Looking at life... from an oblique angle / and I sometimes Twitter (normally only when riled up): @brindafella

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Explaining elite-level Cricket

I accept that many who read this blog are as interested in Cricket as I am in Ice Hockey. [Oops! That comment's not very likely to appeal to many of the ones I was relying on!] Therefore, I'm framing this in terms that will, hopefully, mean something to this audience.

Anyway, let me try to give you a feel for the excitement of a game that goes for 5 days. Yes, 5... days... of match play!

The 5 day version of cricket is a left-over of the 6 day version, in which typically an extra, rest day could be inserted after the fourth day of play. So, it was (or could be) a 7 day game! ["6... or 7! Who would be bothered," is all I hear fom North America. This from the continent where a football game can have breaks inserted because the TV station needs an ad-break!]

Anyway... First Class cricket matches have two innings per side. I'll discuss for a while the current Test matches in England, between the teams for England and Australia.

1st Test (score card) - An Australian win, but not overwhelmingly; more an England collapse.

The 2nd Test match (score card) was won in the final few minutes of the 5th day when the final two batsmen for Australia (who were actually specialist bowlers) were subjected to an onslaught of top-flight bowling from the lead attack bowlers for England. With three balls remaining to send down, a 'stray' ball nicked the hand of an Australian batsman, and it was caught, sending the Australian team 'away' with only two runs before they would have won the match! A 'knife-edge' where either side could have won, or the game could have ended with the score 'tied', or neither side winning for a 'draw'. It was SO CLOSE!

The 3rd Test (scor card) has ended a day ago. England got a massive score, then bowled Australia out for a modest score. Australian bowlers then hacked the England batsmen, and the side 'declared' its innings (stopped its play before all the batsmen had played) late on day 4 in order to have enough time remaining to attack the Australian side and win decisively. The tactic back-fired, because (1) the Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, got a very high score of 156 that 'saved' the match from being a 'white-wash', and (2) the Australian tail-end batters (Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath, the designated attack bowlers, and they are "not a batsman's bootlace") 'dug-in' and simply did not allow themselves to be bowled 'out' by he end of play on the 5th day. They were hit by the ball on the body, arms and legs. They just accepted the body-blows. It was a marvelous example of playing to stifle the other side's attack. And, they ended just 52 runs short of victory, anyway. So, the game ended as a 'draw', but the display of batting by the designated bowlers was a real psychological snub to their bowler counterparts on the opposing side.

Here is another statistic: The Australians also created a record... even by not winning. "Glenn McGrath's [time batting] with Brett Lee at the end of Australia's second innings in the third Ashes Test at Old Trafford has made him the greatest run scorer at [the batting last position] number 11. His five runs took him to 555 runs in the position..."

That's one match each, and a draw. Two more tests to play.

What does this kind of a 'draw' mean? Well, it's a game when neither side gets any 'points' towards the season of games. Neither side wins, but it can be a tactical move in a season of games. What if your season would otherwise have been 2-1 with your side 'down'? With a hard-fought draw, it's now 1-1, still, with two to play. That's a much better set of odds. Even if the remainder of the games are a draw, too, the holder of the trophy (and, that was Australia the last time around...) keeps it.

In ice hockey terms, if I can get this almost straight, let's say that the designated goal keeper has been side-lined and a team-mate is kitted up. Somehow, this stand-in keeps out a blizzard of attacks and the game is tied. Who wins? That player's team, psychologically, because of the advantage of the other side not succeeding when they ought to have got past the goalkeeper's "dumb luck". Next time, this player's team will have a strong desire to "show them" that it was not just luck.


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