Category: South Africa (page 1 of 37)

Who says Tests are supposed to last five days?

We’ve always been of the opinion that a Test can last up to five days and that if all of that allotted time is required, things haven’t really panned out correctly.

Others see it differently. We often see comments of the oeuvre ‘a Test is supposed to last five days’ in criticism of turning pitches, such as that being used for the third Test between India and South Africa. It seems to be one of the fundamental philosophical differences defining how you view low scoring games.

India were bowled out for 215 in their first innings. Not a great score, but within the bounds of normality to our eyes. Maybe it’s a generational thing with younger cricketer followers accustomed to 560-5 declarations seeing such a total as freakishly abnormal.

This pitch is certainly doing a lot, but without wishing to unnecessarily retread ground, let’s wait and see how the match develops before drawing conclusions on its quality.

We will ask one question, however. Which online scorecard most commands your attention – the one where you’re waiting to see whether someone’s made their double hundred yet, or the one where a bunch of wickets is liable to have fallen?

Is a turning pitch a bad pitch?

In our book, all pitches are acceptable unless they result in boring cricket. For what it’s worth, our book is entitled The Book of Unarguable Facts.

Some dude in Mohali has curated a cracker (curators curate, yes?) for the first Test between India and South Africa. Flat on a seamer’s length and scuffed to buggery on a spinner’s length it delivers exactly what a Test pitch should – a tough challenge for the touring side.

Dean Elgar wasn’t happy with it, even though he took four wickets on the first day. “I don’t think it’s a very good cricket wicket,” he said. “It is my personal opinion. It is a result wicket.”

Interesting that Elgar equates result wickets with not-very-good wickets – for what are cricket matches about if not attaining a result? It seems the myth of the ‘good’ cricket pitch still persists.

There’s a common belief that green pitches are fair because they subsequently flatten out, while turning pitches are unfair because they deteriorate further. But is this the case? We need only review a week’s worth of Test history to find at least two examples where it hasn’t really worked out like that.

The first, second and third innings of the third Test between Pakistan and England featured escalating scores, while India are now 125-2 in their second innings, which hardly implies a making-a-mockery-of-our-noble-sport minefield.

Play on turning pitches, play on greentops, play on pock-marked concrete if you want – but only judge the quality of the pitch at the match’s conclusion.

Hat-tricks are handy

This and other insights in our latest piece for the Mumbai Mirror which is about the South African team, why it’s good and why it’s bad.

For all that the Saffers have some great batsmen and a strong pace attack, there’s also another version of the side that’s fragile with the bat and wins games with spin. We should probably have mentioned the lack of a lower-order fast-medium all-rounder as well being as we were in the business of picking apart stereotypes.

Pakistan, AB de Villiers, wickets and jeopardy

Cricket needs jeopardy. Jeopardy makes things exciting.

You have jeopardy in a tournament – the chance of being knocked out – and lo, the match is exciting. Something is riding on it. Tension’s good.

You have jeopardy in an innings – the chance of being bowled out – and you get the same benefits.

It’s a pretty basic rule. It’s the difference between having the action play out on this bridge and having it play out on this bridge.

Cricket is always best when wickets win a match. Test cricket is about taking 20 wickets and Test cricket’s best – but one-day cricket can also have its moments. That sense of jeopardy adds a whole extra dimension to proceedings, as we saw today.

Even AB de Villiers couldn’t save South Africa. His team again proved that other than he and Amla, they’re something of a fairweather batting side. For their part, Pakistan again proved that having two bowling attacks banned and another one injured need be no barrier to success.

But if Pakistan were the real winners, that oh-so-out-of-form side ‘cricket’ also earned a rare victory. Twenty20 is too short for wickets to be of any real concern. Surely here was proof that 50-over cricket’s niche is as a form of the game where they are at least meaningful?

How bad can a fifth bowler be?

This appears to be South Africa’s thinking after picking only four proper bowlers. It should present a vulnerability, but when you then make 408, you find you have a certain amount of breathing space – perhaps even enough that you could field Jade Dernbach and still harbour reasonable hopes of victory.

AB de Villiers’ 66-ball 162 is only the latest ‘whaaat?’ innings of this World Cup. They’ve all been striking efforts, but we suspect the novelty will wear off. A lot of matches seem to be less about how many a team can score and more about to what extent they can cash in.

It’s not the same thing. The computer game analogy is being used a lot of late but it’s apposite here. This World Cup is being played on ‘novice’ with teams looking to hit ever more humungous scores. It’s not a true challenge. It’s just doing as much damage as possible when the going’s easy.

We’ve not had too many close contests in the tournament and a lot of games have been all but decided when one team has ‘gone big’. It almost seems to be the case that if a batsman gets going in the last 10 overs, there’s nothing that can be done and the match is basically over.

Hopefully we’ll get some matches where both sides cash in and we can have a little bit of tension for once. While big innings are a feature, competition is the bedrock on which sport is built.

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