Long Live Test Cricket

In an era of instant gratification, where activities and events that entertain the eye and not the mind reign supreme, the wonderful and compelling game of Test Match Cricket struggles to keep pace with its contemporaries. Yet in the last month or so this captivating sport has shown the world that it is still the most challenging, ruthless and brilliant to be played, and witnessed.

Enough said

Incase you blinked, here’s what happened. Four weeks ago in Johannesburg Australia defeated South Africa by 2 wickets. The home side started with 266, Australia then at 0/174 before collapsing to be all out for only a 30 run lead. South Africa wrestled the advantage again, heading to a 200 run lead with 7 wickets in hand. The match swung again and at its conclusion Australia required 310 to win. At 5-165 it seemed like a pipedream. Then an 18-year-old who took 6 second innings wickets for the Aussies ultimately hit the winnings runs. It was his first Test match, and he won the Man of the Match award. The match was exhilarating as it was intense, as heart breaking for the South Africans as it was euphoric for the Australians.

Pat Cummins: is there anything he can

Juts as that match wrapped up, India were hosting the West Indies over in Mumbai. In a vastly contrasting match the Windies posted a massive 590 with India responding with 482. Just when it seemed the game was heading to a dour draw, the pitch offered something for the Indian tweakers and the visitors crashed in their 2nd dig to be all out for 134. This left India with a meager 243 to win in 64 overs. At 1-100 it all seemed to be going to plan. Then, like in Joburg, the tide turned again. Batting greats Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman all came and went.

With 15 overs left India needed 55 runs with 5 wickets in hand. Yet wickets continued to fall, more due to the escalating pressure rather than skill or ability. With an over to go the game had reached fever pitch excitement and intensity. India needed 3 runs, the West Indies needed two wickets. You couldn’t script what happened. Even with two balls to go all 4 outcomes were possible (an Indian win, a West Indies win, a tie or a draw). The least likely eventuated and for only the second time in 2019 Test Matches, the outcome was a draw with the scores tied.

The match ended in a draw. Funny, it doesn

Then a few weeks later New Zealand headed to Hobart for the 2nd Test in their series against their Trans-Tasman rivals. The odds were heavily in the Aussies favour as New Zealand were without Harry Potter, sorry – Dan Vettori. The match seemed like a mere formality when the Kiwis were sent in on a green, bowler-friendly pitch and were duly bowled out for 150 on the first day. But as we have seen, only in Test Cricket does the game change so quickly and so vehemently. Australia wilted to 7-75, only pushing their total to 136. New Zealand had to pinch themselves – they had a 14 run lead and it was only the 2nd day.

They went about setting an unassailable total. Yet the conditions hadn’t changed. Unlike the batting road in Mumbai, the fast bowlers always looked dangerous. Australia turned the match again, skittling New Zealand for 226, setting themselves a target of 241. Day 3 ended with Australia at 0/72, in the box seat. But just before lunch on Day 4 a 21-year-old Kiwi playing in only his 3rd match reared the match on its head, taking the wickets of Ponting, Clarke and Hussey in the space of 9 balls.

Who knew the Kiwis had it in them?

Yet at tea Australia only needed 68 runs with 5 wickets in hand. Many were drafting their accolades to David Warner, the T20 slogger who inexplicably became the rock upon which Australia’s match was now built. But the Kiwis were dogged, and ruthless. They took the next 4 wickets for 7 runs, leaving Australia on their knees at 9/199. The game was now equally gripping and unbelievable. It remained that way until its climax (for those of you living under a rock, on Mars, with their fingers in their ears: the Aussies came oh-so-close before falling 7 runs short). T20 slogger Warner unbelievably became only the 3rd Australian in the 4th innings of a Test to carry his bat. It was fantastic drama and theatre to end an historic Test Match.

But what’s the big deal, I hear you ask? I mean, for starters I’d probably rather watch paint dry, or have my eyes gouged to prevent me from the sheer and utter boredom that is cricket. Besides, there was no World Cup on the line, nor was there a noteworthy championship or title. In these aforementioned matches the outcome actually didn’t matter (to the outcome of the series). So, in fact, these matches were effectively dead rubbers. What the hell?!

So, why do you care? Why should anyone care? Well, the fact is: Test Match wins are precious. Moreover, they are extremely difficult to win. It is the ultimate test of sporting character and ability. It is a game where youth and inexperience can triumph over age and wisdom. You can be king of the world one day, then trashed like last week’s leftovers the next. It is as unforgiving as it is rewarding – where concentration, application, dedication and luck all contribute equally to success or failure.

Edgbaston 2005. Pure agony and ecstasy

In no other sport all over the world is there such a game that mixes slow burn with fast pace, raw power with delicate intrigue. Breathless moments are mixed with awe-inspiring, which are mixed with moments of complete frustration and emptiness. Ultimately, however, it is utter anguish contrasted with ultimate ecstasy.

So here’s hoping for more of the same this summer. Forget about the Big Bash – I just can’t wait for Boxing Day.



10 thoughts on “Long Live Test Cricket

  1. I’m really not confident on the ‘tied’ definition above. From memory there were two tied tests both involving Australia decades ago and the India-WI actually never ended in a tie as I think only the 8/9th wicket fell on that final ball… Just an FYI – its still rare nonetheless

    • Just to clear up the confusion – a draw is where a Test ends after 5 days with no result, or in other words time expires before a result can be determined. A tie is when the fourth innings of the match is concluded (i.e. all 10 wickets have been taken) with the scores level. So a tie and a draw are completely different and not interchangeable in cricketing parlance!

  2. lets face it, test cricket is for the purists….involving probably the most diverse set of skills, wit and patience!!! – which is a rare quality for a sport these days – to win.

    looking forward to the 26th!

  3. Firstly, fantastically written, Infact, it was so fantastically written that it almost tricked my mind into believing something that it had so vehemently despised for so long was actually good. Ah,but, your fine article made one dire slip-up, a slip-up that made my Test Cricket hating brain spring forth and remind me of why I find Test Cricket to be so utterly painful: Boxing Day.

    Unless you’re a middle aged Italian or a teenage girl rambling about Chaddy for bargains, Boxing Day tends to be a sucky day. Every year we’re left either at home doing nothing or at a BBQ and on both occasions, some genius decides watching/listening to the cricket is an awesome idea. False. It is mind numbing. I can honestly say that I am a huge sports fan who keeps an open mind when approaching most sports, but Test Cricket will never cut it for me. I admit that I did enjoy watching the final few overs play out in the Australia/NZ game on the news tonight, just as much as I enjoyed reading the summary of that India/West Indies game in your article, however, I feel as though Cricket is a sport where they play some many boring matches year in, year out, so they are bound to have a stretch where something good happens once in a while. Hell, even the bile inducing sack of boredom that is Golf has the occasional hole-in-one or sex fiasco to keep us entertained.

    I want Australia to become bad at Cricket, just so I don’t have to here about it anymore. My main problem lies with the 5-day game system. I completely understand the tradition of the game and applaud the ICC for maintaining this, but I just cannot support a sport that plays out to a draw so easily. As you pointed out, they aren’t playing for a Championship or a World Cup; they are playing to WIN, because it is so damn tough to win. So if that is the case, why do we all have to be subject to these tedious draws so often? One team may come out and completely dominate the game front top to bottom, yet the losing team may not totally suck for jussssst long enough, and boom, they have a draw. It isn’t fun to watch! Play for 7 days, play for 20 days, who cares, we need a winner! In such a drawn out sport, the call for a winner is so much more important, so we feel as though our last 5 days on the couch has not been totally pointless. If every game were as exciting as the ones you mentioned, then great, but most of the time they aren’t. As Lazlow said, it’s for the purists, so I’m more than happy to admit that my patience just isn’t strong enough, but the idea that anyone can earn a draw in any sport annoys me to no end. You play to win, no matter what it takes.

    Really though, great article, I really enjoyed it. Michael Clarke’s a jerk.

    • We are glad you enjoyed the article Matt, and thanks for your feedback.

      It is correct that cricket is not for everyone. However these days everyone is so hell-bent on choosing winners or losers that there seems to be no place in sport for appreciating the game, and sport, for what it is and what it truly represents. So we respect your decision to ignore Test cricket – a game that tests the body, mind and soul – and turn your attention to games that are more simplistic, quick and eye-catching. We don’t mean that to sound antagonistic, rather a reflection on how much we love cricket.

      Thanks again, we really appreciate all constructive feedback and healthy debate!

  4. I agree with Matt (but not as eloquently,) it’s boring. The RARE moments above you’ve mentioned are the last few overs of excitement when a game is close (obviously not always the case.) Even I will watch the last few overs of a match when it’s close, test or otherwise. You’ve left out all the time spent watching ball after ball with no wicket. Above is an argument for watching the end of close cricket tests. Not test cricket in general.

    Who wrote the latest tweet? With the it’s/its surely it’s not grammar Nazi Shane?!?

    Not the biggest fan of sport watching in general… so maybe I’m a troll here. Not up on the hip lingo…

    • So why do we watch the first 3 min 30 sec of the Melbourne cup? Or the first 4 and a half sets of a Men’s Grand Slam tennis match? Or the first 89 minutes of a soccer match? Or the last 10 sec of a basketball match? In fact, why don’t we just compress every sport ever made into 30 seconds of action – the last 30 seconds!

      What I hoped to convey through the matches I mentioned were the twists and turns, the shifts in momentum, the ability for guys who have never played a Test before to suddenly change the match.

      And yes, awesomely close finishes in sport are exciting for anyone, but it’s also the process that makes them even more exciting. If I told you the Celtics need to hang on for 5 more seconds to win the game, big deal. If I said they needed to do so after trailing by 30 points half way through the game, you’d probably wished you’d watched the massive comeback.

      If nothing else, please take that away.

      • But the problem is, most of these sports mentioned only last for about 60-120 minutes, where we are bound to see some pretty awesome stuff, such as near miss shots or goals in football or huge dunks/blocks/threes in basketball. Test cricket has A LOT of dot balls, blocks, thigh-rubbing action and people simply leaving the ball to get taken by the wicket keeper. Sure there’s a six or a wicket every now and then, but it is just far to hidden beneath the endless overs of nothing. Also, this lasts for 5 days! The equivalent of this in the NBA would be to watch Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry blow layups for 5 days, interlaced with Kobe dunking the ball twice every hour. My point is that at least if a basketball game is crap and we suffer through it, it only lasts for about two hours and we get to see a team win. If we watch a Test match that sucks, it can almost consume an entire week AND still end in a draw. I totally see how this is an ‘each to their own’ topic, because I am sure people are utterly compelled by Test cricket or cricket in general, it just doesn’t do it for me. As a big football fan, I can see how it can also be seen as way to methodical and drawn out in it’s attempt to find action, but as I said, we only have to spare 2 hours or so to actually watch it from start to finish, so it’s bareable.

        I do agree with you that to see a youngster come out of the blue and turn a match and become a national hero for a day is awesome. It is what sporting dreams are made of and don’t get much bigger than cricket, being an internationally respected and followed game. Even if it takes me wanting to place carniverous ear-wigs in my brain for having had to watch this guy become so awesome, it is still awesome 🙂

      • And yet a lot of those sports have a ridiculous amount of meaningless games. I mean, the NBA goes for 82 games. Do we really need that many to determine who makes the playoffs? No way. At least with cricket every Test match has significance as each nation only plays around 12-15 per calendar year.

        I agree it is not for everyone. The key difference is Where many see endless dot balls and a boring game, others see it as pressure continually building as a bowler works a batsman over tirelessly trying to conjure a mistake. The sad part to me is that I think a lot of kids are growing up nowadays needing instant gratification and feel the need to be entertained at every moment. This is precisely why T20 cricket is being shoved down our throats. But T20 does a disservice to a brilliant format of the game that rewards a lot of skills and attributes that are taken for granted in sport. It’s a different form of entertainment but the most rewarding.

        However, I completely understand and respect those who don’t get it. In any case Matt, if you every want to write for the site on cricket or anything else please feel free to do so – hit us up at mikeorthedon@gmail.com

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