Ian Baker - Test cricket is alive and well
24 Dec 2009 - 11:45:57
Test cricket is apparently dying. Well tell that to the 10,000 fans at Centurion and millions more watching on television on Sunday night.
The first test between South Africa and England had just about everything. Whilst the hosts were always marginally ahead of the eight ball, England showed tremendous battling spirit.
It was five days of tremendous entertainment - Jacques Kallis's wonderful ton on Wednesday, Graeme Swann's heroics with bat and ball on the next two days, Hashim Amla's well-compiled knock on Saturday, and finally a memorable innings by Kevin Pietersen for both the right and wrong reasons, before debutant Friedel de Wet came oh so close to winning the match for Graeme Smith's men.
A tremendous match like that does wonders for the image of the game. It shows people that there is more to cricket than the 'Wham Bam Thank You Mam' game of Twenty20.
Sadly, the authorities are doing little to help themselves promote test cricket. The issue of the referral system once again brought both the umpires and the game into disrepute.
The new system, called the Umpire Decision Review System, should, according to the ICC, improve the quality of cricket. But it is only leading to confusion and frustration, especially without Hot Spot, used in the Australia v West Indies series.
Take the fans at SuperSport Park. None of them had a clue whether any of the decisions were out or not. No TV replays in the ground or anyone to tell them what is going on.
Many England fans, who had paid plenty of money to visit South Africa, had to call friends at home to find out if referrals were to be upheld or reversed. That surely can't be right?
England certainly failed to get the rub of the green with the review system. They made seven challenges, every one was unsuccessful. South Africa had considerably more success.
Man of the match Graeme Swann looked as if he had got Morne Morkel lbw out before lunch on the second day.
But the TV umpire went against Steve Davis's ruling, with the aid of HawkEye that the ball would be going marginally over.
Swann's face was a picture as he kicked the turf in frustration. And on day three, Stuart Broad was controversially given out after the South Africans took over 30 seconds to refer the not out decision.
It seems as if the new system is here to stay but already player and crowd frustrations are there for all to see. We should be talking only about the high standard of cricket - instead we are reflecting on the negatives. That is why some people consider test cricket a dying form of the game.
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