India-Sri Lanka Match, Exhibit 1 In Test Cricket

After that awful, terrible, horrible 2nd Test between India and Sri Lanka, we saw loads of presumptive obituaries for Test cricket as a format. The biggest complaint — the pitch — became even more glaring when the groundsman said his job, basically, was to deliver five days of Test cricket, not compelling Test cricket.

Well, we’ve just witnessed a great Test match. Read Samir Chopra to see just how good it was. But I haven’t yet seen just yet any announcements of the re-birth of Test cricket. So, in that spirit, let me review what made this game so unbelievably great, and why it could only happen in the length, time and quirks that Test cricket requires. I’ll do this quickly:

Day 1, Sri Lanka bats promisingly, but there are hints this pitch will suffer as the match goes on. Day 2, India looks in trouble after 300 runs, but then, relies on the unlikely pair of Mithun/Mishra to guide them to parity (in no other format would these two matter as much for their batting prowess as in Test cricket). So, India, slightly ahead, suddenly turns the game decidedly in their favor Day 4, reducing Sri Lanka to 87/7 (just repeat that score again, because in the context of the series — 600 run totals and what not — that’s huge). But then, in the next session alone, Sri Lanka turned the game again, scoring a lead of 200+ runs, thanks in large part to a man known chiefly for his unorthodox spin.

Day 5: it could have gone either way. Had Dilshan taken Tendulkar at short leg, we would have had a much closer contest, and possibly even another result. Test cricket in a nutshell: plot twists, individual struggles and rivalries, a larger team effort. Brilliant stuff. Long live.

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