The four-day match between the Proteas and Zimbabwe, starting on Boxing Day, has been given Test status as part of a ‘trial’.
The ICC has decided to allow countries to decide for themselves whether they want Tests to be four or five days, in a trial period lasting until the 2019 World Cup.
ICC chief executive David Richardson believes the four-day format can be helpful to the lower-ranked nations.
‘The real value is for teams like Ireland and Afghanistan and even Zimbabwe, who have not been at their best, to be able to explore the opportunity of playing four-day Test matches,’ he said. ‘For example, teams visiting South Africa might be more likely to play Zimbabwe in a four-day Test than they would in a five-day Test.’
David Peever, a member of the ICC board, said, ‘Innovation is absolutely fundamental to the future of the game. The Test League is part of that, day-night Test cricket is part of that, pink balls, all of that. Trialling four-day cricket in this way is very sensible. What many fans want to see is a result, and a result in a fewer number of days.’
The match against Zimbabwe at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth will also be the first day-night Test in South Africa.
An ICC committee will now examine playing conditions for a four-day Test; looking at whether the match will be 100 overs a day, half an hour more, or less.