lod (oldhen) wrote,

On test-match cricket..

It's the 5th day of an Ashes test match as Old Trafford – the series is level at 1 all, after Australia got oh-so-close in the Edgbaston game, only to lose by 2 measly runs. Michael Vaughan's side have Australia on the run, Ponting, the Australian captain has taken so much flak for both his captaincy and his supposedly cavalier batting. Harmison bowled his bouncers at 90+mph, and threw in a few slower ones for good measure, Flintoff like he did throughout the series, bowled beautifully reverse-swinging the ball at good pace, yet Ponting stood firm. At his best, he's a joy to watch, a real free flowing strokeplayer, up there with the very best, yet of all his 28 centuries, this to me was the Ricky Ponting innings. England never flagged throughout that tense final day, and Ponting was finally out in the dying stages of the day, for a superb 156, Australia finished 9 down, and the match ended in a draw. This was no mere Lahore-flatbed style bore, but drama of the highest order, and a great advertisement for the grand game of test-match cricket.

From the Ashes to cricket's other great rivarly: India vs Pakistan, and from one modern great to one of the all-time great batsmen : Sachin Tendulkar. Once again, we join the action of the final day of the first test India – Pakistan test at delightful Chepauk. Shahid Afridi playing like Afridi does had made 140-something, setting India 248 to win. Those were the “Ten-do ten-don't” days of Indian cricket – and once again it seemed like Tendulkar carried India's hopes. He was farily restrained til he made 60odd, when he started cramping really badly.. These days off-spinners seem to produce a “mystery delivery” every other game, but at the time Saqlain's doosra was very much the novelty, Sachin not only read it beautifully, but proceeded to light up Chepauk with some scintillating shots against the turn. Akram's reverse-swinging yorkers were similarly dealt with, and India looked to be cruising with just 17 more needed with 4 wickets and session and a half to get the runs. But, the doosra eventually nailed Sachin, attempting to hit him out of the ground, and Pakistan were a team transformed. Suddenly Saqlain looked near unplayable, and Wasim was running in with his tail up. India's tail didn't do much wagging, the last 3 wickets managing just 5 runs, India lost by 12 runs. Sachin was gutted, yet all of Chepauk, me included, stood and applauded Wasim Akram's side.. TV images might show you the game from a gabizillion angles, but honestly no words or photographs or 3000 frames/second replays can do justice to the drama of that game..

Some might like the coloured pyjamas, bright lights and batting slugfests that are the hallmarks of one-day cricket, yet others the slam-bang, blink-and-its-over thrills of Twenty-20, but to me for sheer drama nothing else in sport comes close to test-match cricket. Test-match cricket brings out the very best in cricketers, the batsman knows there are no fielding restrictions to help him out, he can't just see off the on-song bowler's 10 overs, the bowler knows that at the end of the day he needs to get the bloke out. It all makes for attacking fields and compelling viewing. It's also a true test of a cricketer's adaptability there's swing at Headingley, bounce at Perth, square turn in Mumbai, reverse-swing in Karachi - you get the idea..

There are those that complain that test-match cricket is throw-back to a by-gone era, if this be the stuff that dinosaurs are made of – then Jurassic Park be my playground :-)

Update: This was mostly written, before the India-Pak series started, that series is just getting warmed up - I expect the intensity to go up a few notches..
Tags: cricket, sport
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