Since England lost the Ashes a host of players have come out to express their concern over the health of test cricket. If your hoping to read an article on why this is, or isn’t the case then it may be worth stopping now.
I’m going to avoid discussing the dangerous road the ECB have started us on in pushing first class cricket to the very edges of what might be deemed “the English summer”.
I won’t even begin to try to explain the reasoning behind which grounds were granted test status or why Alex Hales and Adil Rashid’s decision to focus purely on white ball cricket is not necessarily the start of the end for the longer format.
I am simply going to explain why I love test cricket above all other formats, why I always will and why you should give it a chance too.
This isn’t a review of the health of test cricket, this is an unashamedly bias and public declaration of my love for test cricket.
I understand the doubters and those perhaps more casual cricket fans who prefer the pace of limited overs cricket.
When I started dating my now fiancé, she had no interest in rugby, she’s now a rugby nut and while she is a cricket fan she once remarked the most exciting thing about an England test was when Stuart Broads hat fell off. I took a deep breath and reminded myself her father is an MCC member.
Test cricket is a tapestry, you can stand back and enjoy it but as you get closer and closer to really understand it’s intricacies it takes on another level. As with any sport the casual observer will remark on the fitness and skills on offer. When you come to really understand it though, when you recognise the fine threads woven over five days you are truly able to marvel at its beauty.
Take a classic Jimmy Anderson over as an example, the in swinger, as effective at removing an opponent as the guillotine, is fantastic to watch. Its true beauty though lies in the four out swingers that came before it.
There is no sport like it; a batsman needs focus and concentration to thrive. Facing hundreds of balls, each one slightly different from the last, a different pace, a different angle and as a spectator you thrive off that. Something can happen every ball, the suspension building until a release of tension; a boundary, a batsman’s milestone or maybe, just maybe a wicket.
Limited overs cricket can never hope to emulate this type of tension. Everybody knows a wicket will fall at some point; batsman will go hard at a 50/50 ball that in test cricket they would have left. The risk reward ratio changes and it devalues a batsman’s wicket.
They lack the ebb and flow that test cricket has. I can’t be alone in knowing the result in limited over cricket far earlier than the final ball has been bowled or wicket falls. There is a sense of inevitability that you just don’t get with test cricket. Horrific top order batting collapses don’t necessarily point to the result, ask any England fan, and nor does a wonderfully constructed century.
Test cricket doesn’t need the sort of animosity we have seen in the South Africa – Australia series, it’s ugly and neither side comes out with much credit. Cricket battles alone offer much to be enjoyed; two rapid attacks on quick surfaces, legends of the modern game looking to cement their status amongst comparable novices fighting to prove they belong at the highest level. I enjoyed Dean Elgar’s gritty half century as much as I did AB de Villiers bullish century, it builds beautifully for the third test.
Cricket, despite being a team sport has a wonderful way of coming down to one on one battle’s. If you watch the upcoming, and for me long awaited after so much limited overs cricket, series between England and New Zealand look out for Cook v Boult. Boult has removed Cook five times in seven Tests, on the other hand Cook averages 67 against Boult. Now that’s a battle.
Test cricket builds a story; it’s a novel and surely alone in sport in its ability to build page after page towards a stunning climax. Does anyone remember the second test of the 2014 home series against Sri Lanka? Five days of cricket that ended in heartbreak for Jimmy Anderson and England, caught off the penultimate ball. Tolkien would have been proud.
A bit about the author – Greg Boon
Anybody that follows me on twitter, or talks to me for more than five minutes will know that sport is my passion. I played rugby all my life, although I came back from a serious spinal injury, ultimately other injuries forced me off the pitch.
I am a passionate Gloucester rugby fan, though I live some distance away. Luckily my cricket team, Hampshire Cricket, is a lot closer to home. I love everything about rugby, coaching and writing not quite a substitute for playing but it keeps me involved in some small way with the game I love. When it comes to cricket I prefer test and county cricket to that one day stuff
You can still find me in the mud at weekends, but I’ve swapped the rugby pitch for obstacle course racing, winners medals for Tough Mudder medals.