On the Front Foot: If you want to kill Test cricket, try a World Championship


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All systems are now go for the World Test Championship in 2013. Or at least they would be if there was not already the suspicion that the engine will not start.

The championship is what might be termed an iconic policy by the blue-sky thinkers at the International Cricket Council. In theory it sounds wonderful – a competition held every four years to decide the top team in the world. It would be a kind of Olympics of Test cricket (not, you understand, that they want Test cricket to be in the Olympics, it is Twenty20 that they would like in the Commonwealth Games).

A date has been set aside in the crowded schedule for the tournament to be held in England in 2013. This would be between the two Test matches that England are due to play against New Zealand at home that year and the five against Australia in defence of the Ashes. The idea is that the WTC would consist of the top four teams in the ICC rankings playing off in two semi-finals and a final.

This would mean that there would be, in all, 10 Test matches in this country in 2013, including the Ashes and the World Champion-ship. Interesting marketing exercise though this will be, there is also the small matter of how the champions will become the champions. It has not actually been decided (so systems are not all going) but it is fraught with potential farce.

For instance, draws are suddenly back in vogue, with 14 of the past 27 Tests having finished that way. So if the semi-finals finish in a draw, the team with the higher first-innings score might qualify, thus immediately introducing an artificial element.

To avoid a draw in the final – and thus having no champions – the idea of a timeless Test is being floated. But that would take out the draw, which is such an important part of the longer game. There have been timeless Tests before. England played six- and seven-day Tests on their Australian tours of 1924-25 and 1928-29, and in South Africa in 1939 a 10-day Test which also had two rest days – and still ended in a draw. The WTC, instigated to save Test cricket, might see it off once andfor all.

Trott and Anderson climb

England now have, according to the ICC Test rankings, the second-best batsman in the world and the second-best bowler. They are, respectively, Jonathan Trott and Jimmy Anderson, the latter being delighted to usurp his team-mate and friend Graeme Swann from the position. They are still some way behind the top-rated players, South Africans Jacques Kallis, still under-rated after all these years, and Dale Steyn, who is out on his own.The last English No 1s (and only briefly, rather like being top of the charts for a week) were Michael Vaughan in 2003 and Stephen Harmison in 2004.

Broad in his comfort zone

Stuart Broad pulled England out of the mire with a delightful counter-attacking innings in the Second Test on Friday.

Naturally, it helped that he was on his home ground, Trent Bridge, where he knows every blade of grass from his time with Nottinghamshire. The ground where he has played a total of six first-class matches for the county.

Lyon in to succeed Warne

Heard of Nathan Lyon? No? Nor had most Australians, until he was plucked from obscurity last week and selected in the Test squad for their tour of Sri Lanka.

Lyon, an off-spinner from South Australia, has been picked after playing only four first-class matches, in which he has taken 12 wickets at 43 runs each. He is merely the latest in the desperate search for a spinner to succeed Shane Warne (who, by the way, now looks like a male model and is much slenderer than he ever was in 20 years as a professional sportsman).

Michael Beer, who is also going to Sri Lanka, was picked in the Ashes after five first-class matches. He replaced fellow left-arm spinner Xavier Doherty. Australia's selectors appear to have adopted the pinning-the-tail-on-the-donkey method of selection that was so beloved of England for so many years.