We have just had a cracker of a match at Newlands in Cape Town where South Africa has beaten Australia by 8 wickets. It is this type of match that is the key to Test matches becoming popular in the future. Just as high scoring ODIs filled with fours and sixes rock the crowds, low scoring Tests are full of twists and turns, which keep the spectators guessing which way the match will end till the very end.
South Africa beat Australia by eight wickets in remarkable turnaround
While Vernon Philander was declared the man of the match, this was such a Test where you could have well declared the ''Performance of each Innings''.
In Australia's first innings, Michael Clarke's 176-ball 151 has to be one of the greatest batting performances. As wickets kept falling in a heap, Clarke showed the resilience of past Aussie captains to steer his team to a competitive 284.
After that, the cliche of fast bowlers hunting in pairs saw Shane Watson and Ryan Harris demolish the South Africans for 96. At that stage all the money was on Australia, but debutant Philander had other ideas. A brutal fiver saw the Aussies crash to 47 all down, unthinkable for the Baggy Greens just a few years ago. Just three quicks were used by South Africa and at one stage Australia were 21/9, staring at the lowest Test score ever.
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In the final innings, Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla restored some sanity to the proceedings with a downright brilliant partnership of 195 to take the match.
It is interesting to note that outside of the World Cup, South Africa very rarely chokes in any match as this Test has shown us, which is up there with the ODI where they chased a target of 435 to win the series against this very team.
''World is Flat'' killing Tests
The future of cricket lies with the ODI batsman and the Test bowler. But the ICC is following its ''World is Flat'' theory and making things tougher for the bowler and easier for the batsman. While this theory has reaped dividends in ODIs and T20s, it is killing off Tests.
When a batsman made a century against the West Indies mean fast bowlers of the 1960s and 1970s and the Aussie and Pakistani pacers much later on, he seemed more like a gladiator. Now of course, we have run machines, with the number of Test centuries and averages drastically going up.
So spoilt are the batsmen of today that despite the generally high scores, if there is a slightly unfavourable pitch or a new bowler who cannot be read, collapses follow.
Australia's 10 lowest Test match innings
South Africa's 236/2 at a run rate of 4.7 showed that there were not that many demons in the pitch and yet the previous two innings folded for 96 and 47. Even in the recently concluded India-West Indies Test, both teams were bowled out for 209 and 180 in the match.
Last month Sri Lanka was bowled out for 197 in an innings with Pakistan. A month before that Zimbabwe lost 10 wickets for 141 against the same opposition. In the beginning of the year, New Zealand was 110 all down with Pakistan yet again. Pakistan itself was all down below 180 twice in a match which it lost against West Indies in May.
Then of course there's India. Why did we get thrashed 0-4 with England? A fighting fit pace attack with hostile pitches could be the only simple answer.
Now for the bad news…
But this Test has also thrown up cricket's biggest contradiction. While the ICC, South African and Australian boards will applaud this Test loudly, secretly they will be tearing their hair and trying to ensure that such a performance is never ever repeated.
Why? Well, the match lasted a mere 2 odd days so can you imagine the amount of revenue lost in terms of ticket sales and TV ad revenue!
The ICC will also note the above batting collapses I have listed by each country and try to ensure that such performances are never repeated.
If the ICC had their way, none of this will happen in 2012!
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Money talks loudly. A boring draw which lasts for five days is any day better than an exciting all-time great Test match which is over in two odd days.
And we really think we can save Test cricket!
The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.
He blogs at http://sunilrajguru.com/