Why a run chase needs context and another reason why Tests are best

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Run chases are exciting. Why?

Some people think that run chases are exciting because there are fours and sixes, a target and an eventual victor. These people brought us one-day cricket in all its forms. These people just don’t get it.

Run chases are exciting because we care what happens.

Test cricket provides a plot

Twenty20 and 50-over cricket are basically ways of engineering a run chase without all that mucking about in the first innings. A run chase is guaranteed.

Unfortunately, there are no short cuts. It’s like a fight scene or a car chase in a bad action film. Shorn of context, it’s just stuff happening. Who gives a shit?

In a good film, the characters are introduced and a plot unfolds. You know why people want to achieve what they want to achieve and if done correctly, you should care whether they succeed or not.

Test cricket isn’t exactly like this, but there are similarities. The players are characters and over the long sessions, we get to know them. By having two innings a side, we also get to develop a narrative. It’s not scripted, but it’s all the more exciting for that.

Today, India chased down 216 and reached their target with one wicket to spare after 58.4 overs. Why was that better than chasing down the same total in a Twenty20 match for the loss of the same number of wickets?

There are about a million and one reasons. The main one is context.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. Bobby,
    Actually the ECB and the English must be gutted that India seem to be producing test after test of such caliber. Eden Gardens vs SA, the Colombo Test vs SL, The 387 chase at Chennai these just in the last 2 years. So eat your heart out!

  2. And yet with all these fantastic matches The Coder, the stands are still empty. Why is this?

  3. @Mark, Because it was played at Mohali. Similar to somethingshire in the middle of nowhere. The place doesnt get filled for IPL or even ODI matches. Watch the next match in Bangalore and have a look at the stands.

  4. @Mark, there were 15,000 spectators in today…not a full house, but a pretty good number considering Mohali is about an hour away from the city (Chandigarh).

    Also, TV ratings are always decent even for Test cricket in India. Not to mention radio commentary. So rest asured…even when the grounds appear empty, there are MILLIONS of Indians keenly following Test sagas.

  5. Someone brought down cricinfo. It wasn’t the elves. It most definitely wasn’t the english.

    India may not have enough test fans in one city. But it does have millions of them in the whole country.

  6. Mark…England sees its Test cricket at the grounds, India sees its on television. They’re just too many Indians to fit into a ground.

    Re the article, KC,

    When India squares up against Australia or Pakistan, the context is always there and the format matters little. In these ties, across formats, teams only want to win while hating to lose.

    Context is most important, I agree, but context is rarely segregated. In summers, a hot dusty wind blows across India called the Loo in Hindi – it spares nothing, no shelter, shade or nostril – context in Indo-Australian and Indo-Pak encounters is something like that…percolating, permeating all formats.

    I completely agree about the storytelling part of it. Maybe LOIs have a longer Foreword perhaps?

  7. The stands are empty because 1. people are actually employed in India unlike the UK, and 2. Indian stadium seating sucks, security to get in sucks, tickets are sold only for the entire match, and that not at the ground, and there is no beer or topless girls sunning. That so many people still turned up is a sign.

  8. Test is best, but I think it is slightly overstated to say 50-over cricket is ‘just stuff happening’. That great Lancastrian one-day side of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s had a real backstory – and subsequently every match (and final) was a spectacle because they were adjusting what was possible with the form of the game, dominating with bat and ball. The batsman-favouring changes have made the game a little predictable but I think ODI is getting really unfairly maligned. It should market itself as the ‘good value’ form of the game.

  9. soulberry –

    You will understand how much I laughed when you described the Loo sparing no-one’s nostrils.

    I’m sorry. I try to grow up and then I see things like that.

  10. KC. Occasionally I disagree with you. Often you are right. On this occasion you are right. Righter than my wife. righter than Enoch Powell.

  11. This test requires a tribute to Laxman, don’t you think? Anybody who can cause so much pain to so many Ozzies deserves a shrine – from an Englishman.

  12. I do hope the ground is full for the second test, and I think that it’s a crying shame that the series will only be contested over 2 matches. As I understand it, it wasn’t even due to be a test series, but was going to be 7 ODIs.

    Such a shame that there are so few proper Test match series with 4 or more matches these days, where a story can unfold properly.

  13. Mark,
    What are you talking about? Chennai was overflowing(60000*5 = 300000). Eden Gardens was overflowing(60000*5 = 300000). Cricket always attracts crowds in India. Even here in Mohali the final day figure was 16000. And this in Hockey City! The problem is Indian stadiums are huge compared to the puny 15k seaters in the Ingerlund. That is why it looks like it is empty. Rest assured. Bangalore will show a full house.

  14. @ The Coder

    You obviously have Loo in your eyes.
    The fact this test match turned out to be a cracker was more by luck than by design and had little to do with the Indian Cricket Administration and everything to do with the format of the game.

    Look no further than the scandalously flat pitches on Sri Lanka’s recent tour of India. Look at the total number of series runs scored against a scandalously low number of wickets lost.

    You clearly won’t accept this though so here are some stats; over the past 5 years 11 of 24 test matches in India have ended in bore draws. Compare this to England 11 in 35 (including some bloody exciting games saved), Australia, 2 in 27, Safrica, 3 in 29 & even Sri Lanka, 2 in 24.

    I don’t think I need to say much more.

  15. Test matches are indeed best, but as with all things, bestness comes with rarity. This test match was a real classic. If it was guaranteed that the next one would finish in the same way, it would be rubbish. Peaks are only peaks because they stand higher than the valleys.

    The trouble with the other forms of cricket is that the administrators haven’t worked out yet that you kill excitement by guaranteeing it. Part of what makes test cricket such a great thing is that at the start of every match no-one knows whether it will turn out to be Edgbaston 2005 or Colombo 2010 (sort of).

    And on the subject of pitches, well this last one was the perfect pitch, no? The very best pitches have to allow good batsmen to bat, while offering progressively more for the bowlers as the game goes on. Ideally each side should have the opportunity to post a score, and then be made to work hard at setting or chasing a target. At no point in this match did one side get an advantage from the state of the pitch.

  16. Cracking match.

    If they were able to make that exciting, just think how brilliant the 5 ODIs will be……

    …..have I missed the point?

  17. I always thought that the best reason for tests was that it took 5 one day internationals to figure out who the best team were. The former is open and free, the latter is contrived and closed: bit like Charlie Parker against Kenny G.

    I can’t believe I’ve just produced a jazz analogy…


    PS: I think that the point about test cricket in india is that the cricket authorities are obsessed with mac-cricket and seem uninterested in the far more intriguing but less packageable product. If Coder is right, then Indians are not the suckers that the cricket authorities think that they are. And that’s good.

    I expect we’ll have the tiresome ‘india v australia series is more important than the ashes’ debate in a bit. However, in case anyone is interest, the latter is actually more important.

  18. @Bobby,

    Here is a list of the past 10 Test matches in India.

    India Australia drawn Delhi Oct 29-Nov 2, 2008
    India Australia India 172 runs Nagpur Nov 6-10, 2008
    India England India 6 wickets Chennai Dec 11-15, 2008
    India England drawn Mohali Dec 19-23, 2008 Test
    India Sri Lanka drawn Ahmedabad Nov 16-20, 2009
    India Sri Lanka India inns & 144 runs Kanpur Nov 24-27, 2009
    India Sri Lanka India inns & 24 runs Mumbai (BS) Dec 2-6, 2009
    India South Africa South Africa inns & 6 runs Nagpur Feb 6-9, 2010
    India South Africa India inns & 57 runs Kolkata Feb 14-18, 2010
    India Australia India 1 wicket Mohali Oct 1-5, 2010

    70% results.

    3 of the best test matches in recent history(Chennai, Eden Gardens & Mohali). A Steyn masterclass in Nagpur, Sehwag 293 in Brabourne, Sreesanth’s reverse(fifer) vs SL, Dravid 177 in the same match.

    All this in the last 10 Tests(2 years).

    I’m sorry if I sound condescending, but you DO need to look around sometimes. There is a world outside.

  19. @Pat,
    You are right. What most Englishmen don’t understand is that the audience for Test cricket has only grown. But more people follow the IPL and these are the new ones. So by comparison, it seems like Tests are taking a backseat which is far from the truth.

    Also you’ll never see our traditional venues less than full(and most of the stadiums are 50K and above). This is where the Administrators have messed up a bit.Perhaps they want to bring Test cricket here(Hockey City) and grow it. Perhaps they’ll realise there are other ways.

    Also, don’t blame the Indian cricket administrators over much, they’ve done their job so well, that some people here in India hate cricket for destroying other sports.

    Are you kidding me? You want us to watch people shoot at circles when Laxman is waving the wand? 😀

  20. No doubt in my mind that far fewer tests in India these days are on “700 plays 650” pitches. And long may that improvement continue.

    Unfortunately, too many in Sri Lanka still are on either dead pitches or raging bunsens.

    It is partly down to the subcontinental terrain, of course, which needs real coaxing into becoming good test wickets. Which means that too some extent it is down to money.

    Money is relatively plentiful in the Indian game but not so much in the Sri Lankan game.

    The ICC should play a part here, spreading some of the dosh around where it really matters – i.e. to enable all test nations to provide good product.

    Sadly, the ICC as always is slow off the mark in protecting its crown jewels.

  21. “Unfortunately, too many in Sri Lanka still are on either dead pitches or raging bunsens. ”
    And what is wrong with a turning pitch?

  22. Absolutely nothing wrong with a turning pitch whatsoever. Slow turn is not much use though. You need a bit of pace and bounce to get the spinners properly excited.

    It would be great to see some properly testing pitches in Test cricket so we can see a real test of wit and wills.

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