Test cricket has been under pressure amid the growing popularity of lucrative T20 leagues around the world but the longest format could not have given itself a bigger boost with two thrilling finales to box office matches in Brisbane and Hyderabad on Sunday.
With T20 franchises potentially becoming players’ primary employers, and most boards finding Test cricket financially not viable, the format’s future remains a concern for the purists.
But they will have a spring in their step after West Indies stunned Australia in Brisbane and, hours later, England staged a stunning comeback against India in Hyderabad.
With all-rounders Jason Holder and Kyle Mayers opting to play franchise cricket instead, West Indies picked seven uncapped players for the two-Test series Down Under where they had last won a test in 1997.
World Test Championship winners Australia had prevailed in a little over two days in Adelaide and a series sweep at Brisbane looked a formality with the hosts a perfect 11-0 in day-night matches.
West Indies speedster Shamar Joseph had other ideas.
After taking a five-wicket haul in his debut Test in Adelaide the 24-year-old, bowling with a bruised toe, burst onto the scene as the game’s new star with his 7-68 in Brisbane to clinch a cliffhanger for his team.
The drama and the joy moved West Indies stalwarts Brian Lara and Carl Hooper to tears.
“Seeing @BrianLara in tears in the comm box tells you everything you need to know about Test cricket and what it means,” former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“T20 is great but it will never ever bring out this emotion,” he wrote in another post.
Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar said Joseph’s “remarkable spell” illustrated the “sheer grit and drama” that Test cricket could produce.
“This is the format that truly challenges and showcases a player’s mettle,” he said.
While it was a triumph for the underdog spirit in Brisbane, the outcome in Hyderabad was a victory for England’s fearless brand of cricket.
India had lost just three tests at home since 2013 and the home side looked set to open the five-match series with another win having taken a lead of 190, a figure which would usually have been decisive in such spin-friendly conditions.
However, Ollie Pope produced arguably the best knock by a visiting batter in India with an incredible 196 to overturn the deficit, while debutant spinner Tom Hartley claimed 7-63 to script one of England’s greatest away wins.
India coach Rahul Dravid took some comfort from the fact his team had been involved in such a positive advertisement for Test cricket.
“If you look at the bigger picture, you don’t have 25,000 people coming in each of the four days of a test match here,” he said.
“The cricket was played at a lovely pace. Both teams played the game without taking a backward step and kept pushing hard.
“It was a very good Test match to be part of.” – Reuters