Whenever wisecracks yell out that T20 has killed, crucified, murdered, assasinated and whatever, test cricket, it has a splendid year. Test cricket, that is. Duh. When ever has T20 had a good year?
10. Sri Lanka v Australia at Galle (Australia won by 125 runs)
If tests in the subcontinent are boring, Galle in Sri Lanka is the region’s test capital. Why? 740/3, 952/7, 500/2 declared. That’s why. It came as such a relief therefore, when wickets started falling like ninepins during Sri Lanka’s first innings effort in the first test against Australia. Bowled out for 105, the Aussies could start up their second innings from day 2, guaranteeing us a result. That’s all we ask for, from Sri Lankan pitches.
The other two matches in the Warne-Muralitharan trophy, as it’s called, were draws and yet the ICC served up a warning to Galle for producing such an unfriendly wicket!? Maybe they were expecting the usual?
9. England v India at Trent Bridge (England won by 319 runs)
Trent Bridge, in contrast, is a superb test venue, second in England only to Edgebaston in my book. During the second England – India test of the summer, India were still fighting hard to get a foothold in the series after going down 1-0 at Lord’s. Day 1 saw England reduced to 124/8 before Stuart Broad bravely counterattacked to take the score to a respectable 221. Rahul Dravid and India seemed to be running away with India’s innings at 267/4, before – you guessed it – Broad scalped a hat trick. I suppose it was effectively five wickets because Yuvraj fell before the first hat trick ball, and Dravid skied a catch afterwards, seeing that he was suddenly left with the tail. England thus restricted India’s lead to a paltry 67, before marching onto the field and pwning Sreesanth and co. The game was in the bag. 1-0 became 2-0. Then 3-0. Then 4….you get the idea.
There was also a moment of controlled controversy as Bell was walking off for tea during day 3. I suppose that helps us remember a close test match even better.
8. West Indies v Pakistan at Guyana (West Indies won by 40 runs)
A team like the Windies go several years without a victory, be it home or away, so it’s always awesome to see them win. Props to Bishoo and Chanderpaul, whose last wicket stand in the disastrous second innings took the total from 105/9 to 152 all out. The scorecard says that the Windies won by 40, so that effectively sealed the match. Chanderpaul has always been solid as ever, but Bishoo was a #11 AND was making his international debut. Respect.
As an aside, the West Indies are the only team who wearwhite jerseys for their test matches. None of the mustard, ivory or all the other off-white tripe. Test cricket = White. Respect, like I said.
7. India v West Indies at Mumbai (Match Drawn)
There’s a reason why 2011 has been such a good year for test matches – there haven’t been too many draws. The fact that this test was a draw because of a mere technicality stands the format in good stead.
Beating India in India is next to impossible, but the West Indies of all teams came so close during the third of their three match test series. Going into the last over, all four results were possible – an India win, a West Indies win, a draw, and a tie. With 2 required off the last ball with one wicket in hand, first innings centurion R. Ashwin thought it was fine if he ran just the one. A pat on the back for him, he created some history for test cricket.
About his first innings century – I’ve never seen such a disappointed crowd witnessing a debut century. Why? Tendulkar was dismissed for 94 a few hours earlier, in pursuit of the irrelevant 100th youknowwhat. We can thus conclude that Ashwin wanted some of the limelight out of the entire affair there. And while we’re at it, we can celebrate the fact that both Tendulkar and Ashwin have one hundred international centuries put together in international cricket. How cool is that?
6. England v Sri Lanka at Cardiff (England won by an innings and 14 runs)
So draws emanate out of technicalities, and wins come from draws. Everybody had given up at Cardiff by the time day 5 rolled along. The weather had been dreadful, and only one innings had been played so far. Sri Lanka had made 400 batting first, to which England (or South Africa A in slang) replied with a sturdy 496. With just a handful of overs to survive in the final day then, Sri Lanka get bundled out for 82. Blink and you miss a wicket stuff. Not till the last pair got together did they actually try to get over their trail of 96 but with the supreme English attack on the prey, even that proved to be a lost cause.
5. South Africa v Sri Lanka at Durban (Sri Lanka won by 208 runs)
Whenever the South Africans get ahead, they’ll let themselves slip to get back amongst the pack. When the opposition is a team starved of overseas test wins, Sri Lanka, they’ll gobble up the opportunity. End of story.
4. Australia v New Zealand at Hobart (New Zealand won by 7 runs)
This was a classic. After the usual loss to big brother at Brisbane, the same old cliches were being drafted in about Kiwi cricket. Until the Hobart groundsman made a pitch so green that it would put the Pakistani flag to shame. What resulted was a closely fought four day affair that eventually culminated in a 7 run win for the black caps. David Warner thwacked a rearguard century only to see his teammates at the other end lose Australia the match, messing up what should have been a regulation chase of 241 in the fourth innings.
Sri Lankan and Indian groundsmen, take note.
3. South Africa v India at Cape Town (Match Drawn)
One all with everything to play for going into the third test at Cape Town. South Africa posted a par 364 thanks to a sublime Kallis 161, before India matched it shot for shot to end up on 362 all out. The Indian innings included a marvellous battle between Tendulkar and Steyn, a spell for the ages. With a lead of just 2, South Africa collapsed to 233/7 in their second innings, and the Indians should have fancied polishing them off within 250. Unfortunately they ran into the brick wall – Kallis – again, and he batted with the tail to push upwards to 341. There was no chance of a result from that point, but it was an engaging spectacle of fast bowling versus tentative pokes by the bat.
2. South Africa v Australia at Cape Town (South Africa won by 8 wickets)
Batting first, Australia posted a better than average 284 all thanks to Clarke’s Steve-Waugh esque batting with the tail to accumulate a personal score of 151. South Africa, for their part chased down 236 in their fourth innings to win the game.
In between whiles was the most unexplainable passage of play you could see. South Africa 96 all out. Australia 47 all out. Did somebody bomb the pitch? Many Aussie fans online were in splits over the Saffers’ 47/9 collapse, only to see their side top it with a 47/10 effort. At one stage, the Aussies were 21/9 before the last pair in Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle more than doubled the score to 47. How the hell?
1. Zimbabwe v New Zealand at Bulawayo (New Zealand won by 34 runs)
Yeah, the Zimbots had won their first test on their return to the test fold against the Bangas, but not many fancied them against a superior New Zealand. Led by Brendan Taylor though, Zimbabwe managed to remain within touching distance of the Kiwis throughout the first four days, before bravely proclaiming to chase down their fourth innings total of 366 on day 5. Embarassment for the Kiwis beckoned as Taylor smashed a century enroute to 265/4, before the other Taylor – Ross, brought on Daniel Vettori. Dan had flown the thousand miles just for this one test, having retired from the shorter formats post the World Cup. Yet he still had it in him to kill the Zimbabwean chase with three crucial wickets.
Like I said, lap it up, T20 fans. We’re lovin’ it on the other side. It’s that finger licking good.