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Test cricket is stuck in the dark ages above ‘bad’ light at a time when it wants to stay relevant

Test cricket is desperate to keep its relevance and attract new spectators, but it’s trapped in the dark ages by ‘bad’ light and can’t afford to repeatedly shoot itself in the foot

  • Only in tests can spotlights shine, but players go off for poor light
  • Test cricket cannot shoot itself in the foot when threatened like never before
  • The second day of the second test was the most frustrating example yet
  • One-day internationals and Twenty20s would undoubtedly have taken place

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

Only in Test cricket can modern spotlights shine on two of the country’s best-appointed courts, Emirates Old Trafford and now the Ageas Bowl, yet the referees repeatedly decide to go out due to poor lighting.

It must not continue. Test cricket cannot repeatedly shoot itself in the foot when threatened like never before. And when so much of the future of the game is invested in the international competitions that take place against all odds in this devastated summer.

Only in Tests can spotlights shine, but the referees turn the players out for poor light

Only in Tests can spotlights shine, but the referees turn the players out for poor light

The second day between England and Pakistan has been the most frustrating example so far

The second day between England and Pakistan has been the most frustrating example so far

The second day between England and Pakistan has been the most frustrating example so far

Just think of all the hard work, money, and sacrifice that went into organizing what all 18 scheduled international men’s games will be behind closed doors by the time Australia visits next month.

The detail that Steve Elworthy and his bio-secured ECB team went into to make these games happen is extraordinary. And no expense has been spared to impose charter flights to get opponents into the country.

And just think how much of the broadcast revenue that keeps the English game alive has been saved by West Indian and Pakistani players willing to live on site for weeks to play cricket in one of the countries most affected by Covid-19. .

Playing international cricket in the new normal has saved the domestic game, but what happens? The referees, admittedly only following the flawed rules set for them, seem to be finding a way not to actually play.

Just think of the money and sacrifice that Joe Root's men put into playing

Just think of the money and sacrifice that Joe Root's men put into playing

Just think of the money and sacrifice that Joe Root’s men put into playing

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

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

What’s with cricket’s obsession with food? Why can’t we be flexible in lunch and tea breaks? The players cannot be expected to stay out all day, but why not just shorten the lunch break in a situation like Friday? Give them a sandwich on the border or something.

Meanwhile, bad light under spotlights simply shouldn’t happen in a modern, impatient world where cricket desperately wants to not only maintain its relevance but also attract new spectators and players.

Civil servants following the flawed rules seem to be finding a way not to actually play

Civil servants following the flawed rules seem to be finding a way not to actually play

Civil servants following the flawed rules seem to be finding a way not to actually play

That’s just not going to happen when the game exposes itself to ridicule at its intransigence, overly unofficial referee and lack of understanding of the competitive world in which it operates. And a pink ball isn’t the answer either, because despite MCC’s best efforts to develop it, it’s just not good quality for Test cricket, especially in English conditions.

There is no doubt that the one-day international and Twenty20 cricket would have taken place on Friday in light of the game ending after tea, with the referees establishing the self-defeating level on the first day that they are now required to follow for the rest of this Test.

Meanwhile, the rest of the expanded Pakistani team, here mainly for Twenty20 games following the final Test, hosted a full-on game within the team at the Ageas Bowl nursery on Friday without any help from any spotlight. They were fine. They just kept playing against Wahab Riaz’s full speed bowling. 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 good dollop of common sense. Unless it’s really dangerous – and play at Old Trafford stopped due to poor lighting when two spinners were bowling consecutively, for God’s sake – then cricket should continue. And if the red ball is hard to pick up, then so be it.

Unless it's really dangerous, cricket should keep going even if the red ball is hard to pick

Unless it's really dangerous, cricket should keep going even if the red ball is hard to pick

Unless it’s really dangerous, cricket should keep going even if the red ball is hard to pick

If we are concerned about the safety of referees, they must wear a helmet to make sure the show goes on. Or how about Bruce Oxenford’s Captain America-style Ox-Block shield that he loved to share with his fellow officials but had few takers. Order all referees to protect themselves.

Elworthy could have been excused if he was found crying in his Covid mask. Anyone who has done so much this summer to get cricket on stage has been let down by repeated interruptions that are downright embarrassing.

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

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