What I just witnessed few minutes ago was the most scintillating test match. After missing out on the final of UEFA Champions League, I would have kicked my arse if I had missed out on this bloody humdinger. What came to fore is that any game in its pristine form can never lose its significance.
There have been talks that few years down the road, test cricket would lose its audience and would be summarily replaced by shorter versions of game. But this is an example of poor reading and understanding, on the part of these critics and so called ‘torch-bearers’ of the game, about the essence of the game. Cricket has always thrived well in the environs of its longer version. The 5-day version brings in the very qualities of the great exponent of the game is made of. These are patience, perseverance and discipline; an information only for a novice.
Coming back to the match I was talking about, I never thought England would get so close. I have never thought England was good at anything other than civil administration. Although it is the cradle of almost 3/4th of the games played at international level it has never been force to reckon with. For instance it has yet win Cricket WC. It has won Football WC only once. We are yet to see a British champion at the most coveted tennis tournament for past many years. (I can’t remember when they won it last). And finally about The Ashes, they have lost it 8 times in a row. The victory (finally) in an Ashes test was just what Doctor ordered for this talented bunch of British lads. I can’t say that Mike Vaughan has led from the front because he has faltered with his ‘piece of wood’ in most of the tests at the start of this season but he has certainly emerged as an astute leader. He has rejuvenated English cricket, which was in shambles a couple of years ago.
The match kicked off for Aussies on a shaky note. Its bowling spearhead and the person, who turned the first match on its head for the visitors, twisted his ankle on the eve of the test match. English batsmen grabbed the opportunity with both hands. With their openers not letting them down for a change Brits quickly went on pile 407 runs at the close of their innings on the very first day in 79.2 overs. These kind of scores have been pretty common in test format these days with heavy influence of ODIs on the batsmen’s psyche. England could have managed to pile a score in excess of 700 runs, which could have sealed the game in favour of host team but for a dour bowling performance from ‘Warney’ and pretty hasty batting by England.
Aussies started their innings with a bit nervousness and uncertainty. English speedsters were soon rewarded with scalps at regular intervals while the visitors’ innings folded at 308. English had a healthy lead of 99 runs but they would never dare to be complacent on the fast deteriorating Edgbaston wicket. Their fears were soon justified with the wily leggie beginning to weave his magic. In the very last over of the match Warne came up with a delivery that spun sharply from the rough created at the edge of the pitch. Strauss was dumb-founded to see his middle and leg stump rooted out of the ground by bowl pitching safely out of his off-stump. Warney had done the same thing in his first ever Ashes match way back in 1993.He foxed Mike Gatting with a bowl that went on to become ‘finest ball of the century’. The aforesaid delivery will need some getting to be surpassed as the ‘finest ball of this century’. However, with the last pair adding 51 runs for the last wicket, England trundled to 181. Freddie Flintoff once again showed his mettle. This is a guy I admire most for his competive. But I thing he should channelise his energies on his job rather than his theatrics on the field. But all said done he is man who wears heart on his sleeve. The last wicket stand proved decisive for England. It could have so easily been the case for Australia.
282 was always going to be a stiff target to chase. Going with averages match was already in England’s kitty. But no one could dare to rule out the possibility of a successful chase of the highest 4th innings total at the Birmingham ground with this Aussie side. But Aussies went from bad to worse to worst as the day progressed. At the end 3rd day’s play Aussies were tittering on the brink of test defeat. The scoreboard stood at 175/8. Harmison closed the day with beautifully disguised slower ball that left Clarke’s off-stump uprooted. At the close of the day, English must have been thinking of a beautiful trip to Old Trafford for the next test
The 4th day started with a confident English team taking field on a sunny day in Edgbaston. They were just 2 balls away from a famous victory. A victory that would level the series and Aussies would then have to toil harder for the coveted trophy. A nervous pair of Warne and Brett Lee walked on the field to try their best to snatch victory away from England. As the overs began to roll English realised that they would have to earn these two wickets. Brett and Warne batted like the typical tail-enders but with lot of guts, courage and gumption. They were taking blows all over their bodies trying to fend-off scorching pace of Flintoff and Harmison. Slowly they began to frustrate English bowlers by sneaking an odd boundary. The two were putting on a brave front until Shane Warne got out hit-wicket in a careless fashion. England was shouting distance from the victory. Mike Kasprowicks walked to pitch to join Brett. Uneasiness was written all over his face as he took guard. The duo soon began to fight out English attack with a heart as big as cricket stadium. Brett lee stood out in the entire Aussie innings for his resilience and guts. He was taking nasty blows on his body but never seem to buckle under pressure. I am pretty sure that he never would have thought of throwing his wicket away.
At the end when Aussies were just 3 runs away from a seemingly impossible victory Kaspro gave in. Keeper Jones off Harmison caught him. Thus came to a sad end an epic chase not in its quantity but the quality. Ricky Ponting, the captain summed it up in his post-match interview. He said that it just reinstates the Australian character that Lee,Warne and Kaspro possess.
I am pretty sure that Aussies will definitely prove that this defeat was just a ripple and go on to win the next match.