The Tale of Two Tests

 

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The last two Australian Tests have gone for three days: Adelaide lasted approximately 250 overs in four innings. Hobart approximately 220 overs in three innings.

As the first day-night Test, Adelaide was a winner on novelty factor alone; the absorbing and closely-fought result made it even better.

Hobart was like a cynical summer blockbuster; plenty of action but also mind-numbingly predictable and a little disappointing.

The standard of the opposition contributed to these results.

After a slim preparation, New Zealand was predictably outmuscled in Brisbane. They arguably had the better of the WACA run glut; with a record-breaking double ton to Ross Taylor giving New Zealand an unlikely first innings lead. The Black Caps were in their element with the pink ball in Adelaide. Trent Boult took seven wickets and Doug Bracewell took four. Defending 202, they had Australia 8/117 when Nathan Lyon was controversially ruled not out. From there, Lyon, Mitchell Starc and Peter Nevill pushed Australia to a 22-run lead. Off-spinner Mitchell  Santner scored 45 to set Australia a tricky 187. In the 14th over, Australia was 3/66. A 49-run stand between Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges and 46 between Shaun and Mitch Marsh got Australia home by three wickets.

The West Indies looked in massive trouble after losing to the Cricket Australia XI in Brisbane. Many expect the Hobart Test to be over by Saturday evening. It didn’t even get that far.

Batting first, Australia was wobbly at 3/121. The great West Indies sides would have smelt blood. Instead, Voges (269 not out) and Shaun Marsh (182) gorged on a 449-run stand. After debuting earlier this year, Voges’ spot was shaky during the Ashes, but a couple of fifties bought him time. Since then, he’s kicked on wonderfully. Good luck to him. Many were critical of Shaun Marsh’s selection for Adelaide. Surely he’s been given enough chances? Marsh toughed out 49 in Adelaide and cashed in at Hobart. Again, good luck to him.

The scariest part of Hobart was the West Indies’ batting. Darren Bravo scored 108 (from 223) in the first innings and opener Kraigg Brathwaite scored 94 (from 148) in the second innings. The next highest score was 31 with 13 single-figure scores. Take out Bravo and Brathwaite’s innings and the West Indies are out for 115 and 54. Josh Hazlewood took 7/78 and James Pattinson 5/95. The West Indies batted a combined 106.3 overs, compared to Australia’s 114.

Similar walkovers in Melbourne and Sydney are expected. They may even test the enthusiasm of the cheerleaders in the Channel Nine commentary box. Expect them to start spruiking the India ODIs and Twenty20s from Boxing Day.

Fortunately, Adelaide showed the way forward: Test cricket under lights bring in bigger crowds, a fairer balance between bat and ball (though runs are there if you dig in) and an absorbing contest.

Another innovation is a promotion-relegation system. The top six nations in Division One and the bottom four in Division Two.

Based on ICC rankings, South Africa, India, Australia, Pakistan, England and New Zealand would play in Division One; Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in Division Two. This would avoid horrible mismatches like in Hobart. Both divisions would play double round robin series’ (between two and five Tests), with the last team in Division One demoted and the winner of Division Two promoted. For the Division Two teams, we’d see who takes Test cricket seriously. While it puts the Frank Worrell Trophy (which Australia has owned since 1995) on hold, it’d be up to the West Indies to earn the right to contest it again.

While the shorter forms have their World Cups and Champions Trophies, the Test Championship – set for 2017 – was abandoned.  A two-division Test format would give the longest form some relevance. Develop day-night Test cricket and the future looks good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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