Anna Baumgartner - Tages-Anzeiger, Wednesday, 31.07.2019
The following article written by Anna Baumgartner about the resurgence of Test Cricket appeared in the TagesAnzeiger on Wednesday 31st July 2019 and has been translated into English below by our editorial team at CricketSwitzerland.ch.
Read the original article (in German) on the Tages Anzeiger E-paper.
Cricket The legendary "Ashes" series between England and Australia does not appear to fit in our world any more. But it is successful - so successful that now the World Association is promoting the long format again.
Everything has to be predictable. In tennis the shot clock was introduced, among other things, to control the playing time. In mountain bike or triathlon, new and shorter disciplines are being sought in order to win the attention of the ever-shrinking concentration span of the public. Even in baseball, one of the most tedious sports ever, is challenged to get the sometimes sprawling playing time under control.
And then there is the Ashes, the traditional cricket series between England and Australia.
The games stretches for days, interrupted by breaks for lunch and afternoon tea. The players wear long, white trousers, sometimes a knitted sweater. The referees have a sunhat with a big brim. It is a game that nobody knows when it's finished. First, one team scores points, then the other. Then the same again. And eventually someone won.
«The Ashes» - it is a duel that seems to be completely out of date. But when England and Australia meet every eighteen months, this is the battle for the most prestigious title in cricket, a continuation of one of the oldest rivalry in the sport and an event that still lures hundreds of thousands into stadiums and millions in front of the television.
The gruesome story
But a good banner needs a good story. The "Ashes" begins in August 1882. In a test match at the London Oval, Australia and England met. The English had never lost at home, and this match was also going their way, but only in the beginning. Australia fought back and defeated the English in one of the closest deciders in cricket. The Oval was deadly quiet. The next day, the "Sporting Times" printed an obituary notice: "In loving memory of the English cricket," it said. "Rest in peace. The body has been burned and transferred to Australia.”
The revenge was not long in coming, and because the media even then insisted on catchy titles, it was declared a "mission to recapture the ashes". England won. The ashes came home. And the series had begun. Since then, 5 duels have been draws, 33 have been won by Australia, 31 by England. And now there is also a trophy: an urn - so small that it threatens to disappear in the hands of the victors every time.
Rivalry & rancor
137 years is a long time, time enough to create some serious rivalry. Little wonder, then, that the clash between the two teams can be a pretty nasty one. Despite the fact that cricket is still regarded as a gentleman's sport. In addition to the location, the players are no different. When the game starts, you hear the Australian Michael Clarke whisper to Englishman James Anderson: "Get ready for a broken arm."
Also this year, ugliness is programmed. Even before tomorrow's start of the 71st edition, the English have cast an eye on three Australians: Cameron Bancroft, David Warner and Steve Smith play together again for the first time since they were involved in last year’s scandal. In a friendly match in South Africa they had manipulated the ball with sandpaper.
Soothing reduction of pace
But it is not just the history, the rivalry and the great tradition that make the Ashes a spectator spectacle. In a world where you can buy groceries standing next to your fridge, the five-day games also bring a soothing reduction in pace. Time moves forward as slow as the game progresses. And even if you miss an hour, you can easily pick up the action.
Although there are now several shorter game variants, "Test Cricket" is still the supreme discipline. Only twelve countries worldwide have the license to play such games. That's why this anachronism still has its place in the sports world, which is mostly driven by television contracts. During the last edition of the «Ashes» 2017, around 850,000 people sat in the stadiums during the five games. And in Australia, where the games can be seen on free TV, they attracted 15 million viewers.
That the long version still works has not gone unnoticed by the cricket World Federation. The "Ashes" series 2019 is therefore also considered the first encounter of a new World Cup. In addition to England and Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, the West Indies, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also participating in the World Test Championship. Each team plays a series of matches against six teams. Each encounter will be a series of two to five Tests. From these results a table with a complicated points tally is created. The team that has the most points at the end will be Test World Champion. Who is going to lift the trophy won’t be decided for another two years.
Cricket - the basics
The Ashes will be played in five games. Each game consists of two innings per team. An innings is over when the fielding team succeeds in eliminating ten opponent's batsmen. The batsman are out if the wicket set up behind him is broken or if an opposing player catches the ball he has hit directly in the air. The aim of the batting team is to collect as many points as possible. If the bat has hit the ball, he and his colleague run back and forth in the centre of the field until the ball is returned. Each run gives a point. If the ball is knocked over the field boundary, 6 points are scored. If it reaches (or skips) along the ground, 4 points are scored.