T20: Is It Over For Test Cricket?

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in an online debate by the charity Speakers’ Corner Trust, which promotes free expression, public debate and active citizenship. The charity’s director, Peter Bradley, is a real cricket enthusiast who wanted to do a feature on test cricket’s future.

The debate, which is titled T20: Is It Over For Test Cricket? is part of the charity’s ‘Forum For Debate’ series. It discusses whether test cricket has a future in today’s modern world and whether T20 is at least partly responsible for the traditional form’s decline.

Although it’s not quite a black and white issue – T20 is neither a great evil nor the answer to all cricket’s problems – we decided that I’d argue the case against T20. Meanwhile we invited Tregaskis, a name familiar to many on this blog, to defend T20. We ended up having a lively and meaningful debate which will hopefully raise awareness of test cricket’s problems.

You can read the article by clicking the link below. If you’d like to join the debate, please leave your comments here on TFT. There’s nowhere to leave comments on the SCT website. We’d love to hear your personal perspective.

T20: Is It Over For Test Cricket? – Click Here

Oh, and if you could share / retweet this debate on social media we’d really appreciate it. Let’s give Speakers’ Corner Trust some well-earned publicity. Thanks.

James Morgan


  • Interesting debate reflecting both sides of the argument. I’m not so much of a Test cricket follower bit its clear that its demise will be trailered by county cricket. I mean there is not even pretence at hiding this; reduced number of games, none in the summer holidays…it will die a not-so-slow painful death. What will happen I predict is that CC games will become two day affairs made up of a first inningsof 50 overs each and a second of 20. Effectively two one day games rolled into one fixture with the winner being the team with the most runs. This will also ensure the are no bore draws.
    I don’t know the power divide in cricket but I do know counties have rolled over and allowed themselves to be subjugated by a dictatorship. Like in politics and economics there will be a revolution against this – the only question is when.

  • Our cricket club has had a massive “whats app” debate on the future of test cricket and that anyone from 18-40 is not interested in 3 or 5 day cricket but loves T20. The “your generation” has no interest for real cricket was mentioned.

    Maybe I am an idealist but the two can still go hand in hand, however it will be down to the power makers in cricket to join up with administrators and marketing experts (those who care about the future of the game and not making a fast buck!) to ensure that all forms evolve to the continued enjoyment of those who love the sport.

    I think over the next 20 year’s test cricket will have to change slightly a proper test match championship will have to start, a decision to change the match to 4 days will have to be considered as well as start times to try and ensure that most people can access the game by going to watch or see it on tv or live streaming.
    Over the past five years, the number of positive results in Test cricket has risen to 72%. 27 Tests have been played in Australia, only two have been drawn. In South Africa, only three of 29 games did not end decisively. In that same period, Sri Lanka have hosted 22 games, only four have gone the distance. I believe that 4 days (with a day set aside for loss of weather , particularly for English test matches) would help test match cricket evolve. Also greater access to tv coverage would help. Why can’t the BBC have a highlight package every night when a test is played here or Channel 4 or 5 put the highlights on at prime time evening.

    The test matches here are over priced and only a certain percentage can afford to go more than once a year and getting tickets is very difficult. It pains me to be leaving the Oval on the Saturday this summer seeing corporate “piss heads” who frankly have no interest in the cricket climbing up the corporate sponsors Zebra rather than watching the cricket. Make the day more family friendly and you will keep a proportion of those youngster coming back. Watching the faces of some of the South African children seeing Miller and co chasing down the Aussie’s total was fantastic.

    Also cricket fans need to be positive there is on many site forums and social media plenty to knock the game , there seems little time to celebrate great moments in games and even when the administrators get it right it is just accepted, it appears that negativity and severe criticism appeals to those who control the forums. A classic example on this was the final day of the county championship, of course there was a discussion to set up the game , since cricket was played a fair declaration makes it possible for all types of result to occur. The fact that Middlesex did this and had the skill sets to win the game seem to be overlooked.

    In summarising there is a danger that T20 could take hold and be the only form of the game, (this would be sad as the main appeal for this is to see big hitting, the game then becomes a bit one dimensional) but the game is such a great sport that with sensible evolution all it’s forms can flourish .

    • ‘Sensible evolution’. That’s exactly what’s needed. Unfortunately I’m not sure we’re going to get it from the sport’s administrators. Politics, greed, money etc are all getting in the way. But yes, there is hope. Thanks for such a detailed and interesting response.

  • It’s an interesting read, and I have sympathy with both sides, but in the end, I have to agree more with Tregaskis.

    In the long run, the various formats will stand or fall on their own merits – but of course in the short run, of course, T20 is being used (deliberately or not) as a hammer to hit the longer form of the game; it is a tool, and responsibility lies with those who are wielding it.

    The damage the ECB is doing to the longer format may well be terminal for some of the weaker or less well financed counties, but eventually someone will come up with a mechanism (a deal with BT, perhaps, and a return to the three day format ?) to derive a decent revenue from the CC .

    • Throughout the debate Tregaskis and I exchanged emails about how difficult it was to debate just one side. We both had sympathy for the other’s position. It’s a very complex issue and certainly isn’t black and white.

      One thing I wanted to include in my pitch, which unfortunately wasn’t possible in the space allotted, were quotes from Michael Holding, Clive Lloyd and Gary Sobers … all of whom directly blame T20 for the decline of test cricket in the West Indies. The articles I found are included in the bibliography if anyone is interested.

  • I could write long pieces saying this and then but as a 32yr old I can say that from my experience its got nothing to do with 2020 being ‘more fun’ and draw cricket being ‘boring’. What’s happened is the media has been spouting that one is fun and the other isn’t for so long now that it’s become lore to say draws are ‘bore draws’. Sure some are Boring but so are one sided (most games in 2020/odi) slog a thons! Only no one dare say that. Yesterday’s odi between aus and SA is being lauded as a Great game.. How was it a great game ?? Because batsmen thrashed at the ball? Because the wicket offered nothing ?? BecUse the ball did nothing?? Might as well get rid of the bowlers and just have a hitting contest.mthe game was only fun if you just want big hit after big hit.

    Anyway, youth have been brought up on 2020 so of course they will say they prefer it.. That’s just obvious ! Sadly, most don’t then have the mental ability or technique to play 50+ over draw cricket and so, say it’s ‘boring’.. And so the myth continues.

    Then suddenly, they realise that just playing a game where everyone thrashes at the ball gets a bit old and boring in itself by about 25yrs old.. You want something more.. However now, there isn’t anything because everyone has sacked off longer format draw cricket !!

    And so, as you get nearer 30 you get bored and leave the game. 2020 leagues from what I can see at amateur level are dying just as much if not more than 50+ over leagues… Why.. Because people get bored of it.. Only a few get a bat, the rest slog… Bowlers barely bowl many balls and no matter what they bowl it’s gets slogged..

    Shock horror, people get bored. Sure, the IPL is loved in India.. It’s probably cheap, fee quickly and so more convienient for fans. Same with the big bash. Can I afford to take my wife and 2 kids to a test match?? (Travel, ticket, food, drink).. 300+’quid,day !!! Nope

    2020 big bash.. 100 quid day… Sure. And it fits in better

    Doesn’t mean they like it more though, just that its (currently!!!) more accessible.

    Test cricket has been declining in standards for a while now and we are seeing white ball players become test ‘stars’. They aren’t a patch on players like ponting et all… They’ll have the stats though because bowling is poorer, grounds smaller, they are fitter, bigger bats and they just wack through the line..

    It’s a mute debate. Tests are finished, 2020 will win. Sadly, it’s just a matter of how small cricket will become as it alienates anyone older or having no interest in slogging. I know at my club of 3 league sides we’d literally struggle to out out one side if they reduce overs below 45.. I like the others will walk right away from the sport becUse I have no interest in slogging. Win/lose offers no tactics as it is other than slog more runs than the others.. Let alone reducing overs

    • You make a very good point about T20. Unless you’re in the top 4 you don’t really get much opportunity to bat. I’m not sure how this is good for kids getting into the game. Indoor cricket is a much better blueprint because everyone has to bat and bowl.

      • You are wrong James. Indoor is no better as only the top 2/3 get a bat, the rest are walking wickets 99% of the time. Most teams have an all rounder so that’s one person doing little to no batting or bowling. That player will not play long.

        Indoor cricket is awful unless the team themselves are ensuring everyone gets a go in the top 3 as often as everyone else. Which, given some people don’t care as long as they bat high means it doesn’t happen.

        Gone are the days when ‘its league cricket’ is acceptable and we are reaping the reward of such thinking.. Aka, people quit

        The only way around is to mandate that top six bat, bottom five bowl but can you imagine the out cry now teams can’t just dominate with 2 good players and have a couple of players just there for the ride.. They and the clubs don’t care as all they care about is winning.

        No one seems to ever address that side of participation, all anyone talks about is shortening games, win/lose and how no one likes long games. Smoke and mirrors but people seem to accept it as gospel

        • I think we’re talking about different versions of indoor cricket. The version I played at uni was as follows:

          8 players per team
          16 overs per side
          Teams bat in pairs for 4 overs each
          The batting side loses 5 runs when there’s a wicket
          Everyone has to bowl 2 overs

          It gives everyone a game. Batsmen aren’t ‘out’ (as in dismissed) when there’s a wicket. You just change ends and your team loses 5 runs.

          It’s not like proper cricket of course, and it won’t teach you how to bat for long periods etc, but it’s a good way to get youngsters involved.

          • Aahh, that does sound better. So many people have no interest in short format games for varying reasons and no one ever addresses it. Sad to see becUse it’s those who run clubs and coach.. Who will coach and run clubs when you alienate them?

            2020 is entertaining if you just want big hits and pretty girls dancing and a easy night out getting wasted. It’s certainly a fast food diet.

            Other sports have just the same issues. Football for instance is dying but becUse sky and bt pay money people think it’s growing.

            • That’s really interesting re: football. I thought it was still booming at all levels. I guess there’s a reason why the England team has absolutely no talent at the moment! :-)

              • Nope, participation is through the floor. Sure loads more kids playing jnrs as its used as a cresh by parents but barely any follow through to adults football.

                Jnr levels are in no way an indication of a sports ‘health’ going forwards

              • Totally agree with this comment I was part of a committee which ran a local football mini league (ages 5-11) up to age 9 it acted like a creche after that the kids were not interested. Interestingly for cricket my club and a few other in surrey we have over 350 colts and are fielding regularly 5 sides on a Saturday and 2 on a Sunday full of lads between 14- 21.

      • I just ran the team stats for my t20 team, in the average game, 17 wickets fell, 250 runs were scored and 14 bowlers were used. We played 27 games against 20 different opponents and used 43 different players. That is the very definition of everyone getting a game.
        If you play for a club where they manage the games badly, find a better club, don’t blame the format. T20 is a very fun, inclusive format and hence the reason it has shot up in player numbers over the past decade. There are now far, far more t20 games played than all other formats put together.

        • Your stats are flawed. How much of a game do you get batting at 5/6 or more in 2020? Is 4 overs really a game ?

          Sure, if you say facing one ball is a game then lots get a game. If you actually want to bat say 50 balls….then how many get a bat?? 2

          • Do you know maths? If 17 wickets are lost on average, then someone batting at five out six would get a bat in virtually every game.

            20 balls is a perfectly decent bat, especially if you get to bowl a few overs as well. It’s an fun evening game for 22 people, how selfish and greedy are you to want to take all the cricket for yourself? Is this how you approach every game? I bet you root for your team mates to get out so you can get a longer bat, don’t you?

            You don’t like it, you don’t understand it, fine. But the vast majority of cricketers love playing in t20 games. Perhaps you should take your ignorance and negativity to another sport.

            • Haha. Participation figures prove you’re incorrect and 20 balls is not really going to keep people playing the game.

              Looking around the different counties there are less and less teams playing 2020 so it’s not thriving or growing in any way.

              Bury your head if you want though

              • Can you provide a link to your “figures” or are you just making this up?

                Put it like this: there are 17 cricket pitches in Cambridge, a small city of only 130,000 people. To book one of them for T20 game on a weeknight between 1st May and 31st August, you need to book before Christmas, otherwise they are all gone. They cost £60 a night as well. Do the maths.

              • I have no interest in linking personal stuff on a random website.

                However, over the last 5 seasons the 2020 league has shrunk from 5 divisions of 5 teams to 3 divisions. Indoor has shrunk as less clubs are playing also. It’s a similar story in three or four other counties when looking st play cricket for their area. You may love 2020 but it seems it’s not as loved as we are being told. I can see why from the game I used to play too. So few get a game that it puts off all bar the keen beans who are t really the ones the game needs to attract with 2020.

                Fire off your abuse if you want fella, just go through play cricket and over the last 5 ish years it’s retracted.

              • Maybe one t20 team on ten play in a league. So your figures just bear that out. Rather than arguing and getting your facts reportedly wrong, why don’t you listen and learn from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about?

              • Because. You seem to think your views are more valid which is just arrogant on your part. ‘I know best so shut up and listen’.. You’d fit in well wi th the ECB

                Social 2020 does happen and I’ve played it But it too is. Dying. Slowly.

          • You keep whining about a version of T20 that virtually no-one plays, even after its been explained to that those arguments don’t actually apply to the vast majority of cricket matches.

            Its almost as if you’re not even involved in cricket and have no idea what is actually going on out there in the counties. This is what I suspect. Have a little humility: when it is explained to you that your understanding is mistaken and your arguments invalid, don’t argue back, just accept your error and apologise.

            • Sigh. You are obviously someone who has to be right and can’t possibly be wrong. Best apply for that job with the ECB fella.

        • Realistically, a 20 ball slog isn’t really a bat so can’t be called a game. Obviously if you are a top 3 batter and bowl as well you’ll think it’s great as you get a reasonable game but if you bat at 6/7 and don’t bowl.. What a crap day.. Worse than 50 over at that position which is bad enough

    • Excellent comment.

      Unfortunately the media has far too much influence in too many areas, what can be said and what can’t be said, and this issue is certainly one.

      • My comment on 8/10 at 8:09 was in response to Manaboutcricket. I thought it would appear directly underneath.

        Not to say of course that there aren’t lots of other excellent comments.

  • Just to let you all know that Speakers’ Corner Trust are really pleased with the publicity the debate has attracted. We managed to get retweets from David Hopps, John Etheridge, Steve Busfield, Nick Hoult and Jarrod Kimber. Thanks again to all of them for helping – and, of course, to you guys for carrying on the debate here.


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