Brian Viner: Cricketing blancmange may be fashionable but it can't match the taste of the Test game

The Last Word

Share
Related Topics

The Saturday of a Test match at Lord's, whoever the opposition, is of course one of the great days in the sporting calendar.

When Test cricket's top-ranked nation provides the opposition, and when the match brings to 2,000 the number of Test matches played since England and Australia inaugurated the whole glorious shebang in Melbourne in March 1877, the occasion becomes even more noteworthy.

Yet Test cricket's reluctant obituarists have been out in force these last few days, wondering what can be done to save the ultimate expression of the game and asking whether it will live to celebrate its 3,000th match. Given that more than a century passed before Pakistan and New Zealand contested the 1,000th Test, but less than 27 years before M S Dhoni's Indians arrived at Lord's for the 2,000th, there seems every chance that it will. All the same, and partly as a consequence of the proliferation of fixtures, dwindling crowds in Test match arenas everywhere but England – dwindling in some cases to the point where they can hardly be said even to constitute a crowd – tell a dispiriting story.

It's almost a relief that John Arlott is not around to hear it. Test cricket fed the great man most of his best lines of commentary, including his assessment of the tentative batting style of Australia's Ernie Toshack, one of the 1948 "Invincibles", that it evoked an old lady poking at a wasps' nest with her umbrella. Well, I wouldn't ever want to tempt comparison with Arlott on the imagery front, but it's not entirely fanciful to see the five-day game itself as that same old lady wandering haplessly and disorientated in front of the twin juggernauts of one-day cricket and, although it is bearing down less ominously than it once did, Twenty20. Without some quick thinking or uncharacteristically nimble movement, she will be flattened.

Bob Willis reached for the imagery too when I had lunch with him 10 days ago. Once of Warwickshire, England and the Hair Bear Bunch, now of Sky Sports and rather less extravagantly thatched, Willis likened the differences between Test and one-day cricket to those between chess and Ludo. A relatively low-scoring Test match unfolding over five days on a deteriorating pitch is one of the most intoxicating contests sport can offer, he rightly asserted, and cricket's administrators and marketing strategists must do all they can, which means a good deal more than they are currently doing, to preserve it.

I asked him what Twenty20 amounts to, alongside the chess and the Ludo. Tiddlywinks, perhaps. Willis thought, and then in his splendidly deliberate way, said: "Well, tiddlywinks is probably a very skilful game. Twenty20 is probably quite skilful as well, but I'm not sure it should be an international game. But it is, and [removing the international dimension] is like giving a kid something then trying to take it off them. I follow cricket avidly but I can't get excited by the Indian Premier League. That blancmange doesn't grab me at all."

I don't know what Arlott would have made of the image of being grabbed, or not grabbed, by a blancmange. But of the sentiment behind it, I'm sure he would have approved.

Don't bet against our correspondents picking the winners

Scrutinising The Independent's sports pages can be seriously good for your wallet. On the morning of the Epsom Derby last month, my colleague Chris McGrath, our racing correspondent, not only tipped Pour Moi to win, but the 25-1 shot Treasure Beach to come second and the favourite Carlton House third. The odds against that happening were later calculated at 707-1.

Then, in this newspaper on the eve of the Open Championship, our golf correspondent James Corrigan recommended an each-way flutter on the veteran Ulsterman Darren Clarke. Available with some bookmakers at 200-1, big Darren's worst price was 125-1.

That is impressive tipstering, by any standards, and of course shows that Messrs McGrath and Corrigan really know their stuff. And if they hadn't been so busy at their keyboards, they might even have got round to supporting their wonderfully astute tips with actual bets. For the record, and both men should look away now, £10 on McGrath's triple followed by an each-way tenner backing Corrigan's hunch would have netted just short of 10 grand.

Let the fun and Games begin

There was something ineffably British about the disruption to the parliamentary quizzing of James and Rupert Murdoch on Tuesday. In certain other countries, the invader who managed to dodge security would have toted a gun, or a knife, or a bag of explosives. And in not a few further countries, it has to be said, there would have been no breach of security at all. But what do we get? A joker with a plateful of shaving foam.

I couldn't help thinking, as I watched the foam flying, of something I wrote in this column earlier this year, after I had spoken to a policeman pal of mine about the security operation at next year's Olympics. At the sailing venue of Weymouth, he told me, the concerns are less about al-Qaida and a motorboat packed with Semtex, and more about the lone Fathers 4 Justice campaigner in a pedalo, dressed as Batman. After Tuesday, I'd say they should crank up the concern from substantial to severe.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager

£35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer - Java

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning digital publishing solution...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Fighting Ebola: When I'm home, I'll be able to touch people again - it's something you miss here

Catherine Mahony
 

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: Calling black people 'coloured' removes part of their humanity

Yemisi Adegoke
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness