Chris Waters: Points to ponder as rulers consider Test series shake-up

THE prevailing view after the Headingley Test between England and Sri Lanka was that it was 'men against boys'.

England's Alastair Cook during day one of the Investec Second Test Match at the Emirates Riverside, Chester-Le-Street.

Geoffrey Boycott said so. Mark Arthur said so. Why, you probably said so yourself while trying to unsuccessfully flog your fourth day ticket on eBay.

England thrashed Sri Lanka by an innings and 88 runs in less than three days (less than two days if you consider that 82.4 overs were lost to the weather).

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

It was the proverbial mismatch in archetypal early-season English conditions.

Afterwards, Michael Vaughan likened the current series to “a Premier League football team playing a Division One team continually for five weeks”.

The former England captain said that Test cricket needs the best sides playing against each other more often to reduce the prospect of mismatches and to provide greater context.

Vaughan wants promotion and relegation, with three divisions of four teams playing each other home and away.

He believes the format needs greater meaning, with only the Ashes consistently drawing in the crowds.

Vaughan’s comments are timely as the International Cricket Council prepare to debate a restructuring of Test cricket at their annual conference, which will be held in Edinburgh at the end of June.

The main proposal on the table is not quite the same as Vaughan’s, but the principle is similar in that the governing body are pushing the idea of promotion and relegation.

This would involve the creation of two divisions, with seven sides in Division One and five in Division Two.

It would involve First Division sides playing three home series and three away series every two years, and Division Two teams playing two home series and two away series every two years.

At the end of each two-year cycle, there would be a winner of the Test Championship and one team relegated to Division Two.

The top side in Division Two would be promoted and the bottom side relegated to the Intercontinental Cup, the competition for associate nations.

Any new structure would likely come into force once broadcasting deals have expired in 2019.

Previous attempts to reform the game in such ways have failed, however, with leading countries fearing less control of their schedules and lesser sides fearing relegation.

Personally, I have never been a fan of trying to provide context to Test cricket; after all, it seemed to work perfectly well without any for over 100 years.

At the same time, the landscape of cricket is changing with the spread of T20, and Test cricket is clearly under threat.

Whether this is the best way to preserve it remains to be seen, but all proposals need to be considered.

It has been suggested that countries could play additional series that did not count towards points in the two divisions, meaning that the Ashes would be preserved if England and Australia ever found themselves in different divisions. As ever, there are pros and cons, and one does not envy the ICC’s task.

One wonders, though, whether the die for Test cricket has already been cast.

For, as many of us feared, the best form of the game has been steadily submerged by what traditionalists believe is the worst form of the game.