These articles focussed on the difficulties of ensuring Test Match cricket remains relevant and attractive in the modern era of sports consumption and participation where the common theme appears to be less equals more (fan engagement, player participation).
It is with a glad heart then that the ICC’s strategy appears to be paying off with the 7th ever Day/Night test match, the second test in the 2017/18 Ashes Series, finely poised at the end of the fourth day after a series of momentum swings throughout the match so far.
The match has had everything you would want in a Test.
Australia, who were put into pat by England captain Joe Root, appeared to be fully in control after both sides’ first innings, having declared on 442-8 (something they may live to regret) before bowling out England for 227. Three caught and bowled wickets, including an outrageous effort from Nathan Lyons, suggested the Australian’s were moving in for the kill and determined to reclaim the Ashes Urn.
Australia crucially turned down the chance to enforce the follow on. In modern cricket enforcing the follow on is becoming less and less common with bowlers complaining of fatigue and teams more aware of injury than ever before. However, momentum can be everything in Test cricket, each session being vital, and with England on the ropes after the first innings and the chance to place a firm grip on the series, Steven Smith’s decision to rest his bowlers may be another he lives to regret.
By close of play on day three, England’s seam bowlers had found what has so far been missing down under, some swing and some zip, and took 4 wickets to leave Australia struggling at 53-4. The match finely balanced with two days to go.
The pink ball (red cannot be seen at night, and white clashes with the players clothing) continued to do the job for the England attack during today’s play with Australia collapsing to a lowly 138 all out, giving them a, still healthy, lead of 354. Jimmy Anderson, England’s record wicket taker, getting his first ever five wicket haul in Australia.
An England win will require them to achieve a record run chase, beating the 332 achieved against Australia during the Third Test in Melbourne in 1928. Indeed, should they be victorious it would be the tenth highest Test Match run chase of all time.
With England closing on 176-4, they require 178 more runs to win. The late loss of Dawid Malan was a blow but with Root still at the crease, a full day’s play on a flat wicket, no Australian reviews and Ali, Bairstow, Overton (the chance to be a hero on debut), Woakes and Broad still to bat, a famous victory remains possible.
Victory would also see a huge momentum swing in the series as a whole. From looking dead and buried after 2 days of the Second Test to squaring the series before the teams move West to the WACA would give the England team a huge boost.
Australia on the other hand will be hoping that a fully rested pace attack which has so far featured some truly frightening bowling from Pat Cummins in particular, will come out firing during the final day and take the six wickets they need to firmly place a hand on the Ashes Urn.
Momentum is everything.