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England ready to support scrapping five-day Tests

Four-day Tests have been sanctioned since 2017 by the sport's global governing body the International Cricket Council (ICC), but only outside of their inaugural World Test Championship.

England's players wait for a decision against New Zealand's captain Kane Williamson during the fifth day of the second cricket Test match between England and New Zealand at Seddon Park in Hamilton on 3 December 2019. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Five-day Test matches could become a thing of the past from 2023 after England supported calls to cut them by a day, according to Tuesday's Daily Telegraph.

A spokesperson for the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) told the British newspaper that four-day Tests could help ease the strain on players' busy schedules.

"We believe it could provide a sustainable solution to the complex scheduling needs and player workloads we face as a global sport," they said.

"We're definite proponents of the four-day Test concept, but cautiously so, as we understand it's an emotive topic for players, fans and others who have concerns about challenging the heritage of Test cricket."

The ECB's comments come a week after Kevin Roberts, the chief executive of Cricket Australia, said mandatory four-day tests were "something that we have got to seriously consider".

Four-day Tests have been sanctioned since 2017 by the sport's global governing body the International Cricket Council (ICC), but only outside of their inaugural World Test Championship.

In order for four-day Tests to replace the five-day format from 2023, when the new ICC broadcasting rights cycle begins, it would need to be approved by the ICC's cricket committee in 2020 and then voted through by the chief executive's board, which is made up of representatives from member nations.

"One of our top priorities is to underpin a healthy future for Test cricket while we continue to build accessible ways for new fans to enjoy our sport," added the ECB spokesperson.

"We are strongly behind a thorough and considered consultation where all opinions are explored."

Tony Irish, the head of FICA, the global players' association, said he feared extra days gained from scrapping five-day Tests would be used to fill them with other forms of cricket.

"It would take pressure off the schedule but our concern would be that the ad hoc way the schedule currently works and that countries would simply plug in more cricket into the time freed up," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"If introduced, it therefore has to be part of a more coherent structure.

"In the past, many players have been against a change to four days but it would also be important for players to understand any benefits of time freed up.

"Unfortunately, with the ICC there is a history of introducing these types of changes in an unstructured way.

"That would need to change if there is to be any player buy-in."

Figures published by the Telegraph suggest the percentage of Test matches annually that have gone to the fifth and final day have declined from 66% in 2014 to 33% this year.

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