As former England captain Alec Stewart said this week: “If Twenty20 is fast food, Test cricket is Michelin-star dining”. I’m with him. Twenty20 gives me indigestion. Test Cricket leaves me licking my lips, and no player has whet my appetite in recent years more than Ricky Ponting.
Regardless of the yuletide menu in your household, this Christmas Ricky Ponting risked becoming the turkey and being told to get stuffed. The master craftsman has served up haute cuisine for the best part of two decades. And I’ve devoured his prime cuts. Feasted on his wagon wheel.
But the second-highest run scorer in the history of Test cricket needed to call stumps while we were still chewing on his greatness rather than trying to remove his gristle from between our teeth.
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Like a delirious marathoner on wobbly legs, South Africa has staggered to the finish line. They clung on with two measly wickets to spare, and Australia will be gutted tonight. They shouldn’t be.
Australia and South Africa both played their part in a drawn match which was a win for the game of Test cricket. A Test draw like we saw today is a beautiful thing. A frustrating, often boring, hair-tearingly exasperating thing, but a beautiful thing nonetheless.
From the batting perspective, a draw brings out everything that the modern cricketer is programmed not to do. Look at Dave Warner on day one blasting 119 off 112 balls. Then look at AB de Villiers scoring 33 of 220 yesterday and today. Even the seagulls were entitled to fall asleep.
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As a lapsed Catholic from an Italian family, I had a lot of surplus devotion that I needed to funnel into some other ancient institution. Test Cricket was that institution. Test Cricket is my religion.
Ironically, it was my super-devout Nonna (Grandma) who got me into Test cricket. She speaks in broken English but can still argue a convincing case for only taking one spinner to the SCG. I remember Sundays sitting in her lounge room as a kid, watching the Test with the morning mass still ringing in my ears. It’s no surprise that I’ve conflated the two.
For a kid, hearing Richie Benaud say “Seam bolt upright” is just as confusing as a priest saying something like “And lo, he did beget a son”. But as long as you speak with authority, you’ve got a shot at indoctrinating a kid. And if anything was going to challenge the authority of the pulpit, it was the TV.
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