Pitches March 2, 2009

The good draw and the bad draw

I have a simple rule to judge a good Test: it must carry the possibility of a result till lunch on the last day

Is it just a coincidence or are we entering the dark ages for bowlers? High scores are spreading like a rash. For the first time in the history of Test cricket two scores of 700 have come in consecutive weeks. There had never been a Test featuring scores above 600 and 700, we have now have two in successive weeks.

And who knows where the Lahore Test is headed? I am filled with such dread that I'm not even switching on the TV. Thanks heavens the epidemic hasn't reached Johannesburg yet. Now that's what you call a Test.

Thanks for your thoughts on my earlier posts. We haven't posted only those comments that were offensive: everyone has the right to disagree but not to abuse. And, with hindsight, I can now see why my sentiments about the Karachi pitch might have seemed a bit extreme. My feelings were a bit raw then because after a point every run scored felt like an assault on the senses and a betrayal of Pakistani fans who had waited for Test cricket for so long. But now numbness is taking over.

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague the day after I wrote the piece. He didn't mind the Karachi Test as much. The appeal of Test cricket, he argued, was partly that it encompassed the entire range, from two-day shootouts to two-innings batathons, and in fact, the high-scoring draws helped us better appreciate and cherish the beautiful ones. He had a point, but cricket needs to worry when such pitches become the norm.

I'd like to clarify that I have nothing against a draw. Far from it, in fact. Most other sports have found a way to break the stalemate - tie-breakers and shootouts - but the stalemate enhances the allure of cricket. And draws can be absorbing, thrilling and fulfilling. A thrilling draw - like the one in Antigua, where Darren Powell and Fidel Edwards batted out thirty minutes to save West Indies - inevitably lasts the distance. And the second best Test of the 2005 Ashes series, one of the greatest in history, was the draw at Old Trafford.

A good draw doesn't necessarily have to keep one on the very edge. I have a simple rule to judge a good Test: it must carry the possibility of a result till lunch on the last day. As Waqar Younis pointed out, they might well have abandoned the Karachi Test on the fourth evening. That's not good enough.

But enough about what drives us to boredom. Let's move on to something bit more exciting next time.

Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfo

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