As the soap opera called the IPL meanders towards a conclusion not too many people care for, a couple of interesting test series seem to be unfolding. Well, interesting because there is at least some test cricket happening. And interesting because of the way the tests seem to be panning out. Two contrasting match-ups, one evenly matched no-contest and the other turning out to be a surprisingly matched slug fest.
I suppose it takes an IPL to make an England-New Zealand series seem exciting. A journey man team against a workmanlike team (take your pick on which team is which). A contest (such as it is) between two teams more likely to hope against defeat than bet on winning. And if the weather came to the rescue of both the teams at Lord’s, there was no such respite at Old Trafford, as the match ended in England’s favour on the last day. But thanks to the general ineptness of both teams as collective entities, it turned out to be a fairly even battle. The match card suggests England won, so it must be so. Does that mean they have turned the corner? Are they ready for the next season’s Ashes? Well, Andrew McGlashan hits the nail in the head when he suggests that England mustn’t hide behind victory.
A similar sentiment is not unlikely to prevail in Australia. They embarked on the Caribbean tour thinking all they need to do was to land up at the appointed time to wrap up the series in a clean sweep. Well, how else would you explain the selection of Simon Katich and Stuart McGill? Any way, an overnight Aussie card of 18 for 4 was as chilling as it was delicious to savour. Unfortunately, Andrew Symonds bludgeoned his way to a bit, and with a fairly healthy first innings lead to build on, the Aussies have almost (as I write this) got to the finish line first. Are the cracks beginning to show? Is the opening pair (even after Mathew Hayden’s return) suspect? Notwithstanding the presence of such he-men as Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey and Symonds, is their middle order just a touch soft? Do opposition teams just need to see off Brett Lee and Stuart Clark and feast on the rest of the Aussie bowling? Or is this just a glitch in the Aussie juggernaut? Will they wipe England out again next year?
Ah, test cricket. Where were you all these days?