Test cricket will return to terrestrial television in the UK for the first time since the 2005 Ashes after Channel 4 confirmed it had won the rights to show England’s series against India that begins on Friday.
As revealed by the Guardian on Tuesday, Star Sports has accepted the broadcaster’s bid for the live coverage of the four Tests and represents a coup for the channel in winning out against Sky and BT Sport.
Channel 4’s chief content officer Ian Katz said: “This is fantastic news for all cricket fans in the UK. It’s been a long 16-year wait for the return of live Test cricket to free-to-air television but it couldn’t have come at a better time. What better antidote to the lockdown blues than an England Test series in sunny India.”
The national lockdown could generate huge audience numbers. Channel 4 attracted a peak of 8.4m viewers when it last showed Test cricket in 2005 and a one-off deal with Sky to share the 2019 World Cup final brought in 15.4m over the course of the day.
Channel 4’s head of sport, Pete Andrews, said: “We’re delighted to be showing live Test cricket on Channel 4 again and given the recent performances of both sides this series is poised to be a cracker. We’re absolutely thrilled to have struck this deal with Star Sports.”
The first Test in Chennai, which begins at 4am GMT on Friday, will be shown using a direct live feed from India, with a studio-based commentary team providing insights. Former Test captains Sir Andrew Strauss and Sir Alastair Cook will be part of Channel 4’s commentary team alongside presenter Rishi Persad.