Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Test Cricket's Fitting 2000th

Last week at Lord's saw the 2000th match in the history of test cricket, and luckily it was a fitting match to mark the historic deadline.

In the 134 years since the inception of test cricket, there have been some fine games. From gripping nailbiters such as Edgbaston 2005 to back-from-the-dead epics like Headingley 1981, the ebb and flow of test cricket has led to a level of drama and intrigue that no other sport can offer. While not every game is a thriller, even the most hideously rain-affected or one-sided match will have it's suspenseful moments where the balance of power will shift and both sides feel they can win. Could you say that about a twenty20 game?

With test cricket being the pinnacle of the sport, the world's best are drawn into competition, which leads to a heightened level of competition to any other standard of cricket. Test cricket is, always has been, and always will be the ultimate level of cricket. Only the very best can claim to be test cricketers.

The 2000th test bought this sharply into focus. Amongst the teams were the two top run scorers in the history of cricket, with one of them (Rahul Dravid) making an excellent century as his partners were vanquished at the other end. As well as boasting players who've taken over 400 test wicket, the match also saw the absolute cream of the crop of both batting and bowling take to the field. These would be the men to represent Earth in the hypothetical game against Mars. And the quality shown by those players lived up to their reputations, with Kevin Pietersen's unbeaten double ton winning out in the battle for man of the match against Dravid and Prior's centuries, Broad and Ishant's display of wicket to wicket bowling and a masterclass in swing bowling from James Anderson. Bat and ball were battling throughout, and the quality on show was as good as any of the previous 1999 tests that took place before this week at Lord's.

There are a growing number of naysayers who proclaim that test cricket is a finished format, and twenty20 is where the money, entertainment, and direction of cricket is heading. They point to dwindling crowds, boring draws caused by flat pitches, and players choosing to freelance for T20 sides rather than represent their country in test cricket. However, the 2000th test was the perfect reposte to any non-believers. The quality of cricket on show was outstanding, the atmosphere at Lord's (especially on the fifth day) was incredible, and the drama was gripping. Test cricket may not be perfect and does give the world the odd damp squib, but sometimes it conjures up those magical few days of cricket that leaves everyone on the edge of their seat and begging for more. So happy 2000 to test cricket, and here's to the next 2000. And plenty more of those magical tests to come.

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