We don’t love it because every game is like that one, we love it because the odd one is. And how sweet they are.
New Zealand held on to salvage an unlikely draw against England in Christchurch and win their first home series against England in 34 years and just their fourth series against them at all. That’s four from 36.
The Fleet Street papers will malign the English for not being able to knock over the plucky Kiwis, but Kane Williamson’s team need to be praised for saving a near unsavable test.
In the day of swashbuckling, boundary-laden, risky cricket, few would have given the Black Caps much chance of holding on to a draw when they lost two batsmen off the first two balls of the day.
The Barmy Army hadn’t even warmed their lungs up with their daily rendition of Jerusalem and New Zealand were two down and fans were praying for bad light.
This side isn’t blessed with many of the stoic, dour batsmen it once was and most needed to curb their natural aggression – something easier said than done in a reactionary sport.
Ish Sodhi of the Black Caps during the final day of the Second International Cricket Test match, New Zealand vs England at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch Photo: Photosport
Ish Sodhi only found out he was playing a couple of days before and told post-match interviewers he was disappointed with how he bowled in a rare chance for the test side.
He more than made up for it with the bat. He batted 200 minutes – more than twice as long as England did in their first innings of the first test and longer than Black Cap batsmen Jeet Raval and Ross Taylor did in the entire series.
He was ably assisted by Neil Wagner who lasted until what turned out to be the last ball of the match. Colin de Grandhomme had also showed he had another gear in this test and his blazing style was kept, largely, at bay for 247 balls throughout both innings. But when he did have a brain explosion and fall to the most obvious of cricket traps, all hoped looked lost.
The hosts still had more than 30 overs to go, no recognised batsmen left, just three wickets in hand, an ill Tim Southee left in the hutch and a desperate England side to face on a day five wicket. Drama.
Sodhi and Wagner were then superb. They had some luck and the English relied too heavily on the short ball, but this was tough.
To the tune of the Barmy Army singing at full voice, with Cantabs making their excuses at work to sneak to the central city ground, Sodhi and Wagner battled.
Over by over they chipped away, but few dared believe.
De Grandhomme falling to the short ball had many – yours truly included – fuming and he would, or at least should, have been one of the first buying Sodhi a lemonade post game.
That will quickly be forgotten and this draw should be remembered for as superb an effort as the first test win.
In typically understated fashion, Williamson said it would have been nice to have a third test, but that will fall on deaf ears as test cricket doesn’t make as much money.
And while it’s clear the sport needs to be financially viable, you do have to wonder if at least some of the white-ball cricket couldn’t have made way for a third test.
Cricket fans need to make a stand about this. While the powers that be might say test cricket is important and try to find ways of jazzing it up to make it more appealing to the masses, not a lot is being done and one could be forgiven for thinking that cricket itself doesn’t care as much about test cricket as it does about money.
The purist, or anyone who enjoyed that five day battle and its thrilling finish, needs to speak up and tell the sport’s powerbrokers just how important test cricket is. And turn up!
Twenty20 is great and it has its place, but I can’t think of a T20 game that will have a third of the impact on my sporting memory as that game.
How good is test cricket!
Matt Richens has been a sports writer for 12 years. He once scored more in an inter-school game than Brendon McCullum did in the opposition. Richens still dines out on it, McCullum doesn’t remember.