Well, what an exiting series we have just witnessed. Australia and Pakistan have really served up some of the more exiting test cricket seen in a long while. In an era of endless and pointless cricket series, this two-match series on English soil promised to be as useful as being named Pakistan captain. However, a great dose of new talent, and some excellent, encouraging pitches, this drawn series was just great.
Other than the fact that the ICC should be roundly criticised for continuing to schedule two or four match test series, which inevitably provide little excitement due to teams not being able to play off for the series win, this series will remembered as an increasingly rare moment of joy for test cricket. The last few years, other than the South African tour of Australia two summers ago, have provided very little for the game. In fact, much has been negative, with leading players openly suggesting that they’d rather be playing T20, and the ICC seeming to agree, evidenced by the fact that Kumar Sangakarra and his country played their first test in eight months the other day. But, as I mentioned, a mixture of new and fresh players, and some great competitive pitches provided a fantastic spectacle.
First things first, how exciting to see new talent absolutely loving and thriving in the test environment. Much will be written and said about Mohammed Amir in the years to come, but to catch sight of him at this early stage is just magnificent. His pace, ability to swing the ball, and most importantly his desire are just first class. Also on the Pakistan side it was thrilling to see the continuation of Mohammed Asif’s good form, and the emergence of some good new batting talents, particularly Umar Amin. I guess the other new element was Salman Butt, who obviously must receive plaudits for the win, but I thought was a little too timid in his field placements.
For the Australian’s the new talent was certainly Steve Smith, and the keeper Tim Paine. Australia is certainly not a country that likes blooding new talent much, but the inclusion of these two (Paine admittedly for an injured Brad Haddin) was good to see. Paine looks a fine cricketer, and will certainly be the next in line when Haddin hangs up the gloves. Smith is an interesting case. A couple of years ago in India, Australia tried to play Cameron White in a similar role, but although his batting was strong, his bowling just couldn’t stand up to what was required. The problem for the selectors is that other than when they play in England, Australia is unlikely to get as much impetus from their quicks, without those pace-friendly conditions. As such, the pressure on the spinner to perform is much more intense. Smith, as yet, does not show enough in his bowling to suggest that he can shoulder this pressure in the short term, but perhaps some regular sessions with Shane Warne in the nets, and the continuing improvement of his devastating batting will see him as a shining light in the future.
Finally, I must mention the pitches. How fantastic to see test match pitches that provide a real fighting chance for bowlers. It is perfectly fine for T20 and ODI pitches to batting friendly, as teams only have a certain amount of overs to score, and thus the pressure of time results in more parity for the bowlers. However, in test cricket slow low pitches are a death knell. Teams, like Sri Lanka against India in Galle last week, can simply grind their way to an invincible position, no matter how boring the spectacle may be. Test crickets need to be feisty, and must offer encouragement for bowlers.
All in all, a great series, and subsequent series for Australia in India, and for Pakistan against England should provide more excitement, and the chance to see these young guns of test cricket strut their stuff.
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