The MCC has backed the continuation of five-day Test matches rather than the potential reduction to four.

With the ICC exploring possible changes to the international calendar from 2023, national cricket governing bodies and players have become involved in the debate about the future of the longest format.

The MCC Cricket committee and MCC World Cricket committee have examined the issue and on Tuesday announced they were in favour of the status quo.

They recognised there were some benefits to four-day Test matches, which are already permitted in certain instances, but believe five should remain the standard.

"MCC has noted the recent discussion regarding the future of Test cricket and the ICC's desire to debate the introduction of four-day Test cricket to replace the current five-day format in the World Test Championship from 2023," read the statement.

"The MCC Cricket committee and MCC World Cricket committee have recently discussed the issue.

"Although they can see some benefits that four-day Test cricket could bring, both committees believe that Test cricket should continue to be played over five days."

The MCC World Cricket committee, which includes key figures from elite international cricket, meets twice a year and makes recommendations to the MCC, which remains the guardian of the laws and spirit of cricket.

India captain Virat Kohli and England skipper Joe Root have been among the high-profile players to state their preference for a continuation of five-day matches.

The ECB, though, have cautiously supported the concept of matches over four days to ease issues around fixture scheduling and player workloads.

England spinner Jack Leach will make a premature return home from the tour of South Africa after struggling to recover from illness.

Leach contracted sepsis during the tour of New Zealand in November and was also struck down with gastroenteritis and flu before the first Test against the Proteas last month.

The left-arm tweaker has not been able to regain full fitness and the tourists announced ahead of the third Test in Port Elizabeth that he will head back to England immediately.

"It has been an unfortunate time for Jack with illness and since the Test series in New Zealand six weeks ago, he hasn't been able to get 100 per cent fit," said England head coach Chris Silverwood.

"This has hampered his preparation in South Africa and despite his best endeavours he is not in a position to make himself available for selection for the final two Test matches.

"He is a great lad to have around the squad and his infectious personality and popularity will be missed.

"However, his focus has to be getting himself better and receiving the optimum levels of recovery and treatment, which is best served back in England without any distractions.

"I have no doubt that he will return to full fitness in the medium-term and hopefully he will recover in time for our tour of Sri Lanka in March."

Mark Wood is reportedly set to get the nod ahead of fellow paceman Jofra Archer to replace the injured James Anderson on Thursday when England go in search of a 2-1 lead at St George's Park.

 

The supporter who racially abused Jofra Archer during England's Test match in Mount Maunganui has been banned from attending cricket fixtures for two years by New Zealand Cricket (NZC).

England seamer Archer claimed he heard racial insults directed at him during the final day of the first Test, which the hosts won by an innings and 65 runs.

Both NZC and Black Caps captain Kane Williamson apologised to Archer and an investigation was launched by the governing body.

NZC confirmed that police have since spoken to a 28-year-old man from Auckland who admitted being responsible for the abuse, which led to a verbal warning from the authorities.

In addition, NZC have written to the man to inform him he is barred from attending international and domestic fixtures in New Zealand until 2022.

Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes are locked in a battle for a spot in England's bowling attack for the third Test with South Africa. 

Fielding coach Paul Collingwood revealed the trio were all in contention to replace the injured James Anderson in Port Elizabeth.

With the series tied at 1-1, the tourists will hope to build on their impressive 189-run victory in the second Test, with Archer, Wood and Woakes eyeing a spot in the line-up.

"They've an opportunity over the next two training sessions to prove to us they should be the one in the team," said Collingwood.

"It's actually really nice to be able to come into a Test being able to choose from players who are 100 per cent ready to go.

"Here at PE [Port Elizabeth] it's generally a slower pitch, so sometimes having that kind of X-factor can be great.

"Sunday's training session was one of the best we've had for a long time.

"We saw bowlers really running in against the batters. They were really making it difficult for them. If we can do that more often, then our education as a team will grow very strongly and very quickly."

Responding to suggestions that Archer had lost his way after bursting onto the scene with England last year, Collingwood jumped to the 24-year-old's defence.

"He's very early on in his international career," he said. "He hasn't bowled a lot with the Kookaburra ball, which requires a completely different skillset from the Dukes. 

"His main skill is bowling 90 miles per hour plus. We have enough bowlers in and around the county circuit who can bowl at 82 to 85 miles per hour and try to nip it around. 

"You want the likes of Wood and Archer to give you that X-factor.”

The third Test begins on Thursday.

Jos Buttler said "red mist" was to blame for his sweary outburst at Vernon Philander, though he has questioned the use of stump mics being turned up in cricket.

England's wicketkeeper-batsman was fined 15 per cent of his match fee after stump mics picked up his expletive-laden rant at Philander, who appeared to peeve Buttler by not moving when a throw came in from a fielder.

The incident occurred on a tense fifth and final day at Newlands, when the tourists eventually got the wickets they needed to seal a 189-run victory inside the last hour.

Buttler noted the situation was a factor in his comments, but admitted they were unacceptable.

"I'd like to apologise, I understand that's not the way to behave," he told BBC's Test Match Special.

"As role models we have a duty to behave in a certain way.

"In Test cricket there are lots of high emotions at times and things can be said that don't necessarily mean anything, but for viewers at home it can come across very poorly.

"Sometimes it's just one of those things, the heat of the moment and a bit of red mist.

"It's all done so hopefully it can be swept under the carpet and we move on. I'll take the slap on the wrists."

However, Buttler hinted that players would prefer stump mics not to be turned up so such incidents could remain between those out on the field.

"It's a tough one," he added.

"We understand it adds to the viewership experience having stump mics and being able to hear what goes on, but we also like that what goes on the field, stays on the field and isn't necessarily heard by everyone at home.

"I'm sure it's up for debate."

England's win meant the best-of-four-match series is level at 1-1 ahead of the third Test, which begins in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

An illness bug has hindered the tourists throughout their time in South Africa and captain Joe Root was the latest to miss training on Sunday.

"It's obviously a frustration, nobody will miss being at training more than Joe," Buttler said.

"It's been a bit of a story of the tour so far, guys getting ill, but I'm sure he'll be fine. Hopefully it's just today."

Joe Root sat out England's Sunday practice session ahead of the third Test with South Africa due to illness.

The England captain is contending with an upset stomach just four days out from the Porth Elizabeth contest.

Root was also affected by illness for the first Test in Centurion, with flu-like symptoms having plagued the tourists' camp before and during the match.

Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Root each spent time off the pitch in that Test, which South Africa won resoundingly.

England recovered to level the series in Cape Town and will hope Root makes a swift recovery.

Mark Wood is nearing full fitness and is keen to reignite his speed-gun rivalry with Jofra Archer on England's tour of South Africa.

Durham paceman Wood has not played since the Cricket World Cup final in July, having powered through a side strain to bowl at 95 miles per hour and help his country win the trophy.

The 30-year-old, who also underwent knee surgery during his time out, bowled 35 overs last week and said he will be ready for the third Test in Port Elizabeth, though he could be held back until the final match in Johannesburg.

When he does return, and with James Anderson ruled out for the rest of the series due to a rib injury, Wood wants to resume his competition with Archer.

"I do like the idea of the two of us operating together in a Test match," said Wood. "As long as he's not at mid-off asking me if I'm just warming up when I've bent my back.

"Playing alongside him did spur me on so maybe it will help. We have a friendly rivalry over the speed gun. In the World Cup when I put one up on the speed gun that was quite quick I'd just look over to Jofra and give him a little wink. Then he'd do the same to me.

"In the World Cup final I knew that I'd pipped him. I was clocked at 95.7 miles per hour and he was 95.6 miles per hour and as we came off the field and into the dressing room I was dying to tell him.

"I said to him as he walked in, 'Jofra, I've got you! I've done you on the speed gun!' and he strolled past fresh as a daisy and looked me up and down with an ice pack on my side, an ice pack on my knee and an ice pack on my ankle and just said, 'Yeah, but I think I'd rather be me.' I was like, 'Yeah, fair enough mate'.

"Deep down he's trying to prove that he's the meanest, toughest fast bowler out there. And so am I. We both want each other to do well, but we both want to be the quickest guy on show. But he's more talented than I am."

Wood believes Archer and Chris Woakes are ahead of him in the pecking order but finally feels comfortable with his position in the squad.

"I'm not even in the team at the minute but I feel much happier within myself," he says. "I feel I'm an England cricketer rather than just someone that's always pushing to try and get into the team. I feel a slightly different cricketer to what I did before.

"I have the World Cup and the St Lucia Test [when Wood claimed his maiden five-wicket Test haul] under my belt. The West Indies was a huge trip for me. I really felt I was in the last chance saloon; I'd had a lot of injuries.

"I have felt that if I get fit then there's no reason why I can't do that again. The St Lucia Test is lodged in my mind as one of the best days I've had. If I can replicate that I'll be pretty happy.

"And confidence is a massive thing. Now I know that I can do it. There's been games where I've played for England where I shouldn't have played and that's affected my record and my confidence.

"With those good performances and having some success under my belt, it means that I can go into rehab knowing how it feels when it's good.

"It's not just potential now. I know I can perform. I know now I can deliver if called upon."

Joe Denly is confident he will soon make a century for England as he looks to continue his role as a steadying hand in the middle order.

Denly is yet to reach a ton for England from 23 Test innings, though he has shown consistency with the bat while players around him – such as captain Joe Root – have struggled, and did hit 103 against South Africa A in a warm-up match last month.

However, Denly is content to keep on playing the role of a batsman who can be relied on to reach double figures, having scored 50, 31, 38 and 31 in his four innings so far against South Africa.

The third Test starts in Port Elizabeth next Thursday.

"Certainly, I'm becoming more confident with each game I play, each knock I have," Denly, whose highest Test score for England is the 94 he struck against Australia in the Ashes, told reporters.

"It is frustrating that I haven't kicked on to get that really big score but I really believe it is just a matter of time if I keep doing the things I've been doing, which is being solid up front and building partnerships to allow these guys in the middle order to come in and play the way they can play."

With England playing without a full-time spinner in the first Test against South Africa, Denly stepped up to help fill the void, and continued to do so at Newlands alongside Dom Bess. Denly took two wickets – including that of in-form Quinton de Kock from a long-hop – as the tourists levelled up the four-match series at 1-1.

"It's nice to be able to chip in here and there with a few overs and pick up wickets like I did in that second innings," Denly said.

"That second one probably isn't one you dream of taking but De Kock is a fine player so I don't really care how I get him out as long as he's out.

"I like to consider myself more than a part-timer. I feel I have something to offer in both the red-ball and white-ball games. Certainly, on day-five pitches when there is a lot of rough outside the off stump to the left-handers I can play a part."

South Africa have kept the faith with their Test squad for the second half of the series against England.

Dane Paterson, Andile Phelukwayo, Temba Bavuma – who missed the opening Test due to a hip injury – and Rudi Second have all been included despite not featuring in the first two matches.

However, fast bowler Paterson could be in line for a debut in the third Test.

A Cricket South Africa statement read: "The starting XI from the Newlands Test, along with Dane Paterson will travel to Port Elizabeth, while the rest of the players will remain with their franchise teams to play in the CSA Domestic Four-Day series.

"The selection panel are placing an emphasis on the importance of game time for non-starting players and prefer that they are available to their teams to help boost the competition. They will join the national team if and when required."

The Proteas won the Boxing Day Test at Centurion against a depleted England side that was struck with illness spreading through the camp. However, the tourists restored parity by winning a thrilling second Test at Cape Town by 189 runs.

The third Test gets underway in Port Elizabeth on Thursday.

 

South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Keshav Maharaj, Rassie van der Dussen, Pieter Malan, Zubayr Hamza, Anrich Nortje, Dane Paterson, Vernon Philander, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Temba Bavuma, Andile Phehlukwayo, Beuran Hendricks, Rudi Second.

Zak Crawley is aiming to follow Dom Sibley's example as he aims to secure his spot in England's Test side against South Africa.

Crawley – who made his Test debut against New Zealand in Hamilton last year – was called up for the Cape Town match as a late replacement for Rory Burns, who injured his ankle while playing football in training.

The 21-year-old, opening alongside Sibley, scored four and 25 in his two innings respectively, though he took a brilliant catch on day five as Ben Stokes propelled England to a series-levelling victory.

Sibley, meanwhile, was the star in England's second innings, hitting an unbeaten 133 to put the tourists into a commanding position at Newlands.

Though Crawley acknowledged England have other options at the top of the order, he is hopeful he has done enough to earn a place in the side for the third Test, while the performance of Sibley has provided the youngster with extra motivation.

"I'm taking one game at a time," Crawley told reporters. "I'm putting all my focus on the Port Elizabeth Test now.

"Hopefully I can get a score there like Sibley did in Cape Town and follow his footsteps and shore up my place in the side. But I'm not looking too far ahead.

"I knew the night before the game that Rory would be out for a number of weeks. So there were the usual nerves. But actually I was a lot better than my debut in Hamilton, so hopefully it'll be easier next time."

Crawley's moment to remember from Cape Town, however, was certainly his wonderful reaction catch to dismiss Anrich Nortje from Stokes' fierce bowling.

"Stokes was bowling so fast," Crawley said. "And we were so close to the wicket. It was just a matter of sticking my hand out and luckily I managed to make it go up in the air and get my other hand to it.

"It was a great moment when I saw it come down. It seemed to hover in the air. It lasted a lifetime. It was unbelievable when that last wicket fell. The whole experience was the best feeling I've had on a cricket field. The crowd singing for all five days was something I'll never forget. It was brilliant.

"You just want more and more of it. I can see why so many people work hard at this level. Once you get that buzz you want it every day of the week. I can't wait for the next Test. Hopefully it's the same again."

Jos Buttler has been fined 15 per cent of his match fee for a sweary outburst at Vernon Philander during England's victory over South Africa in the second Test at Newlands.

Buttler was heard hurling expletives at the Proteas all-rounder on the final day of the tourists' 189-run series-levelling triumph in Cape Town.

The England wicketkeeper-batsman was found guilty of breaching Level 1 of the ICC Code of Conduct.

Buttler was also ruled to have breached Article 2.3 of the Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel, which relates to “use of an audible obscenity during an international match”. 

The third match of the series gets under way in Port Elizabeth next Thursday.

Dom Bess does not mind if other England bowlers like Ben Stokes take the plaudits after saying it was "unbelievable" to be part of the second Test victory over South Africa.

Stokes took the final three wickets in Cape Town as South Africa fell half an hour short of batting through day five to secure a draw that would have kept them ahead in the four-match series.

Instead, it is intriguingly poised at 1-1 and Bess does not mind that his 60 overs in the match, which went for an economical 1.98, produced just two wickets.

"It was all about trying to build up sustained pressure and I think especially in the first innings that was key," Bess told reporters.

"I could be a little bit more attacking in the second dig, but even then there wasn't a huge amount on offer from the straight.

"I'm happy bowling at one end, not picking up wickets and letting the boys do it at the other end. It is unbelievable to be a part of."

He added: "It was about putting the ball in the right place, and I got a couple of balls to bounce and take the inside edge and create chances. Some days they go to hand and some days they don't.

"When you've got guys like Stokesy at the other end and Jimmy [Anderson] and Broady [Stuart Broad] then it is phenomenal.

"I'm really happy with how I went here because I felt like I built up pressure and produced chances along the way.

"I'd love to be taking four or five wickets and being the man, but if I am producing consistently then that will come another day."

Bess played after Somerset team-mate Jack Leach was one of a host of England players to struggle with illness on the tour.

Leach may be back for next week's third Test in Port Elizabeth but Bess hopes he can hold on to the spot.

"I've got to focus on next week at PE and whether I play or not," added the 22-year-old. "I completely understand if Leachy plays, but hopefully I've put myself in a position to play.

"It has been a hell of a ride. I played the Test matches in 2018 and did alright, but then fell off the radar a little bit, and within myself I lost a lot of confidence within my game.

"Over the last two years, I've just been gradually building that back up."

James Anderson will miss the remainder of England's Test series against South Africa due to a rib injury.

Anderson, the tourists' all-time leading Test wicket-taker, sustained the damage to his left rib during day five of England's victory in the second Test at Newlands.

The 37-year-old could only bowl eight overs as England strived to level the series in Cape Town and he will play no part in the matches in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg.

 

England director of cricket Ashley Giles has declared five-day Tests a "precious" part of the game, as the global players' union warned dropping a day could lead to "significant resistance".

The prospect of introducing four-day Tests will be discussed by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in the near future, and South Africa has said it would welcome the move.

Although the England and Wales Cricket Board has said it is "cautiously" backing the concept of the shortened matches, it has recognised it is an "emotive" issue.

Giles may have a greater passion for Test cricket than many of the sport's administrators, having been a Test spinner for England before moving into coaching and management.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live on Wednesday, Giles said: "Anything that helps players and their workloads is good to look at, and anything that takes the game forward is good to look at. But I played Test cricket, I love Test cricket, and if we played four-day cricket I feel we would miss out on a lot of matches like yesterday."

That was a reference to England's gripping fifth-day success in bowling out South Africa in Cape Town to win the second Test on Tuesday and level their series.

"I know a lot of Test matches these days don't go to the fifth day, but it is precious to me certainly and I know it is to the players," Giles said.

"I think it's important we look at everything. But I think it's a decision far from made yet.

"It is our responsibility as guardians of game in this country to look at everything that can both take the game forward and look at the workloads of our players."

The Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA) has gathered early reaction from far and wide, and issued its response to the growing debate by underlining the concerns of players.

The likes of former Australia captain Ricky Ponting and India great Sachin Tendulkar have already expressed opposition to the idea.

FICA executive chairman Tony Irish said: "From our discussions with players around the world, and our global survey data, it is clear that there is currently a lot of negative sentiment, within the global collective of players, towards such a significant change to the game's most traditional format."

That could hardly have been more blunt, with Irish's statement on FICA's website going on to stress the ICC and national boards must be open about their intentions and motivations, and how cricket might benefit.

"Making a fundamental change simply in order to provide calendar space to fill with additional or meaningless cricket is clearly not something we can support. Cricket's global structure desperately needs clarity, rather than further confusion," Irish said.

"Until such a time as we and the players are provided with the full picture and compelling reasons for change, we remain supportive of five-day Test cricket, and would expect significant player resistance if a shift to that is imposed on players by the ICC and/or boards.

"Test cricket is a cherished format of the game and it needs player support and buy in to survive. We urge those making decisions to understand that."

James Anderson was heading for a scan amid a fresh fitness worry on Wednesday, with England team director Ashley Giles saying it "would be desperate" for the veteran to face a new lay-off.

England's record wicket-taker in Test cricket was barely involved with the ball after lunch on day five of the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town.

The tourists won by 189 runs, with Ben Stokes stepping up to take the last three wickets in dramatic fashion.

Concern over an apparent side strain for 37-year-old Anderson was expressed once the match was over, and Giles said on Wednesday morning: "Jimmy will have to have a scan today which we've got all fingers crossed for.

"It would be desperate if Jim is injured again. He's worked so hard to get back in the team."

Anderson has reclaimed his place in the England side following a calf injury, which forced him to miss all but the opening morning of the Ashes Tests against Australia last year.

He took five South African wickets in the first innings at Newlands, and removed two batsmen second time around before being forced out of the attack.

It remains to be seen whether he will be fit for the third Test, which starts in Port Elizabeth on January 16.

"We certainly don't think it's a recurrence of his previous injury," Giles said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

"He bowled like a demon in that first innings. That mix of youth and experience we have in the team is just so valuable and he's been such a great servant. We're holding our breath and fingers crossed for him."

Anderson at least appeared to be in good spirits on Wednesday, as he wrote on Twitter: "What a start to 2020! Every man played their part in a fantastic win. Victory always tastes sweeter when you have to graft into the last hour on day 5!"

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