Test cricket was at its very best at Christchurch today.
Over the years, Test series wins against top-rated sides have been few and far between for the Blackcaps. Although, they have beaten teams like West Indies, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan on a frequent basis in recent years, but success against the ‘big four’ (India, Australia, England and South Africa) has always eluded the Kiwis. In fact, prior to the 1-0 triumph over England on Tuesday (April 3), New Zealand’s last major series win in the five-day format, was way back in 2012, against India at home.
Hence, the late-order heroics by Ish Sodhi and Co. on Day Five of the Christchurch Test is even more special. It has not only secured New Zealand their first-ever series victory over England since 1999 as well as the first one at home against them since 1983-84, this success is also expected to provide a much-needed reinforcement to the decreasing popularity of red-ball cricket in the country.
What a bloody great result @BLACKCAPS! Massive fight to achieve something truly special as a TEAM. These performances and the way our boys carry themselves as people, makes it easy to love them and support them. Enjoy the fruits of your labour gents!
— Brendon McCullum (@Bazmccullum) April 3, 2018
A young cricket fan in New Zealand who has followed this particular series closely, is bound to fall in love with the purest form of the game. Whether it was the spells Trent Boult and Tim Southee bowled in Auckland or the hundreds by Kane Williamson and Henry Nicholls in the same game or the performance of Stuart Broad and James Anderson throughout or the nail-biting match-saving effort by Sodhi, Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner in Christchurch — the series had enough drama to keep the fans interested and entertained. It has been a perfect advertisement for Test cricket.
— Cricbuzz (@cricbuzz) April 3, 2018
In one of his previous pieces for CricketSoccer, the author has explained that hosting Test matches in New Zealand is not a profitable venture for the New Zealand Cricket (NZC). That’s why the board earlier this summer, decided to scrap one Test against West Indies and now, against England there were only two games.
Such a shame!
It is pity that this series does not have the third match. Both skippers raised this issue in the post-match press conference.
“I thought this was a great advert for test cricket, these five days,” England’s Joe Root said. “Coming down to this morning and every result was possible and obviously at the end there, that made for great viewing.
“It’s a shame [there is no third Test], but that’s the way it is.”
Whereas Williamson rightly mentioned that four Test matches in a home season, is certainly not enough for his team.
“Test cricket is my favourite format,” New Zealand skipper said in his post-match presser. “I’ve always said that, would be nice to have a few more but definitely been four goodies and hope we have a few more next year.”
Well, as of now, I don’t think Williamson’s wish will be fulfilled next year.
According to the Future Tour Programme (FTP) of ICC, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh will tour New Zealand in next home season and there will be only five Test matches — the Lankans will play two and Bangladesh three. India, the more fancied team, will not play a single Test. Instead, they will play five One-Day Internationals and five T20Is and one can not blame NZC for that. At this point in time, they need to generate revenue and unfortunately, it can not be done by hosting Test matches.
Hence, Test cricket will continue to suffer in New Zealand.
Lately, a lot of innovative measures have been put into practice to attract the fans towards red-ball cricket. We have seen day-night Test matches, using pink balls. We have also witnessed the first ever four-day Test in December last year. The idea is to make Test cricket more viewer-friendly.
Well, it is such an unfortunate scenario that when the ICC is prioritising on preserving the purest format, one of its full-members can not host enough Test matches at home due to financial reasons.
As an admirer of the game, we can only hope that this closely-fought series against England will encourage other top Test teams in the world to play against the Kiwis on a more frequent basis.