By the time you read this, India should have wrapped up the second Test against West Indies in Kingston with more than a day to spare. The first Test in North Sound, Antigua ended on the fourth day. India is more or less used to early finish now. Out of their 16 Tests from January 1, 2018, till Antigua, nine produced a result within four days. Jamaica will be the 10th, meaning almost 60% of the Tests India have played in the last 22 months didn’t need a fifth day.
The results though have gone both ways. Afghanistan was out of depth as their debut Test against India in Bengaluru last year lasted just 171.2 overs, and ended in two days. When India hosted West Indies last October, they won both Tests within three days. Away, India’s comeback win in Johannesburg was within four days. They also lost in Cape Town, Birmingham and Southampton with a day to spare while their Lord’s defeat came in less than three days of play.
England has had a similar run in the same period, with 12 of their 20 Tests since Jan 1, 2018 finishing in four days. The last game in this list, at Leeds, was one of the greatest Tests ever played. Bundled out for 67 in the first innings, England chased an improbable 359-run target and won by the skin of their teeth, thanks to a gritty, nerveless century by Ben Stokes, to pull level in the Ashes. Stokes’ nerves of steel fuelled a record, unbroken 10th-wicket partnership of 76 with Jack Leach, incisive bowling by Australia bookending Jofra Archer’s brutal bouncers, a bungled run-out attempt, a non-existent review taken in desperation coming back to haunt Australia the next over; there couldn’t have been a more perfect advertisement for Test cricket. And all this neatly packaged in four days.
Is there a cue in these statistics? Are four-day Tests the way forward? The concept isn’t new though. For a long time now, first-class cricket in England, Australia and India have been played in the four-day format at the preliminary level. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has already started four-day Tests on a trial basis, stipulating that at least 98 overs be bowled daily with a 150-run margin to enforce the follow-on.
The inaugural four-day Test, the 2017 Boxing Day match between South Africa and Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth, ended in two days with the hosts winning by an innings and 120 runs. Ireland’s Test against England at Lord’s before the Ashes produced a few unreal moments before the hosts managed to close the game on the third day for a 143-run win. The margins of defeat in both cases could be put down to the gap inexperience. But most of the other four-day results in five-day Tests came in well-fought games between well-matched sides. Read More