Yesterday I woke up and stuck Sky Sports 2 on quick sharpish and thanks to a delay in starting the days play I saw nearly the whole of the final days play between South Africa and Australia. As most know cricket is where my heart lies deep down with regards to sport and good Test Cricket still dumps on any other sporting encounter and yesterday we were treated to how a Test Match should be played.
The Aussies needed 310 to win, which would be the highest successful chase ever at the Wanderers ground. The day started with all three outcomes very possible but South Africa became the favourites when they finally removed Ricky Ponting. Michael Hussey hung around for a bit but when he went it was down to the out-of-form Brad Haddin and the mercurial Mitchell Johnson. These two played terrifically and Australia were on the verge of winning.
Then Haddin nicked off and Peter Siddle was gone within a few balls and the equation was simple. The Aussies needed 18 to win and the South Africans needed two wickets. It was tight and it was very tense. Dale Steyn then dropped a hard caught and bowled chance and Imran Tahir probably had young Cummings out lbw but hawkeye said it was umpires call whether it hit him in line so it stayed not out. This was couple with the most wonderful replay of the #11 batsman Lyon looking up to the sky and shaking his head in disbelief as he clearly didn’t want any part of being out there in the middle.
Australia got over the line and won a fantastic Test Match. The fact it is just a two-match series disgusts me but what I also found worrying was how few fans were in the stands. I’m guessing not too many over 3,000 and that is putting a positive spin on it. I know it was a working day but the prices were dirt cheap and they even allowed people in free midway through the afternoon session but seemingly few showed up for what was a great ending to a great Test Match.
In this country and in other countries if a game is going down to the wire and they open the gates then people do flood in. I recall the 2006/2007 Ashes tour and the second Test after England collapsed and the Aussies sniffed an unlikely win on Day five and the home fans poured through the gates. It is something which is a concern to the future of the premier type of cricket match.
One thing is for certain in my mind though that the ebbs and flows, the drama of investing five days in a sporting occasion is not matched anywhere else. A good Test Match still ranks as one of the very best sporting theatres out there and I can safely say that certain Test finishes are still etched into my mind, Karachi 2000 where Graham Thorpe won a Test in the pitch black, the 2009 West Indies Test at the old Antigua Rec, the whole of the 2005 and 2010/2011 Ashes tours, Steve Harmison’s 7/12 in the West Indies, Matthew Hoggard’s seven wickets in Jo’Berg to win a Test Match for England, so many memories that just aren’t generated by ODIs and T20s (although I positively love T20 at domestic level – far less so internationally).
Test Cricket is still the pinnacle of the sport and boy I hope that never changes.
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