Thursday, 10 November 2011

Why I love Test cricket

For those that say Test cricket is dying, and that T20 is the future, ask yourselves:

Could a T20 have 294 runs and 23 wickets in a day? No
Could T20 have a Michael Clarke masterclass century? No
Could T20 have four separate innings in a day? No
Could T20 have a team bowled out for 47 yet still in the match? No
Could T20 possibly have the ebb and flow of any normal day of test cricket, let alone this extraordinary one? No

Setting the mind-boggling events of today's test match aside, there has been some fantastic test cricket around lately. Pakistan v Sri Lanka managed to make three reasonably entertaining and even contests out of three dead pitches. Pakistan's bowlers are starting to look a special prospect. Even two of the lowest ranked (and in Zimbabwe's case unranked) teams managed to pull out a thriller with New Zealand's enterprising declaration setting up an exciting chase which Zimbabwe only just failed in.

Even a series which looks like it could be a mismatch is looking competitive. Sure, India won the first test against the West Indies, but they were in trouble at one point, and there were fine individual performances from the likes of Shivnarine Chanderpaul (a player ill suited to T20, but perfect for a test match) and the improving West Indies seam attack.

Even mismatches can be interesting in Tests, who wouldn't say that they enjoyed the smart cricket and ruthlessness practised by the English team in taking apart Australia then India.

First class cricket is the only place where you can get the biggest and the best of everything. Where did Brian Lara score his 501*, or Hanif Mohammed his 499? Where did Jim Laker take his 19-90, Hedely Verity his 10-10? Where did Jack Hobbs score 197 centuries? He couldn't have done that in T20.

Test cricket at the moment is very lucky to have 10 reasonably competitive teams. England are justly top of the world, competitive in all conditions and a well balanced team. South Africa have the best bowler, all-rounder and wicket-keeper in the world, added to batsmen of the class and quality of De Villiers and Amla. India have a great batting line up and are tough to beat at home.

Australia are inconsistent, but have fast bowlers of quality and great strength in their batting line up. Sri Lanka are going backwards, but are still difficult to beat. Pakistan are growing in strength and seem to have a conveyor belt of fast bowlers. West Indies and New Zealand are a couple of players away from good teams, and Bangladesh and Zimbabwe have talent, but are not always able to harness it. That's because test matches are the ultimate challenge for a team. You can win ODIs and T20s without being better than the other team, but that bit of luck won't win you a test match or test series.

I could wax lyrical forever about why Test cricket is far superior to T20, but I feel a brief metaphor would do it best: T20 is a quick snack, alright if it's all you can get, but Test cricket is a four course meal, just so much more satisfying.

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