Women’s Ashes: The time is now, make women’s test matches five days

Australia hasn't won a Women's Test since 2015. Is it time to tweak the format slightly to produce more results in Women's Tests? Image: Cricket World

Over the last decade, women’s cricket has taken great strides not only in Australia but around the world.

The push for proper domestic competitions has been well received, with the likes of the WBBL now having the ability to be its own stand-alone tournament.

The 2020 Women’s T20 World Cup in Australia proved the ever-expanding reach of the international game, as 86,174 people crammed into the MCG in early 2020 to witness the final.

Whilst the last few years have been that of extreme growth in women’s cricket, in the game’s greatest format there is still one glaring issue that needs to be solved to align the men’s and women’s versions.

Up until 1974 women’s test cricket was a three-day affair, often with a day’s rest in the middle of the fixture.

In a 20 game period between 1957 and 1969, there were remarkably only two test matches that did not result in a draw.

When looking at where the matches finished, on 16 of those 18 occasions where a draw was the outcome they would have had a result if they were 5 days in length.

This clear trend, along with numerous other factors in the Test matches over that time frame forced the addition of an extra day’s play in 1975.

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Whilst the trends are not quite as apparent as that 20 year period, there has not been a result in a test match since 2015. Whilst there have only been four matches in this period, the rate is still incredibly disproportionate to what it should be.

According to coaches, players, and fans of Women’s Test match cricket the format needs to increase from four days to five. The statistics agree.

For English seamer Kate Cross, it is clear that there is a disproportionate amount of draws in women’s Test matches compared to what there is in men’s cricket.

Like many of her colleagues, her solution is simple, another day needs to be added.

“I think we are ready for five days of cricket now. Historically that was around tour lengths and women naturally, apparently weren’t fit enough to be able to manage five days, but I think we’re ready for that now,” she said.

“I think that would obviously help with those draws, if you play five days of cricket you are probably going to get more results out of women’s test matches.”

The statistics certainly agree with the seamer, disappointing draws would likely turn into entertaining victories with an extra day’s play.

Currently, the Australian and English Women’s test teams average a draw in under every two games.

Just 27 percent of the time Australia will get a victory, whilst for England, they get a win almost once every five test matches.

Remarkably these are two of the best win rates in Women’s Test cricket, both of which pale in comparison to the Men’s version.

For the men, Australia wins just under half of their fixtures, whilst for England, it is at about a third.

It isn’t just their win percentages that are larger, but also their losses. When lining up for a test match the Australian men’s cricket team are statistically two times more likely to lose the fixture compared to their female counterparts.

It is clear that when looking at the data, draws make up the vast majority of Women’s test match results.

So is Cross and many other female players’ hypothesis surrounding the addition of a fifth day changing the result statistically accurate?

Currently, 64 percent of all women’s Test cricket ends in a draw. When looking at the 91 occasions where a draw has been the outcome, a remarkable 54 of those matches would have likely had a result if there was an extra full days play.

This means that if there was a fifth day just 26 percent of all fixtures would have resulted in no side getting the victory.

When comparing this percentage to the men’s game, it is a higher rate of outcomes matched to every side except Australia and Zimbabwe.

It is however important to remember that with a game being four days long, there is naturally going to be a more aggressive mindset to fixtures.

Teams will declare earlier to attempt to force a result, often doing the sporting thing in a bid to keep the match outcome undetermined for as long as possible.

This can be seen in Australia’s most recent Test against India. Unfortunately, the weather also played a factor in the outcome, with several overs being lost over multiple days play.

With the weather in mind, in all three completed innings, a declaration occurred. This is almost unheard of in a men’s match where they have time to properly craft batting innings’.

For current Australian coach Matthew Mott, Women’s test matches deserve to be played in the same way as the men’s, without the pressure of having to push to unrealistic levels just to potentially get a result.

“If there was more time in the game, we definitely would’ve tried to set up something where both teams had a chance to win or lose the game. A little bit more time in the game would certainly help everyone. I think if you’re going to devote that time to it, I don’t think it’s a lot to ask for one extra day,” he said speaking after the Test against India in October.

“I think if this game had gone another day, we would’ve seen a very good test match.”

For these women’s test players, the format is realistically totally different from the men. To complete four innings over the same number of days is hard in many situations, with a day’s play lost due to the weather it becomes near impossible.

Whilst it is clear that these Test matches do have an extremely high chance of ending in a draw, this is to no fault of anyone involved.

Rather, as proven by the statistics, it is just a case of one day too few for results too often occur, a day that the men’s version is afforded.

If we want women’s test cricket to grow in the same way that domestic competitions and the shorter forms have over recent years, increasing the duration to five days is a vital next step.

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1 Comment

  1. Superb piece and I think you’ve made the case. Adding a fifth day seems like a no-brainer.

    I’m biased watching with frustration the fourth day of the Canberra test. It’s looking like an almost certain draw on today’s fourth, and a very likely result if there was a fifth..

    One block of stats which might help tell the story more is the frequency of declarations, the number of wickets at each declaration and stage in the match. It might help give answer to claims about early declarations being an interesting part of the womens game. That’s a weak claim but I haven’t read anything else approaching a reasonable justification.

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