Hey, it’s Test cricket. Remember me?

The unlikely is the heart of sport and the currency by which it sucks in new adherents, how it grabs hold of a child and retains them for life. All those who love Test cricket can remember the match that first got them well and truly hooked on the sport, and in cricket’s case, it really is Tests that do that more than any other format, even now.

Sri Lanka’s extraordinary victory today over South Africa has had social media ablaze, trending across different countries not involved in the series, but reaching those who care greatly, and beyond them to the casual viewer who will see that and wonder what the fuss is all about.

A Test that in this country at least was at the margins of niche interest exploded into the realms of fascination as an unlikely run chase sank towards failure; just another game and another defeat for a nation struggling against almost all opposition. No one told Kusal Perera, who responded with one of those once in a lifetime performances to snatch an utterly extraordinary victory, with the unlikely assistance of Vishwa Fernando at the end in an unbroken last wicket partnership of 78. And for cricket fans all around the world, a relatively low key Test match became required viewing as word went around that something incredible was happening.

The details barely matter, there are plenty of match reports to read through to vicariously experience the whole thing once again. But the sensation of witnessing something amazing in any sporting contest cannot be beaten, while in Test cricket the unique tension as it unfolds is something that can’t be replicated in many other arenas. The long form that so many suppose is the problem is precisely why even those without a dog in the fight feel their heart thumping in their chest and experience the gnawing tension that grows with every ball. The possibility of something epic, the fear that any second it might be snatched away, the drawn, pinched expressions on the faces of players for whom realisation is dawning that defeat and despair may be coming.

And this is why those who are responsible for the game, who denigrate Test cricket rather than embrace it, are loathed and despised by the strange obsessives who continue to proselytise that this form of the game is the one. Whether it be Edgbaston 2005 or Durban 2019; or even Barbados 1999 when Brian Lara finished with the same score as Kusal Perera in another acutely stressful finish, Test cricket can produce sheer magic, a degree of intensity that few sports can match.

If Test cricket is in trouble, it also falls to those of us who love it to tell everyone else why. If the governing bodies won’t do it, then someone else has to. It doesn’t compensate, it doesn’t begin to make up the shortfall, but in a small way, it helps a little.

And yes, this is an exceptional example. But most sports have their routine outcomes, we watch because of the unexpected, because of the amazing. Because hitting Dale Steyn into the stands in a T20 is routine, but doing so in a thrilling Test match with one wicket standing raises the hairs on the back of the neck.

Because it matters. Because it’s a Test match. And because it is utterly bloody wonderful.

There are highlights on Sky at 6pm this evening. If you missed it, do watch if you can.

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46 thoughts on “Hey, it’s Test cricket. Remember me?

  1. pktroll (@pktroll) Feb 16, 2019 / 4:13 pm

    An absolutely brilliant achievement for Sri Lanka. Before play today I thought that South Africa would win by at least 100 runs.

    I was appalled at South African tactics with the last man in though. They basically gave up trying to get Perera out and put all their eggs in to a couple of balls per over at most at the no11. Dare I say it, that it reminded me ok the Flower/Cook axis of f***wittery of 2013/14 all over again. As someone suffering from work stress flashbacks over the last couple of years this is a bad non work memory.

    Liked by 3 people

    • dArthez Feb 16, 2019 / 4:48 pm

      Surprised that ACSU have not yet announced an investigation. Absolutely shambolic.

      Oh, and why the hell are South Africa playing in Durban, if they cannot even draw a Test against Sri Lanka there? Let alone do better against any other opposition.

      Like

      • dannycricket Feb 16, 2019 / 5:05 pm

        Should be easy enough, for an ACSU investigation. Find the one person who bet on a Sri Lanka win when they lost the 9th wicket and arrest them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • LordCanisLupus Feb 16, 2019 / 10:57 pm

        I think if we watch that, and our first thought is that was bent, then we should never watch sport.

        Spoken as a man who loves the Tour de France.

        Everyone is betrayed. Everyone is poorer for the cynicism. Everyone loses.

        Like

      • dArthez Feb 17, 2019 / 8:27 am

        I was watching the match. And at 240 (target 64 runs way) I was already complaining that they gave way too many easy runs to Perera (it was pretty much gift a boundary every over). At 276 (when they needed another 28) I called the game for Sri Lanka. Such idiotic captaincy, that it beggars belief that it is honest – even a layperson could tell that the tactic was not working, and to the bafflement they persist with the non-working tactic, despite having 4 very good bowlers at the disposal – and that is not counting Philander who did not bowl a ball all day.

        But maybe it is true. Never attribute to malice what can be sufficiently explained by incompetence.

        Utterly pathetic from South Africa. Pathetic is actually way too kind. As is shambolic. Incompetence gives a ring that they actually had a clue as to what they were doing. And as the result demonstrated, clearly they were absolutely clueless.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Man in a barrel Feb 16, 2019 / 6:57 pm

      A bit unfair to home in on Cook and Flower here, don’t you recall how Vaughan almost lost that 2005 Test by trying to get Warne off strike to target the guy at the other end? Or indeed how Willis almost lost that match in 1982 by trying to feed runs to Allan Border so as to get at Alderman?

      Like

      • thelegglance Feb 16, 2019 / 7:23 pm

        I think teams panic a bit in these circumstances. They don’t go to plan B because they can’t believe plan A isn’t working.

        Like

        • Mark Feb 16, 2019 / 7:40 pm

          The stupididist thing of all is they remove one of the most likely dismissals of a number eleven batting with a real batsman…..namely a run out.

          If the batsman can block for three balls in an over, without any pressure of close catchers, and then hit it to backward point for a leisurely single there is no chance of a run out.

          Why not tempt them to try and get back for the second earlier in the over? A number eleven may suddenly take off for the extra run. And this is apart from the fact that the real batsman becomes very confident when the opposition say essentially.,..”we can’t get you out, so we won’t even try.”

          Keep a conventional field with slips, and keep trying to get the batsman out. At least you force the batsman to be more careful with his shots rather than putting everyone back on the boundary.

          Like

          • LordCanisLupus Feb 16, 2019 / 10:54 pm

            They nearly ran the number 11 out with a desperate single. Turned into a 5!

            Like

          • thelegglance Feb 16, 2019 / 11:03 pm

            It was also exactly the right thing to do to throw at the stumps, even with the risk of overthrows. It was astounding to read some saying he should have held it.

            Like

          • LordCanisLupus Feb 16, 2019 / 11:04 pm

            Absolutely. A chance to win the game. Gold plated. Of course you go for it!

            Like

        • LordCanisLupus Feb 16, 2019 / 11:01 pm

          Not sure they were given time to react. This was different from Lara in 99, as they took quite a while getting over the line. Pereira took less than 30 minutes for the last 42 runs. Astounding bravado. Truly great to watch, whether there was one man and his dog or a full house. Sport is aided by crowds but isn’t rendered meaningless without them. The sheer reaction online showed that.

          I’m truly fucked off with what is being done to test cricket. When something brilliant happens I make no apologies for evangelising over it.

          Liked by 2 people

          • thelegglance Feb 16, 2019 / 11:15 pm

            Same. Loved it so much. And I’ve followed my own advice and been telling everyone how amazing it was. And I have to say, the reaction has generally been “wow”.

            It’s why we fell in love with the damn thing. It can do this. No apologies for adoring it. Not ever.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mark Feb 16, 2019 / 11:46 pm

            Totally agreed. And of course it was the right thing to do to throw at the stumps.

            I have to admit I knew nothing of this match. Sri Lanka is not box office at the moment. But on legglance’s advice I watched the highlights. Fantastic stuff from the visitors. One of those magic moments that only comes from test cricket.

            I echo the bosses views on test cricket, but money is king and there is more money in 20/20 and ODI so the governing bodies love it. There is so much more they could do to help test cricket. Namely the pitches, and cheaper tickets, but sometimes I think they want it to die.

            20/20 and this latest dogs breakfast 16.4 is not cricket for me. And Simon Hughes can go f himself. At what point can we call the governing bodies traitors, and demand they be arrested and put in the Tower?

            Like

      • pktroll (@pktroll) Feb 16, 2019 / 7:58 pm

        It will never be unfair to me to slag those two off for that repeated braindead way of playing. To only slightly give Flower some little leeway, he wasn’t the coach when Cook did the same at Headingly v Sri Lanka in 2014.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. LordCanisLupus Feb 18, 2019 / 11:20 am

    Excellent article on Cricket365

    https://www.cricket365.com/cricket-features/ecb-shiny-five-year-plan-new-strategy-new-nonsense/

    While the media coverage of the sport is covered by a “Strategic Partner”, we’ll get no questioning. Instead this evasive bullshit will be allowed to continue until someone important comes to the conclusion that Harrison and Graves are winging it, and aren’t the strategic gurus they think they are.

    I’m getting all Paul Downton over Harrison. At least Downton went off and knuckled down at Kent and is doing some good at a lower level of administration of the game. Harrison did a few TV deals and thought he was Citizen Kane.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. BobW Feb 18, 2019 / 12:24 pm

    It’s all right for you lot, I have to live next door to Sri Lankan neighbour who always give me abuse when England lose! So recently I’ve been taking great pleasure in his misery and yesterday I saw him with the biggest smile on his face. We had a chat and I still gave him some abuse but secretly I was really pleased for him. He was glued to the TV watching in amazement. Days like that don’t come around often. Well done Sri Lanka.

    Like

  4. rpoultz Feb 19, 2019 / 8:37 am

    What is going on in Trafalgar square….100 days to the world cup promotion and the person there promoting it is Cook?? Really?? Considering his association with the poorest ODI side in recent memory isn’t this the strangest choice to be doing that? It truly baffles me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nonoxcol Feb 19, 2019 / 10:34 am

      Would it be too much to ask for them to have someone from England’s most recent knockout win in the World Cup, he asked mischievously?

      http://www.espncricinfo.com/series/8039/scorecard/65155/england-vs-south-africa-2nd-sf-benson-&-hedges-world-cup-1991-92

      Or indeed the final (just substitute Small for the mighty Derek Pringle).

      Sad thing is at least one of those players would still be more recognisable to the average punter than Alastair Cook.

      Liked by 1 person

    • thebogfather Feb 19, 2019 / 2:48 pm

      I must have missed this (like the rest of the world…) – Is there a youtube fanfare for us plebs to catch up on?
      Sir Alastair, (ex) Cap’n Cook, dutifully doped
      Typical ECB myopia in the ‘Cape of Not A Hope’

      Like

    • nonoxcol Feb 19, 2019 / 4:18 pm

      Gawd I feel old department:

      The 2005 Ashes (except for the final Test) is now further in time from us than it is from the 1992 World Cup final.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. dArthez Feb 20, 2019 / 5:26 pm

    The first ODI is underway. Adil Rashid is on the field, but 31 overs in, West Indies are scoring more than a run a ball (despite a rather slow start by Gayle), and he is yet to bowl. The only pacer who has gone for less than a run-a-ball is Stokes.

    And no, it can’t be said that he is forgotten – he took the catch of Stokes’ bowling to end Hope’s stay at the crease.

    Rashid may have a case, like Hildreth and several others as this decade’s most forgotten cricketer. Bizarrely, while he is on the field, unlike Hildreth and others (Hildreth may or may not be the answer to the English middle order issues, but he has never seemingly been in with a shout, despite rather decent returns).

    Like

    • dArthez Feb 20, 2019 / 5:28 pm

      And no, it can’t said that he is invisible, that should have read.

      Like

      • BobW Feb 20, 2019 / 6:19 pm

        I always think Morgan is one of the few captains out there who knows how to use Rashid effectively.

        Like

      • dArthez Feb 20, 2019 / 6:42 pm

        It certainly would not have hurt England to introduce him a bit earlier, so that he can at least bowl 10 overs. Now he’ll be stuck with 9 at best. And that is if he bowls unchanged. Which may work for Rashid, but is also a gamble, if one of his overs goes for plenty.

        He has taken 2 wickets now (Pooran and Darren Bravo), and had Gayle dropped. His economy rate is excellent (considering the stage of the game when he is getting a bowl). It is eminently possible that his economy rate will take a dent, due to having to bowl in the 48th and 50th over. Which is always a risk with bowling a spinner at the death

        Like

  6. dArthez Feb 20, 2019 / 5:57 pm

    And can someone please explain why it is okay for Morgan to take 2 hours and 56 minutes to bowl 37 overs? Still 13 to bowl, in about 18 minutes …

    Í’d be gobsmacked if an actual sanction follows for an extremely poor overrate.

    Like

    • dArthez Feb 20, 2019 / 6:07 pm

      Oh, I see that they actually get 3.5 hours now to bowl 50 overs (used to be 3 hours 15 minutes, which translated to 15 overs / hour). Now the demand is for 14.2 overs / hour. And even that will be way beyond England, as they now have 23 minutes to bowl 11 overs.

      Like

    • dannycricket Feb 21, 2019 / 6:35 am

      Actually, over rate penalties seems to be much more likely in ODIs and T20Is than Tests, perhaps because there are fewer allowances made and fewer DRS appeals.

      Like

  7. dArthez Feb 20, 2019 / 9:24 pm

    If West Indies could be bothered to catch anything, this might have been interesting. Now it is a routine chase (and for England, if they win a record breaking chase), at barely a run a ball, with 9 wickets left for another 24 overs.

    Like

    • dlpthomas Feb 21, 2019 / 5:09 am

      Their fielding was crap. Even allowing for that, the ease with which England chased down the target speaks volumes for how much they have improved in one-day cricket. (though I’m still a little worried about the bowling,)

      Like

  8. dlpthomas Feb 21, 2019 / 5:04 am

    I hope I’m wrong but I can’t help wondering if the world cup has come 1 year too late for Liam Plunkett.

    Like

  9. dArthez Feb 21, 2019 / 9:07 am

    Meanwhile in South Africa, South Africa seem desperate to be whitewashed by Sri Lanka. Absolutely shambolic.

    And seriously, I have been going on about this, but it is really time for Amla to retire.

    Like

    • dArthez Feb 21, 2019 / 1:50 pm

      If it was not for de Kock, South Africa would have struggled to pass 100 AGAIN.

      But no, let’s pick 5 bowlers (admittedly Mulder is an allrounder, but he is making his debut and is just 21) because the batting is in great shape.

      Seriously, it seems almost as if someone involved with the team has bet on a Sri Lankan series victory.

      Like

      • dArthez Feb 22, 2019 / 12:41 pm

        Due to extremely idiotic batting by Sri Lanka (gung-ho) South Africa have manage to get a 68-run lead on first innings. Of course, on the stroke of tea day 2, South Africa have already lost 5 batsmen, and lead by 159, well on the way of getting their seemingly desired series result of 0-2.

        Like

        • dArthez Feb 22, 2019 / 1:47 pm

          To call this brainless batting by South Africa, is probably an insult to brainless creatures.

          Lead is 183 now, 2 wickets left, and Faf does his best to gift the wickets of the bowlers, due to letting them take 90% of the strike. Brilliant.

          Like

          • thelegglance Feb 22, 2019 / 1:50 pm

            It’s quite impressive in its way!

            Like

          • dArthez Feb 22, 2019 / 1:56 pm

            Faf first makes certain that the bowlers get out for nothing, due to forcing them to take the strike, and then he gets himself stumped. Idiotic batting if I ever saw it. 3-year olds bat smarter than that. Just lucky to survive on a no-ball decision there.

            Even Chris Martin bats better than Faf ffs.

            Like

          • dlpthomas Feb 22, 2019 / 2:13 pm

            They’re making England look good.

            Like

          • dlpthomas Feb 22, 2019 / 2:15 pm

            And Sri Lanka were a bowler “down”.

            Like

  10. dArthez Feb 22, 2019 / 2:06 pm

    I am at the point now, that if BOC ever comes up with an award for most brain dead cricketer, Faf should win it. Or even that the trophy / title should be named after him. Brainless batting. Brainless captaincy, to the point where I am seriously wondering if he is desperate to gift the series to Sri Lanka. Has he learned NOTHING from Kusal Perera last week?

    Like

    • thelegglance Feb 22, 2019 / 2:11 pm

      Sorry, you’ve got Herschelle Gibbs nailed on for that one after forgetting he’d agreed match fixing and accidentally smashing the bowling around.

      Like

    • dArthez Feb 22, 2019 / 2:17 pm

      It can’t be Gibbs. He merely forgot what he had agreed to do. And played some fine cricket due to forgetting his agreed position..

      Faf has succeeded in wasting the entire tail, despite getting a fine exposition on how to bat at the tail, and how not to bowl at the tail the week before. Well done. Now SA need to get Sri Lanka out for 195 or less, to share the series.

      Personally, I’d be looking into retiring Amla, and dropping Faf, until he shows some cricketing intelligence. If that moment will ever come, which seems extremely doubtful.

      Honestly, I hope CSA sack Faf for this. I’d rather have Duminy as a captain than this waste of space in the side.

      Like

  11. dArthez Feb 22, 2019 / 3:55 pm

    Seriously, any decent U-13 side would easily outcaptain Faf here. And since South Africa is crap at playing spin anyway, the gentler pace of the bowling would not have helped one iota. So I would not have bet against a decent U-13 side to beat this motley crew.

    South Africa might give England U-11 side a decent game. Just might.

    Changes need to be made.

    Amla out – he is past it. Faf out. Hardly scores a run in two years, and is beyond clueless as a captain. And that is a generous appraisal.

    Stick to 4 bowlers. They can’t afford 5, if they have to rely on Quinton de Kock everytime to get a semi-decent score. The one time he fails, SA struggle to even make 120. I’d also send Bavuma back to franchise cricket. Give a promotion to Hamza (looks promising enough, and has not failed 90% of the time, unlike de Bruyn). No idea who the other two / three middle order bats will be. But frankly, they can’t be much worse than the incumbents, even if they never have held a cricket bat in their lives. The South African middle order is that bad (with the notable noted exception of de Kock).

    Sri Lanka just need 136 more runs, with 8 wickets left. Not a formality, despite Faf’s best efforts. But still, it never should have come this close.

    Like

  12. dArthez Feb 23, 2019 / 8:26 am

    Just 114 runs to get for the most unfancied side to ever visit South Africa to win the series. Add another run and it will be a whitewash too. Still with 8 wickets intact.

    And yes, that means this is the weakest side South Africa have put out in over a hundred years. Faf must be so proud of winning the Imbecile in Cricket of the Year Award.

    Like

    • dArthez Feb 23, 2019 / 10:05 am

      His Imbecility has succeeded. Sri Lanka win the series 2-0. Faf must be so proud, and working on his acceptance speech.

      Like

  13. dArthez Feb 23, 2019 / 9:37 am

    Sorry if I come across as angry, but the frustration is real. To call this a sh*tfest is an understatement of Biblical proportions. South Africa were that bad.

    Sri Lanka are basically playing the Test with 10 men, due to injury to the hero of Durban, and they could have beaten a 15-men on the field South African side. Yes, South Africa have been that excruciatingly poor.

    Batting has been a mess for at least the last two years. And that is if one makes a generous lazy appraisal. Nothing done about it – except let’s play with 5 bowlers, because the batting is in great shape! Let’s just rely on Quinton de Kock / Markram / Elgar to get us to the occasional par score. Who needs 6 batsmen when 5 batsmen definitely don’t get the job done?

    Amla is way past it. Has hardly scored anything major. Just the occasional bout of brilliance (that knock against India in the 3rd Test in the fourth innings), but that is not enough for a number 3. New blood needed.
    Bavuma loves to frustrate everyone. Has not done anything notable with the bat, except for the once in a blue moon performance. He barely averages 33 has played 36 Tests and made all of 1 hundred, on an absolute road in Cape Town, and is that really good enough for a #4? No. No. No. Go play franchise cricket, but don’t bother playing international cricket with such stats – even the much maligned (and rightly so) Duminy did better.

    As for the substitutes (in case someone has to sit out due to injury):
    Theunis de Bruyn will probably not cut it either. Has been a disappointment 90% of the time, so let’s keep giving chances to him.

    South Africa don’t have a #3, #4, #5, or a #6 at the moment (unless you promote Quinton de Kock there). But yeah, let’s play 5 bowlers, because the batting is in great shape. Sheer lunacy. South Africa were not even TRYING to bat sensibly. In Durban. Or in Port Elizabeth. All round pathetic.That is actually an insult to pathetic.

    The bowling tactics are all wrong. Most glaringly visible in the idiocy of the Durban Test. As for the batting, let’s not shield the tail because “I am busy accumulating singles for a meaningless 50”, Faf has a lot of explaining to do. He should be sacked and dropped from the side. Permanently. And it is not like his batting makes up for this idiocy. He scores the occasional ton in a year, not exactly stellar returns to say the least. His captaincy has made Alastair Cook at his worst look like Brearley at his best. And that is probably still an insult to the brilliance of Cook’s captaincy.

    And thus one of the worst Asian sides to tour South Africa will whitewash them in South Africa, becoming the first Asian side to win a Test series there. And in grand style. Congratulations Sri Lanka on winning the series against easily the poorest side to represent South Africa in South Africa in 100 years. But that is not Sri Lanka’s fault.

    I don’t want Faf to ruin the World Cup for South Africa either. I am confident he will – the only mitigating circumstance is that the rest of South Africa’s middle order in ODIs is probably trying to tie for the worst with the completely unfancied sides to win the tournament. Even Duminy would be a better pick as a captain, if that meant we get rid of Faf. Won’t happen, sadly (and I have long given up on the idea that SA will not pick Duminy, who really does not cut it as a finisher in ODIs).

    Seriously this level of wilful incompetence warrants a cursory glance at bank accounts.

    Like

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