ECB chair calls for ‘flexibility’ in Test schedules to avoid future wash-outs


Richard Thompson, the ECB chair, has said that he will lobby ICC chair Greg Barclay “to ensure that schedules can be more flexible” after England’s hopes of regaining the men’s Ashes were washed away in the Manchester rain on Sunday.

The fifth day of the fourth Ashes Test at Emirates Old Trafford was abandoned without a ball bowled, after only 30 overs were possible on the fourth day. With several overs lost due to slow over-rates on the first three days, Joe Root proposed that greater flexibility should be introduced in the hours of play to ensure all overs are bowled.

Thompson, speaking to the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, stopped short of saying he would call for the introduction of reserve days across the board in Test cricket, but said: “It’s a debate that we need to have.”

Thompson said: “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. 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.”

Speaking ahead of the final day in Manchester, Root questioned the lack of flexibility in the hours of play in England, where the vast majority of Tests start at 11am regardless of whether overs are lost the previous day, and play rarely extends beyond 7pm.

“In England, it doesn’t get dark until 10pm,” Root told the BBC’s Test Match Special. “Why not start earlier?

“Whatever it is, if you need to make overs up, instead of punishing teams for being slow on over-rates, can you find other ways of maximising play and finding chances of getting as much cricket in as possible? Why do you have to have hard and fast rules? Why not play until the overs are done?”

According to the ICC’s Test match playing conditions, the hours of play are determined by the home board, rather than the governing body. “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.

“We are in the entertainment business. 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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