Wednesday, 25 April 2012

T is for… Test cricket

There are three forms of international cricket; test cricket, one-day cricket and 20-20 cricket. Whilst the latter has exploded in popularity in recent years, for many people test cricket remains the truest and most compelling form of the game. There are currently 10 test playing nations, each of them playing the other nations over a six-year cycle. Test cricket is usually played as a series of matches, each of which can last for up to five days. The first test match of cricket took place in 1877 between England and Australia, with Australia winning the match by 45 runs.

Why test cricket is so great

Sachin Tendulkar - one of the greats
Test match cricket is an appropriate name, as it really does test the character of the players involved. It’s a real challenge of patience, determination and concentration for each individual involved. The batsmen need to keep their focus for every ball they face, judging each delivery on its merits and deciding when to attack and when to defend. The bowlers need to decide whether to attack the stumps or whether to try to lure the batsmen into playing a rash shot, and need to keep patient as they stick with their plans of attack. The fielders also to keep their focus, sometimes going long periods of time without touching the ball, but having to stay alert all the time.

A good test match is like a good story. There are moments of high drama, when the match moves quickly with a flurry of wickets or a batsmen attacking. Then there are moments when the match is bubbling under, when both teams are trying to wrestle control of the action. The momentum will swing in a good match, both teams will have periods where they’re on top and times when they’re chasing the game.

The Ashes

After Australia became the first team to defeat England on an English ground in 1882, The Sporting Times wrote a mock obituary stating that English cricket had died, and “the body will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” England’s next tour to Australia became “a quest to return the Ashes”, and during that tour a small terracotta urn containing the ashes of a cricket bail was presented to the English team. The two nations now meet biennially to compete for the Ashes; with the winning nation claiming the Ashes and a drawn series meaning that the country already holding the Ashes retains them. Each Ashes series now consists of five test matches, and sixty-six series have been played, with Australia winning 31 and England 30.

Ian Botham at his swashbuckling best
Several great players have made their name in an Ashes series, with Ian Botham stamping his mark on the 1981 series after producing outstanding performances with both the bat and the ball. Shane Warne burst on to the cricket scene with his first ball in an Ashes series after producing the “ball of the century” to dismiss Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes series. Andrew Flintoff also produced his finest moments in the Ashes contests, particularly in the 2005 series, where England regained the Ashes for the first time in 16 years after a long period of Australian dominance.

Test match cricket provides so many memorable moments that make it one of my favourite sports. It’s unique blend of narrative and ebb & flow are unmatched in sport, and will continue to give delights to its fans for many years to come. As the 10CC song goes; I don't like cricket, I love it!

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