Wanderers test will not match Newlands. But for better or worse?
Last week’s crazy Cape Town test match between South Africa and Australia, where 23 wickets fell in a day and the visitors narrowly avoided the lowest ever test score, will go down in cricket’s esteemed annals.
They meet again at the Wanderers from Thursday. But would test cricket fans want to see a repeat?
The Newlands match was over in three days and despite all the drama, purists were left wondering whether the flurry of wickets was due to bad batting and a lack of application in the test arena rather than wonderful bowling in conducive conditions.
Australia captain Michael Clarke described his team’s batting as “disgraceful and unacceptable” after they were bowled out for 47.
Players preferring the big-money and rapid nature of limited overs cricket to the concentration-heavy longer format has worried test fanatics for several years, and the five-day game is definitely suffering.
The fact powerhouses South Africa and Australia are only playing two tests in this series adds weight to the argument, as did India’s lack of preparation ahead of touring Engliand earlier this year as the hosts won 4-0 to overtake the Indians as the world’s best test side.
England, who have struggled in 50-over cricket for years, appear to value tests more than some other sides these days as the jailing of three Pakistan players for deliberately bowling no balls for money in a test in England last year shows.
Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga’s decision to quit tests earlier this year at just 28 is another stark reminder that Twenty20 cricket really is eating into the game’s former heart.
The ICC was planning a world test championship from 2013 to boost the original form of the sport, but rumours are rife the governing body may now have to relent because of a lack of interest from broadcast partner ESPN and instead host another 50-over Champions Trophy, a scaled down version of the World Cup.
England’s James Anderson has compared the Champions Trophy to the Carling Cup — English soccer’s second-rate knockout competition in which top teams often play their reserves.
Last week’s bizarre Newlands test may actually have been a symptom of test cricket’s malaise rather than a tonic.
PHOTO: South Africa’s Vernon Philander celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia’s Brad Haddin during the second day of their first test cricket match in Cape Town, November 10, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings