Test matches are stuck in the dark ages over 'bad' light

Test cricket is desperate to maintain its relevance and attract new spectators but it’s stuck in the dark ages over ‘bad’ light and cannot afford to repeatedly shoot itself in the foot

  • Only in Tests can floodlights be shining but players come off for bad light
  • Test cricket cannot shoot itself in the foot when it is threatened like never before 
  • The second day of the second Test was the most frustrating example yet
  • There is no doubt one-day internationals and Twenty20s would have taken place

Only in Test cricket can you lose half the first day’s play and then the first 90 minutes of the second to bad weather but then stop for lunch after just an hour’s action.

Only in Test cricket can modern floodlights be shining down on two of the best-appointed grounds in the country, Emirates Old Trafford and now the Ageas Bowl, yet the umpires repeatedly decide to come off for bad light.

It cannot be allowed to continue. Test cricket cannot repeatedly shoot itself in the foot when it is threatened like never before. And when so much of the game’s future is invested in the international fixtures that are taking place against all odds in this blighted summer.

Only in Tests can floodlights be shining but the umpires take the players off for bad light

The second day between England and Pakistan was the most frustrating example yet

Just think about all the hard work, money and sacrifice that has gone into staging what will be all 18 scheduled men’s international matches behind closed doors by the time Australia have visited next month.

The detail that Steve Elworthy and his bio-secure ECB team have gone into to make these games happen is extraordinary. And no expense has been spared in laying on charter flights to get opponents into the country.

And just think about how much of the broadcasting revenue that keeps the English game alive has been saved by West Indies and Pakistan players being prepared to live on-site for weeks on end to play cricket in one of the countries most affected by Covid-19.

Playing international cricket in the new normal has rescued the domestic game yet what happens? The officials, admittedly just following the flawed regulations placed in front of them, seem to find any way they can to not actually play.

Just think about the money and sacrifice that has gone into Joe Root’s men being able to play

The second day of the second Test was the most frustrating example yet this year. Imagine you are not a cricket fan or just have a casual interest in the game.

What would you think if someone told you the players had to come off for a bite to eat after playing for just an hour when they had spent much of the previous 24 hours stuck in the pavilion because of rain and the threat of lightning? You would think this is a crazy game not fit for purpose in the 21st century.

What is it with cricket’s obsession with food? Why can’t we be flexible about lunch and tea breaks? The players cannot be expected to stay out there all day but in a situation like Friday why don’t we just cut the lunch break short? Give them a sandwich on the boundary or something.

Bad light under floodlights, meanwhile, should just not be allowed to happen in a modern, impatient world when cricket is desperate not only to maintain its relevance but also attract new spectators and players.

Officials following the flawed regulations seem to find any way they can to not actually play

That is just not going to happen when the game lays itself open to ridicule with its intransigence, over-officious umpiring and lack of understanding about the competitive world it operates in. And a pink ball is not the answer either as, despite the best efforts of MCC to develop it, it is simply not of good enough quality for Test cricket, especially in English conditions.

There is no doubt one-day international and Twenty20 cricket would have taken place on Friday in the light that stopped play after tea, the umpires having set the self-defeating level on day one that they are obliged now to follow for the rest of this Test.

Meanwhile, the rest of the enlarged Pakistan squad, here predominantly for Twenty20 matches that follow the final Test, staged a full intra-squad match on the Ageas Bowl nursery ground on Friday without any help from floodlights. They were perfectly fine. They just carried on playing against the full-pace bowling of Wahab Riaz. And he is not the slowest.

The cursed health and safety are cited by the ICC at times like this but what we need instead is a large dollop of common sense. Unless it really is dangerous — and play stopped for bad light at Old Trafford when two spinners were bowling in tandem, for goodness sake — then cricket has to continue. And if the red-ball is hard to pick up then so be it.

Unless it is really dangerous then cricket has to continue, even if the red ball is hard to pick

If we are worried about the safety of umpires then they should be wearing helmets to ensure the show goes on. Or how about Bruce Oxenford’s Captain America-style Ox-Block shield that he has been happy to share with his fellow officials but has had few takers. Issue all the umpires with those to protect themselves.

Elworthy could have been excused if he was found crying into his Covid mask. Everyone who has done so much to get cricket staged this summer has been let down by repeated stoppages that are frankly embarrassing.

If you want to save the game forget about the Hundred. Just bring Test cricket into the real world. And quickly.

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