The Last Word: Points system in women’s Ashes could be a way to secure future of Test cricket

Only in England do Tests sell out. In Asia instant cricket is king at the gate

Test cricket is aptly named; as every player knows, it is the true test. The wham-bam, hit-and-giggle T20 may be good for packing in the crowds and banking a few bob for everyone involved, but it is not the real thing.

Yet at Chelmsford, Southampton and Chester-le-Street next week an interesting experiment will take place. The women’s Ashes will be in its T20 phase. Having been reduced to a one-off Test match since 2007, this year their Ashes is being contested over seven matches: one Test, three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches.

Six points were on offer in the Test (or two each for the draw that ensued) and two for each of the other contests. England and Australia are level on four points each with four matches to play. It could come down to next Saturday’s match in Durham, and quite possibly a last-over slogathon. Is that any way to decide an Ashes series?

Why not? T20 has evolved significantly from batsmen slogging and bowlers attempting yorkers. Batters have created a huge range of shots, forcing fielding sides to develop ever more inventive ways to stifle them. There is an art to dancing down the wicket and striking a fast bowler over cover, it requires strength, hand-eye coordination and timing. There are certainly technique and courage in executing the “ramp”, the shot played directly over a stooping batsman’s head, and the switch-hit in which the hands are reversed on the bat. To prevent batsmen using this wacky range of shots, bowlers now employ slower-ball bouncers and cutters rather than simply firing the ball in at a batsman’s toes. The short-form game has prompted more improvements in fielding, yet still some batting partnerships steal runs almost anywhere on the square, having honed their speed and intuitive communication.

For everyone the pace with which T20 is played, and range of scoring shots deployed, requires the ability to react quickly to changing circumstances. There is an old saying that “you can lose a Test match in a session”. A T20 match can be lost in two overs. It is not because Ashes combatants need a rest that the male teams that will contest two T20s next week, and five ODIs in September, will be much changed from their Test XIs, it is because these different skills are required.

Integrating the format will add importance to the ODIs and T20s which are so numerous that few matches linger in the memory – one reason why the game is so vulnerable to match-fixing. In England, limited-overs matches are generally seen as little more than a revenue-creating day out. Players and fans care about the result, but only on the day and not with the intensity they do in Tests. In 2009 England followed their emotionally draining Ashes win by losing six ODIs on the trot before avoiding an embarrassing whitewash in the final match. Few, outside of those who had paid to attend, were bothered. That mood may be reflected in the England and Wales Cricket Board’s struggle to sell out the ODIs this year – people will pay eye-wateringly high prices for an Ashes Test, but not for an ephemeral run-thrash.

In some other countries the reverse will apply. Only in England do Test matches sell out. In the sub-continent, in particular, instant cricket is king at the gate. But if a series were to incorporate Test matches, even just one or two of them, they would be garnished with added importance in the eyes of the one-day audience.

Even English cricket must face up to the fact that a generation is arriving who have grown up on T20. The likes of Jos Buttler and David Willey are just the vanguard. Anyone involved in youth coaching will know that drilling a 10-year-old in the art of the forward defensive requires patience when he’d much rather practise his ramp shot.

As a traditionalist I would rather maintain the primacy of Test cricket. It is not just the overs that are limited in the short-form game. For the most part the batsmen attack, the fielding team seek to contain. Patience is not a virtue. The pressure that builds over time in a Test match, examining and revealing character, does not apply. There is a greater element of luck, with poor teams more likely to pull off a shock. Witness the results of the weakest Test nations, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Disregarding matches against each other they have won six (4 per cent) of 148 Tests. In limited-overs they have played a staggering 539 games, winning 74 (14 per cent).

But the time may come when this year’s women’s Ashes comes to be seen as a pioneering series.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own