England chief Giles hails 'precious' Test format as global union warns against four-day internationals

By Sports Desk January 08, 2020

England director of cricket Ashley Giles has declared five-day Tests a "precious" part of the game, as the global players' union warned dropping a day could lead to "significant resistance".

The prospect of introducing four-day Tests will be discussed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in the near future, and South Africa has said it would welcome the move.

Although the England and Wales Cricket Board has said it is "cautiously" backing the concept of the shortened matches, it has recognised it is an "emotive" issue.

Giles may have a greater passion for Test cricket than many of the sport's administrators, having been a Test spinner for England before moving into coaching and management.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday, Giles said: "Anything that helps players and their workloads is good to look at, and anything that takes the game forward is good to look at. But I played Test cricket, I love Test cricket, and if we played four-day cricket I feel we would miss out on a lot of matches like yesterday."

That was a reference to England's gripping fifth-day success in bowling out South Africa in Cape Town to win the second Test on Tuesday and level their series.

"I know a lot of Test matches these days don't go to the fifth day, but it is precious to me certainly and I know it is to the players," Giles said.

"I think it's important we look at everything. But I think it's a decision far from made yet.

"It is our responsibility as guardians of game in this country to look at everything that can both take the game forward and look at the workloads of our players."

The Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) has gathered early reaction from far and wide, and issued its response to the growing debate by underlining the concerns of players.

The likes of former Australia captain Ricky Ponting and India great Sachin Tendulkar have already expressed opposition to the idea.

FICA executive chairman Tony Irish said: "From our discussions with players around the world, and our global survey data, it is clear that there is currently a lot of negative sentiment, within the global collective of players, towards such a significant change to the game's most traditional format."

That could hardly have been more blunt, with Irish's statement on FICA's website going on to stress the ICC and national boards must be open about their intentions and motivations, and how cricket might benefit.

"Making a fundamental change simply in order to provide calendar space to fill with additional or meaningless cricket is clearly not something we can support. Cricket's global structure desperately needs clarity, rather than further confusion," Irish said.

"Until such a time as we and the players are provided with the full picture and compelling reasons for change, we remain supportive of five-day Test cricket, and would expect significant player resistance if a shift to that is imposed on players by the ICC and/or boards.

"Test cricket is a cherished format of the game and it needs player support and buy in to survive. We urge those making decisions to understand that."

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  • BestXI: Best Test batsmen of all time BestXI: Best Test batsmen of all time

    The argument regarding the players who should be ranked among the best of all time gets harder and harder as cricket evolves.

    Batsmen are more dynamic and harder to contain these days, while bowlers had more advantages when you look back at it. There was even a time when pitches were uncovered and therefore much more of a nightmare to bat on.

    Despite the ever-changing circumstances that most certainly impact the nature of performances over the decades, SportsMax’s editors have still been hardpressed to avoid the addiction of coming up with the answers to the age-old question of who is the greatest of all time.

    As usual, we’ve come up with XI of them.

    Now, the most challenging form of cricket is undoubtedly Test cricket. There might be a debate about which form of the game is best to watch, most profitable, which is the future of the game, all that. But there’s no argument that Test cricket has lived up to its name and is the hardest. This is why our XI will only have players who have played the longest format of the game.

    Best XI

     

    Don Bradman (Australia)

    While many of the experts of the game today, never saw him play, it is still generally accepted that Sir Donald Bradman, with 29 centuries and 13 half-centuries from just 52 Test matches, is the greatest batsman to ever walk the planet. His average of 99.94 in Test cricket will likely never be matched. Interestingly, Bradman only hit six sixes in his glittering Test career.

    Sachin Tendulkar (India)

    If Bradman was the greatest, Sachin is the most complete batsman to ever play the game. The little magician’s batting is considered by those who wrote the textbook on the subject, to have the perfect mixture of balance, economy of movement, precision stroke-making, and most of all, anticipation. Sachin put all those together more often than not to average 53.78 from his 200 matches, getting to a century on 61 occasions and to a half-century on 68 others. Those statistics meant he amassed a mammoth 15,921 runs, by far the most of any batsman.

     

    Brian Lara (West Indies)

    Whenever the conversation about who is the greatest of all time comes up, the name Brian Charles Lara is never far away. Undoubtedly a genius, Lara still holds the world record for the most runs ever scored in a single Test innings. Lara’s 400 not out was not the first time the left-hander was putting together a score that nobody else had. Australia’s Matthew Hayden scored 380 against Zimbabwe to pass Lara’s first world-record effort of 375 against England but the diminutive left-hander would not be satisfied without breaking that record all over again. Lara’s first record-breaking effort bested Lara would score 34 centuries from 131 Tests at an average of 52.88. The Trinidad & Tobago native also scored 48 half-centuries, getting to 11,953 runs before he called it quits.

    Vivian Richards (West Indies)

    Sir Vivian Richards, the Master Blaster, turned Test cricket on its head with his brand of aggression. In a time when bowlers were the aggressors with the insistence on pace and bounce, Viv, changed the game, making bowlers quake at the sight of his nonchalance in the face of searing pace and his penchant for taking bowling attacks apart. Viv played 121 Test matches and ended with an average of 50.23 despite a long lean spell toward the end of his career. His highest score was 291 but his 24 centuries and 45 half-centuries were remarkable instances each time. There is many a bowler who, throughout the ‘80s hated to get wickets against the West Indies because that would mean the man who brought ‘swagger’ to cricket, would walk to the crease.

    George Headley (West Indies)

    Depending on where you hail from, George Headley is either the Black Bradman or Bradman is the white Headley. In 22 Tests, Headley scored a remarkable 10 centuries and five half-centuries including a highest score of 270 not out. Headley was the only batsman that stood between West Indies and regular capitulations. In fact, between 1929 and 1939, Headley did not have one bad Test series, scoring eight centuries against England and becoming the first immortal at Lord’s. Sir Len Hutton, a man who could easily make this list as one of the first batsmen who could be called a superstar, said he had never seen a batsman who played the ball later, making him a nightmare to set fields for.

     

    Garfield Sobers (West Indies)

    Sir Garfield Sobers is likely the finest all-rounder of all time, taking 235 wickets in his 93 Tests and scoring more than 8,000 runs in his 93 Tests. But his efforts as a batsman are by themselves, worthy of making him a certainty for this list. Sobers scored 26 hundreds in Test cricket but his first is something the game will never forget. In 14 previous Tests, Sobers had a highest score of 66 and averaged just 32.54. Though his talent was undeniable, Sobers was just not getting over that hump. Then Pakistan came calling. Sobers went into the third Test at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica having scored three half-centuries (52, 52 and 80) in the previous two. Walking in at number three with the score on 87-1, Sobers and Conrad Hunte would take the West Indies to 533-2 when Hunte fell for a brilliant 260. Sobers would keep batting, getting to 365 not out before the skipper Gerry Alexander declared the innings on 790-3. Until the era of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, the argument for the greatest batsman of all time stood between Bradman and Sobers. Sobers also became the first man to hit six sixes in an over

     

    Rahul Dravid (India)

    Many of the great innings the world experienced from Sachin Tendulkar were made possible by the man known as ‘The Wall’. Steadily, Rahul Dravid created the reputation for being one of the finest batsmen in the world and started the Indian revolution, helping them become a team that was dangerous, not just at home.

    His technique and robotic-like concentration would help him to 36 centuries and 63 half-centuries from his 164 Tests. His 13,288 runs have made him legendary in India but around the world too. Himself and Sourav Ganguly formed the backbone of a formidable Indian batting line-up and every team knew, that without getting out either or both, India were likely to come out the winning side.

     

    Sunil Gavaskar (India)

    The first man to get to 10,000 Test runs and score 30 centuries, make him most undoubtedly one of the greatest batsmen of all time. But Gavaskar has an even more interesting legacy. He is the man who made Indian cricket what it is today, teaching his teammates and the country of now over one billion, the importance of a professional approach to cricket. But outside of that, Gavaksar must be credited as one of the few batsmen to be able to score significantly against the West Indies all-pace attack of the 1980s, scoring 13 centuries against them. In fact, Gavaskar played five Tests at the Queen’s Park Oval, averaging 99.12 at the ground. Gavaskar was a fine opener, averaging 51.12 over the course of 125 Tests, scoring 34 centuries and 45 half-centuries with a highest score of 236 not out against the West Indies in 1983.

     

    Jacques Kallis (South Africa)

    Jacques Kallis is the only man to threaten Sir Garfield Sobers as the greatest allrounder of all time, and like his West Indian predecessor, his batting makes him a good fit for this list of some of the greatest batsmen of all time.

    Kallis played 166 Tests and averaged 55.37 on his way to scoring a mammoth 45 centuries and 58 half-centuries on his way to putting together 13,289 runs. Kallis was part of South Africa’s second rebirth after being let back into international cricket and along with young skipper Graeme Smith, he led a fight-back to international prominence by performing at a remarkably high level for a long time.

     

    Steve Waugh (Australia)

    Steve Waugh is not the batsman that a ground outside of Australia might fill up to watch and it was largely agreed that his brother, Mark Waugh, was the more talented of the two batsmen. However, Steve’s drive to do well, mixed with hard work and a fine ability to read a situation from the middle of the pitch made for a career that was more than something to be proud of. Waugh led Australia to becoming the most dominant team in World cricket throughout the early 2000s, overtaking the West Indies for that title, with a symbolic 2-2 draw in the Caribbean. Interestingly, Waugh made that draw possible with a double century in the final Test at Sabina Park in Kingston that kick-started a spree of run-scoring that would not be halted until his retirement.

    Waugh would play 168 Tests at an average of just over 51. That double century in Kingston was his highest score on the way to 10,927 runs. His 50 half-centuries meant there were very few times Waugh didn’t contribute to Australia’s eventual totals. Like Dravid and Ganguly were for India, Waugh was the rock that held the team together, the talented batsman evolving over time to a player who had eliminated risk from his game.

     

    Kumar Sangakarra (Sri Lanka)

    Kumar Sangakarra came into the Sri Lankan team on the back of careers like that of Arjuna Ranatunga and Asanka Gurusinha, who paved the way for dismissing the myth that batsmen from that area of the world could be blown off the pitch by good aggressive pace bowling. Sangakarra was decidedly a battler, but he added quite a bit of grace to the role, cementing his place in the side for 134 Tests in which he averaged 57.40. Sangakarra would end his Test career with 12,400 runs, 38 centuries and 52 half-centuries. Interestingly, nobody, not even the great Sachin Tendulkar, made it to 10,000 runs more quickly, the two being joint quickest to the milestone.

  • Coronavirus: Premier League stars spread the word to 'stay at home, save lives' Coronavirus: Premier League stars spread the word to 'stay at home, save lives'

    With the Premier League season on hold until April 30 at the earliest, the English top-flight's big names still managed to get their message across on Saturday.

    The Premier League, along with the majority of sporting tournaments and events across the globe, is currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

    Many nations are in total or near-total lockdown, with people only allowed to leave their homes for essential trips and exercise.

    Though there is no sport to keep people entertained, some of the biggest names – both players and managers – from the Premier League came together on Saturday at 1500 GMT to spread the message: "stay at home, save lives."

     

    Using his official Twitter and Instagram accounts, Manchester City and England forward Raheem Sterling shared a video.

    "We need to stay at home, let's help our NHS by staying home, only leave if you need food, medicine or exercise," Sterling said. "The NHS have been doing a fantastic job so let's help them continue doing their wonderful work."

    He was also joined by his City team-mates Aymeric Laporte and Benjamin Mendy, as well as the club's ladies captain Steph Houghton.

    Across the city, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also offered his support to the campaign.

    "Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives," the Norwegian said in a video posted to United's Twitter feed.

    Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for coronavirus on March 12 and, having now recovered, he also shared the message.

    "I encourage everybody, please be responsible and stay at home as much as possible," the Spaniard said.

    Meanwhile, Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard said: "To help save lives, you must stay home. Only leave home to buy essential food, medicine or for individual exercise and always stay two metres apart. This is an urgent message. Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives."

    Premier League leaders Liverpool shared a graphic which read: "Stay home, protect the NHS, save lives."

    Tottenham striker and England captain Harry Kane did not share a video, but wrote in a post on Twitter: "Saturday 3pm normally means football. But at the moment it's far more important everyone stays home. Do your bit. Protect the NHS, save lives."

  • On this day in sport: Solskjaer lands Man Utd job, Colts head to Indy On this day in sport: Solskjaer lands Man Utd job, Colts head to Indy

    March 28 was the day when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer went from the interim manager to Manchester United's permanent boss.

    It was also the date that the Colts upped sticks and made the stunning move from Baltimore to relocate to Indianapolis.

    March 28 remains a day of one of cricket's most significant milestones as well.

    We take a closer look at what happened on this day in sports.

     

    1955 - New Zealand all out for 26

    The lowest Test score in history - recorded by the home side in Auckland - may never be broken.

    New Zealand, who, at that point had not won a match in the longest format in the 24 years since they were granted Test status, were skittled out inside 27 overs against England.

    Four batsmen were dismissed without scoring, another three having made only a single.

    New Zealand's innings lasted just one hour, 40 minutes and they fell to an innnings-and-20-run loss to the tourists.

    1984 - The Colts head to Indy

    It is one of the most famous, and shocking, stories in NFL history.

    Fifteen trucks turned up at the Baltimore Colts' Owing Mills facility under the cover of darkness, packed up the team's belongings and headed for Indianapolis.

    Baltimore city officials had already passed legislation that would allow them to seize control of the Colts but, once the trucks left the state of Maryland, that did not matter.

    The Colts remain Indianapolis' team today while Baltimore had to wait until 1996 before being awarded another NFL franchise - the Ravens.

    2019 - Solskjaer appointed on a permanent basis

    Exactly one year ago, United responded to their first back-to-back losses under interim boss Solskjaer by making the Norwegian's arrangement permanent and handing him a three-year contract.

    United had previously won their first eight games in a row under Solskjaer and beat Paris Saint-Germain in France in March to advance in the Champions League.

    "This is the job that I always dreamed of doing and I'm beyond excited to have the chance to lead the club long term," Solskjaer said of his appointment.

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