Saturday, 24 May 2008

Australia and West Indies show why Tests are best

For those of us for whom England's 12th consecutive match against New Zealand is a less-than-enthralling prospect, West Indies' Test with Australia has captivated and reaffirmed what we already knew: Twenty20 may come and go but Test cricket remains the pinnacle.

Three days in, the game has showcased cricket at its very best. A majestic century from Ricky Ponting in tricky circumstances, followed by a fine half-century from Brad Hodge, benefiting from a series of ill-fortune to earn a surprise recall. The West Indies then rallied commendably. Australia's bowlers struggled, but were bailed out by Stuart Clark. Exhibiting the virtues of line, length, a touch of seam and the most phlegmatic of temperaments, Clark showed why he has enjoyed such a phenomenal start to his Test career.

West Indies then fought back, before Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson, having previously suffered from no-ball problems, responded superbly, in a way the shorter forms of the game allows ample time. Lee then hit Shivnarine Chanderpaul on the helmet. The West Indies feared he would go off. Chanderpaul remained resolute, exploding into life and reaching a majestic century. His performances over the last 12 months have been little sort of astounding; his idiosyncratic technique and unrivalled concentration making bowlers the world over thankful for the brittleness of his team-mates. In his last 16 innings, he has passed 50 on 11 occasions, with four centuries and many others denied by being undefeated or resorting to slogging when left stranded, as so often, with the tail. Despite his brilliance, an Australian lead of 119 seemingly made comfortable victory inevitable.

How can a game played over five days change so much in so little a timespan? How indeed. The West Indians were simply lethal on the third evening: Fidel Edwards and Daren Powell were outstanding, hostile and able to swing the ball late - with devastating results. The sight of Michael Hussey's stumps being decimated as Australia slipped to 12/4 was testament to the capacity of this game to produce sport at its most riveting and astounding. Twenty runs off an over simply does not come close to matching the simmering of tension; the personal, sometimes gladitorial, duels; and an even contest between bat and ball.

As the cricketing world threatens to lose all sanity in its approach to Twenty20, a worthy and sometimes captivating game but one that risks saturation, Test cricket has been done sterling service by this match just when many appeared willing to forget its merits. And if Test cricket is to enjoy a resurgence, wouldn't it help if these shoots of a West Indies revival grew into something more substantial?


Anonymous said...

TEST cricket is going on ..... awwww

Richard Lake said...

There are two brilliant test matches going on at the moment proving that you don't need batsmen flaying the ball all over the place for enthralling cricket. England and the WIndies have fought back from disappointing positions today and while NZ and Aus are probably still favourites for their matches they are both in the balance.

Twenty20 may be entertaining, but it really doesn't allow for the toing and froing of test cricket.