Prior to England’s test series against South Africa, there was continued murmurs that the longer format of the game was becoming outdated and overtaken by the shorter versions with fans and television audiences.
The first match in Durban did not have the spark that was required to draw the crowds away from the likes of the Twenty20 tournament in Australia, the Big Bash, which is also being played over this winter period. However, the second test in Cape Town has certainly shown that there is still excitement and entertainment in the five-day form.
Audiences prefer shorter formats
Many critics against the longer format wonder how a game can last the best part of a week, but still end in a draw.
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While test matches do not have the explosiveness and party atmosphere as the limited-over forms do, like the Indian Premier League and Big Bash, the twists and turns that England’s clash with the Proteas in the South African capital produced shows there is still plenty to get excited about.
The opening two sessions of this test saw England ease into the game on a pitch which suited batsmen to a tee, but they lost wickets without getting too many runs on the board.
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That was until Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow walked to the crease, the former almost playing like he was running out of overs.
The pair only had a short amount of time at the end of day one, but the morning after saw a blazing show from the all-rounder and wicketkeeper duo.
Stokes was hitting the ball left, right and centre, as well as, into the stands and roof as he hit an impressive 258 off of just under 200 balls including 11 sixes, which on paper, looks like a limited-overs innings.
At the other end, Bairstow was the calmer and more collected performer, scoring at a slower rate but equally as remarkable as his teammate on his way to his maiden test century, and helping the Three Lions to 629-6 declared.
Sturdy and effective
In came South Africa, after hours in the field and seemingly a little tired and sluggish, but England did not account for the brilliance of Proteas captain Hashim Amla and a strong South African middle-order.
Two days later, and any advantage that the visitors thought they had gained from their first innings was diminished by a flurry of records and runs once again.
Amla became the first man to spend 11 or more hours at the crease in an innings on three separate occasions as he hit 201 while Temba Bavuma wrote his name in the history books as the first black South African to score a century in just his seventh match.
The Proteas declared just two runs short of England’s total, wanting to put them in to see if they could pick up wickets quickly.
Twists and turns everywhere
That is exactly what they did on the final day, as the away side stumbled to 116-6 needing Bairstow and spinner Moeen Ali to steady the ship and start playing a survival game.
At the start of the day, every player, coach and fan expected this match to come to a draw in its conclusion, but no-one could foresee the change in conditions and how quickly the wickets fell.
Although South Africa’s efforts turned out to be in vain as England clung on for a draw, with the help of some bad light and poor weather, the ups and downs across the five days kept spectators and viewers alike on the edge of their seats.
The shorter forms of cricket may have attracted bigger audiences due to their exciting, fast-paced nature, but the traditional version has had some of its pride restored during the England-South Africa second test match and has shown that it still plays a vital part in the sport.
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