Tests still command attention

Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is seldom that Test cricket receives as good an advertisement as it has been given at The Oval these last four days. Whatever the result, it has been a superb game of cricket with the advantage fluctuating in the most thrilling way. It was wonderful, too, that it has been played out in front a full house for the first four days.

It is seldom that Test cricket receives as good an advertisement as it has been given at The Oval these last four days. Whatever the result, it has been a superb game of cricket with the advantage fluctuating in the most thrilling way. It was wonderful, too, that it has been played out in front a full house for the first four days.

By the end of the fourth day the moments of incompetence which fluctuated as dramatically as the advantage - and were indeed infectious, for South Africa were at times as guilty as England - had been forgotten. Herschelle Gibbs and Gary Kirsten on the first day, Shaun Pollock's batting on the second, that of Marcus Trescothick and Graham Thorpe on the third, Freddie Flintoff's Herculean hitting, Steve Harmison's display with both bat and ball and Martin Bicknell's bowling on the fourth, were all magnificent.

When a Test match like this comes along, and we must not forget that those on "interesting" pitches at Trent Bridge and Headingley were not all that far behind, this form of the game is happily revealed as the true test of a cricketer's worth, both technically and temperamentally. The two-innings game offers so many more rich opportunities for drama and fluctuation.

A game like this that keeps everyone involved, at the ground or on television and radio at home or wherever, as it fluctuates this way and that, has no equal in the entire sporting spectrum. There were times during the last two decades when those clever wallahs who run television networks or are involved in buying the rights at colossal expense, confidently forecast that Test cricket would be dead and buried by the turn of the century.

What great crystal ball-gazers they have proved to be. We have seen at The Oval that Test cricket is flourishing - in this country at any rate. It is good to hear that those in charge of The Oval have had the confidence to confirm plans to build a huge new stand at the Vauxhall end of the ground, which is now rather a higgledy-piggledy mixture of stands, terraces and hospitality suites.

This new structure will be up and running for the 2005 season and will increase the capacity at The Oval from 18,500 to more than 23,000. It is ironic that while such excellent progress is being made in this way, the likelihood is that revenue from television rights may soon decrease while a major fund-raiser in Vodafone, who sponsor the England team, will soon be asked to renegotiate their contract which has two years to run.

But if cricket of the quality we have seen in this match continues to be served up, one has little doubt that the public will continue to vote with their feet and the knobs on their radio and television sets.

Comments