harrison’s Surreal Reality

As his aggressively loud alarm rang incessantly, Tom Harrison slowly opened his eyes. ‘God,’ he thought, as he woke, ‘that alarm is boring, I must invest in a more exciting one.’

He pulled himself out of bed, admonishing the dreariness of his fuchsia pink dressing gown as he wrapped it around himself, cursing silently at the banality of his neon yellow slippers.

Down his unexciting staircase he walked, into his uninteresting kitchen. He tried to enjoy a bowl of cereal for his breakfast, but how could he when eating it was such a marathon? How could anyone enjoy something that took so long to consume? The world needed mini-cereal that could be marketed to the time-poor modern person.

Tom sighed, and threw his boring breakfast into his dull dustbin.

But as he drunk in the utter tedium of the world around him, an epiphany hit Tom. Yes, that was it! He fumbled for his phone, hastily punching in a number. At last, he had the answer…

“Colin, it’s Tom, I’ve got it. England need to play exciting cricket, even if it means that we lose, and the shorter the games the better. So, if the traditionalists insist on playing bloody test cricket between the proper twenty over stuff, let’s cut matches from five days to four. Then it might actually be interesting”.

“When it comes to test cricket, forget subtlety, forget nuance and for the love of Boycott disregard all notions of patience. Give me boundaries, ballast, and results. Give me four days. Hell, why not just make it three”?

And with that in mind, here are some of the most boring cricket matches of all time.

England vs Australia, Old Trafford, 2005.

This match was destined to be a stinker when Michael Vaughan hit a first innings 166 that contained only one 6 and a mere twenty 4’s. Pointless.

Australia were bowled out for 302 with Simon Jones taking a mammoth 17.5 overs to pick up 6 wickets. Ridiculous when you consider that you are only allocated 4 overs as a bowler in real cricket matches.

Ricky Ponting played what might have been a heroic innings for 156, if he had been striking at higher than a measly 56.72, and Australia clung on by one wicket for a draw that was anything but engrossing.

England vs Australia, Cardiff, 2009.

I remember this match vividly, and I can say categorically that not one England fan was living every delivery as if it may be the last they witnessed on earth.

My stomach most certainly did not drop several feet as Paul Collingwood was dismissed and I felt not a shred of euphoria as the hapless Monty Panesar and Jimmy Anderson failed to post a total big enough to set Australia a target to chase.

Batting out for a draw? Well, it’s just not cricket.

England vs South Africa, Johannesburg, 1995.

It really, really doesn’t get much worse than this. South Africa dominated the match and looked destined to cruise to victory.

There was just one problem: Michael Atherton. He batted for a soul-crushing 643 minutes, in spite of the fact that Allan Donald seemed to genuinely be attempting to murder him.

History will look on Allan Donald with sympathy, one suspects. Atherton on the other hand? The king of the snore-fest.

Australia vs West Indies, Brisbane, 1960.

Pity the damned souls who sat through a gruelling five days in which not a single reverse sweep was employed.

With Australia needing just one run to win, an impudent West Indies fielder saw fit to run out the last Australian batsman, who was inconsiderate enough to misjudge his run, meaning the match was tied, and everyone went home disconsolate and thoroughly unhappy.

One of the worst test matches ever played.

England vs Australia, The Oval, 2005

Yes, yes, yes, I know, not another appalling Ashes encounter. (Please cut me some slack here as my wide-eyed youth means that I have to mostly go off matches that I have actually seen).

The supposed hero of the hour was Kevin Pietersen – a bloke so bloody boring that he was exiled from England forever a few years ago.

With England teetering at 199-7 it looked like we might actually have the pleasure of a result in one of those god-awful Ashes matches. But Pietersen hit a not entirely useless 158 (seven 6’s can’t be sniffed at too much) and robbed us of a result.

England won The Ashes, but it was a draw, so really, what was the point?

Peter Jackson Eastwood


  • This was another dull one. John Edrich got 164 at a strike rate under 40.

    Finished about 6:10 on the final evening, if I remember correctly. Clearly down to the Aussies playing dull cricket in the 2nd innings (352 in 90 overs should have been a cakewalk).

    To be fair, not all tests are that good, but I’ve never seen the point of shortening them.

  • And how about the Jamaica test of 1974 when Amiss batted for nearly 10 hours for 262* and still could only manage a draw? At least the Windies then had the good sense to introduce the likes of Holding, Roberts etc……which had the added benefit of getting Lord Geoffrey to take 3 years off as well as adding a taste of the Roman arena to batting. Perhaps that’s a thought; introduce lions to chase dismissed batsmen back to the pavilion.

    • Great shame there doesn’t appear to be any film of that epic match. England also hung on for an epic draw in the Windies in 1967/68 (mainly thanks to Alan Knott) – and weirdly, there is some film of that.

      Pity you had to spoil it by the unnecessary dig at Boycott. He quit in 1974 before Roberts and Holding, came back in 1977 and faced Thomson, Pascoe and Hadlee without a helmet, and he faced Roberts-Holding-Croft-Garner in two series aged nearly 40 and averaged 40 in both.

      • Yep, whatever was going on in the mind of Boycott in the mid-’70s (probably more to do with clashes with Mike Denness and Tony Greig) he certainly wasn’t chickening out. We’ll never know how he would’ve fared if he’d gone to Australia in ’74-’75 or had faced the Windies at home in ’76, but what he showed in the years after he returned suggest’s he would at the very least have been more than up for the challenge.

      • I admit it; I have a problem with Boycott. Always thought of himself first and the team second (although I can almost forgive him due to the great story about Botham and the run out which would never have happened without his selfishness). And, being a born and bred Brummie, he compounded it as a commentator by claiming his mother could play Woakes because of his slow pace – just after the Sky speed gun had registered 88 mph (obviously modern technology is wrong and the great Geoffrey right). But what has always nagged at me most is the way in which craven England selectors (seem familiar) would drop Amiss at any opportunity to make a place for Lord Geoffrey – despite Amiss having a significantly better test record. Don’t believe me? Boycott averaged 48 opening for England (he only had two innings not opening and they were low scoring). Amiss averaged nearly 54 opening for England in 69 innings. His overall average was pulled down by 18 early innings in the middle order. By the 70s he was a better bet than Boycott any time.

        • I’m in your neck of the woods too, Andy, and I agree that Amiss was a little harshly treated. I was very young at the time but seem to be recall there was a whispering campaign (again, sound familiar?) that he couldn’t cope with high quality fast bowling. (No, I don’t have any references for that and haven’t done any analysis to see whether there was any truth in it but you really can’t argue with his over all record.) He and the Sainted Geoffrey (who was nothing if not an awkward bugger) were both great players. Pity the selectors didn’t try to find a way to accommodate both after Boycott’s return.

        • He was one of the first (the first?) to wear a helmet, it being about the time Brian Close played fast bowling with his chest it seemed to count against him.

          • It might well be this helmet:-


            In which case (according both to this old Telegraph article and his Wikipedia entry) he had it made in preparation for playing in Kerry Packer’s World Series, which was after he had been dropped by England in 1977. Or maybe the helmet was trotted out as a retrospective excuse for dropping him because he had some sort of irrational fear of being struck a fatal blow on the head by a hard object travelling at 90 miles mph.

            As for Brian Close’s brave performance against the Windies in ’76 (one of my earliest clear cricketing memories) how crazy a proposition does that look from a 21st Century health & safety obsessed perspective? You recall a 45 (!) yr. old to international duty to face down one of the quickest and most relentlessly hostile bowling attacks in the history of the game without even an armguard (let alone a helmet) because he has a reputation as a hard man who’ll soak up blows to the body all day long without complaining. While part of me thinks that maybe we’ve lost something now that things have swung so far the other way, it’s nonetheless quite difficult to justify the old way of doing things. The ’70s seem like another planet, let alone another era.

            • Dennis Amiss deserves a lot of credit for what he did.

              Before Brian Close a forty something Colin Cowdrey was sent out to face Lillee and Thomson in 74/5. He was also knocked unconscious by a ball from Andy Roberts in a domestic game (and after quite a delay came round in the middle and was given out hit wicket!)

          • I remember the helmet but I think the whispering campaign started earlier. Amiss felt he had a problem with pure pace (if only all of us could have a problem but still score a double century against a Windies with Holding etc in 1976) so changed his technique to solve the problem. He took to opening his stance to about 45 degrees. The purists hated it – but it worked.

  • How about New Zealand at Trent Bridge in 1973? They had the right idea in their first innings, getting a briskly efficient 97 all out off 41.4. Come the second dig though they decided to drop anchor and actually tried to chase the 478 they’d been set to win. They eventually crawled to 440 all out after 188.1 of the most excruciatingly negative overs anyone had ever sat through, when obviously what was called for from the entertainment perspective was a bit of biff! bang! pow! plus a couple of run outs and being all out for 150. If there’d been no pointless fifth day that would’ve stopped their interminable batting nonsense.

  • Harrison must try harder. How about:

    Wides should be worth 6 runs – denying the batsman the opportunity to hit it over the boundary

    No balls penalty – warning for first offence, withdrawn from bowling on second. All those extra balls make the match drag on longer. Also, anyone bowling a maiden should be fined.

    All eleven in a team should bowl. With these salaries, part timers should not be encouraged and we know that all rounders are worth a million. Anyway, it might be funny.

    Cut out the lunch break. I am fine with eating at my desk so cricketers can take sandwiches out with them onto the field.

    DRS referrals – the 3rd umpire should spin a wheel to be shown on the big screen. Takes less time and will be so exciting for the crowd.

    In the event of rain, these wimpish players should don appropriate clothing and get on with the game. Lots of money to be made from replica raincoats, souwesters, brollies, wellies

    I’ll stop now

  • I remember “watching” Graham Onions survive twice in series in SA a few years ago. Magnificently tense, even on Cricinfo. They punished him by barely ever picking him again, even when we were faced with a green tops under cloud up north.

    • We started TFT during that very series! I remember it well. Onions was brilliant in that series. Loved his fist pump after surviving the final ball.

  • The draw is dead. It’s been given a bad rep for years so most under 35 simply refuse to consider it. Ergo, they start to love the interest in draws at tests.. ergo.. over a few generations it will literally be turn up, slog, great game.. go home

  • Always think you should try and win a game and not block that does get dull so he has a point but going the wrong way about it, Club cricket can be just as tedious blocking all 50 overs when all you want to do is go home, takes all sorts.
    Perhaps don’t lay concrete roads as wickets so batsmen prosper.
    Anyway I get both sides of the argument although Mr Harrison’s vision is a tad blind “even if we lose” Aussies would never say that, answer find a bloody way to win.

    Lets see what a mess of the T20 cricket Mr H can make now, like the idea but copying the IPL and Big Bash does not make our T20 Unique we need to find a way to make our T20 stand out not just money.
    Blood emerging talent as well not just the money grabbing KP’s of this world


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