Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, has effectively ruled out the scheduling of a day-night Ashes Test when Australia tour England in 2019, despite the concept’s success in drawing bigger crowds to grounds and greater audiences to television screens.
Alongside Cricket Australia’s chief executive James Sutherland, Harrison has been a key advocate for changes geared at making Test cricket more accessible to fans, with day-night matches, the looming Test Championship and experiments with four-day matches among the measures being tried around the world.
However Harrison was firm in stating it was highly unlikely that a day-night Ashes Test would be part of the 2019 schedule, arguing that England hosting Australia did not need tinkering with. The two countries played a first day-night Test against each other in the second match of the current series at Adelaide Oval, and Sutherland has indicated there will now be at least one floodlit Test in every Australian home summer. Two day/night fixtures – against India and Sri Lanka – are likely in 2018-19.
“It’s to be decided, but it’s unlikely, to be honest,” Harrison told ABC Radio when asked about the prospect of a day-night Test in 2019. “I think we’ve got a format that works brilliantly well for us in Ashes cricket in the UK. Right time, right place, right conditions are the rules for day-night Test cricket, I think we’ll wait and see, but it’s unlikely I would say.”The ECB and CA have taken contrasting approaches to growing the game in recent years, with England’s cricket audience reduced by the Board’s 12-year-old reliance on Sky television money while Australian cricket chases the widest possible free-to-air television audience. Harrison said that it was “astonishing” to see a crowd of more than 88,000 spectators at the MCG on Boxing Day, but said much more needed to be done to ensure the health of Test cricket around the world.
“It’s an astonishing achievement to get this amount of people watching Test cricket and it’s a great advert for where we are as an Ashes series, but of course the Ashes is not the standard marker for what Test cricket is actually facing around the world,” Harrison said. “So we’ve got to take a look at that, James and I are involved in a similar debate at ICC about how we make sure that Test cricket is relevant, it has context and meaning and the conditions under which it is played can guarantee as much as possible fantastic entertainment for fans around the world.
“I think there are significant challenges there, but I think we’re doing the right thing by looking at the FTP in a meaningful way, trying to create a Test Championship around the FTP, which we’re very close to doing. Once you’ve got a Championship format where every series matters we can start looking at the details that sit behind that.