It was only the 19th occasion that a Test match has been saved by the tenth wicket pair. It was the 1,946th Test played since the first one back in 1876. England have now done it three times in the last six months and twice in three Tests, the first time it has ever happened twice in a series.
As with every tight finish in any format of the game, the focus of attention is inevitably drawn to the final overs and the last couple of deliveries. If only…if only.
But the match was not ‘lost’ in the final 17 deliveries when Graham Onions survived 11 balls to compile the best nought not out he will ever manage, it was ‘lost’ during the 57-over fifth-wicket stand between Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell during which J-P Duminy was used only as a last-ditch resort, a desperation measure. When he broke the stand the dam wall cracked and very nearly collapsed.
World cricket has never been healthier in terms of the quality of competition amongst the leading teams. India, Australia, Sri Lanka, England and South Africa can now all beat each other, more easily at home than away admittedly, while New Zealand and Pakistan (when they play properly) also have to be taken seriously in any conditions.
For the first time ever there is no runaway number one team and, also for the first time, the top seven teams can all look forward a competitive series when they line up against each other. The West Indies aren’t far behind, too, but – on current form – you’d still back the others to win, home or away.
What a perfect time to formulate an official Test Championship which everybody can understand and become enthusiastic about. The BCCI in India have, for the first time since they unofficially assumed control of the world game five years ago, taken their collective eye off the cash register by asking South Africa to play two Tests next months instead of five meaningless, cash-spinning one-dayers. That, surely, means that even they still regard Test cricket as the most important form of the game, if not the most lucrative.
Many of the 15,000 fifth day spectators had trouble breathing at Newlands, such was the drama and tension on Thursday afternoon. By the time Onions survived the final delivery from Morne Morkel, the supporters of both teams were too emotionally spent to cheer. The Barmy Army even stopped drinking for an hour – seriously.
Test cricket is a unique product in the world of sport. An official and understandable championship played to a formula which people can understand and can become attached to, over a set time period, will ensure not only its survival but growth.
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Feel free to get in touch.