New Zealand v Pakistan, 1st Test, Dunedin, 5th day November 28, 2009

Test cricket at its finest

Just for the high quality of consistent fast bowling throughout the match, the Dunedin Test needs to be celebrated

Sheer pace? Shane Bond. Wily craft? Mohammad Asif. Swing and reverse-swing? Mohammad Aamer. Persistence? Chris Martin and Umar Gul. Coming back and seizing the moment? Iain O'Brien.

Just for the high quality of consistent fast bowling throughout the match, the Dunedin Test needs to be celebrated. Add to that the match itself ebbed and flowed so beautifully that almost every session had a story to tell, and even in the last session either team could win, and there was an outside chance of a draw too.

And the relief at watching Bond and Asif in their national whites, and realising that they still had it. That the Asif wrist still controlled what the ball did. That Bond could still bowl bouncers at 150kph, and yorkers, and quick legcutters.

And the joy of watching Umar Akmal's debut, rivalled - in a long, long time - only by Ajantha Mendis'. Also that his elder brother was with him for the majority of his first-innings century, and that he was the first person to congratulate him. That Umar changed his game completely in the second innings, when he had much more to be responsible for and much more to lose.

And that the first ball of the match was a swinging yorker from Aamer to clean Tim McIntosh up. And the same bowler reducing New Zealand to 0 for 2 in the second innings too. Also, the captain, coach, selector, major batsman, major bowler, all in one, rescued New Zealand from a rut again. Relentlessly good fast bowling is mine; pick your own story, and tell it. And the bottomline was that despite the rain, despite the bad light, the match was wide open in the final session.

This hasn't been a good year for Test cricket. Australia in South Africa couldn't replicate South Africa in Australia; Ashes were a good story because England regained them, but not many of the neutrals will remember them for sustained high-quality cricket; India played one tense Test in Napier, but the pitch there hardly tested the batsmen; and West Indies and Bangladesh played out a farce in the Caribbean. India didn't bother to play one for more than seven months, and when they finally did, they did so on flat roads. Sri Lanka in Pakistan is best forgotten.

And it's not just what happened or didn't happen in Tests. It's what happened outside the Tests that has been bad news for the format. The ICC talked of four-day Tests, and pink-ball Test cricket. A Test captain turned up for a series with his mind still back in the IPL, and openly talked about how - compared with Twenty20 - Test cricket is not where it's at. The crowds found more entertainment in the shorter formats, and in the modern consumer-driven world it was no surprise that questions were raised about Test cricket's survival.

For entertainment, though, don't look beyond Pakistan in Sri Lanka, with all the myriad collapses and sharp turns, but how those collapses came about still remains inexplicable. Younis Khan couldn't make any sense of them, Kumar Sangakkara smiled and accepted the gifts, and those who watched are yet to get over it.

In this Test, though, you could see the build-ups, the plans, the execution. And then the extraordinary knocks to foil those plans too. Bond v the Akmal brothers in the final session of the match was one such plan that came through. Four times in that spell he made the batsmen play and miss outside off, and twice he got edges that fell short of slips. Twice Kamran got close enough to those balls reversing away, and drove them for four. Then came the first ball to jag in, and got Umar. Game over. This, and other such plays, over a eight-over spell; no other format affords such sustained contests. Such plays need to be preserved. Such plays need to happen more often.

This was perhaps the Test of the year. Unlike the Cardiff Test, which came alive only on the final day and was played on a lifeless pitch, this one kept going back and forth throughout. The fragile batting line-ups on both sides gave the proceedings an edginess, a feeling that there was drama looming. It was played on a fair pitch, despite this being the first-ever November Test in Dunedin. The surface provided just enough help to the bowlers, there was no maddening seam movement, and batsmen got value for their shots too.

This was a reiteration that when played the right way Tests are superior to any other format. That such one-off matches come as reassurance for Tests cannot be good news. That these Tests come at all, given so many duds in the year, cannot be bad news.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hammad on November 29, 2009, 21:40 GMT

    you believe me or not... Pakistan is the only team which can make a match dramatic... and Pakistani team is needed for cricket... why I'm saying so... Few days back people said ODI's are no more a good format then Aus Vs Pak in Chmp. Trophey produced such match that people learned it value....Pak Vs NZ semi-final...Pak VS NZ last ODI of the T20 you all can witness urselves.. 1st world cup won all the match but lost the final.. second.. lost many but won the world test match in sri lanka was so strong in position but still lost :P and now NZ vs Pak again produced a perfect match... Cricket needs teams like Pakistan :) Sometimes like champs but sometimes like under-13.. but it how pakistan played world cup of 1992 also.. luv you Pakistan.. Proud to be a Pakistani Fan... We may have lost but still it was worth watching it...

  • giovaughn on November 29, 2009, 21:34 GMT

    this truly was a classic test match. this proves that test cricket can be exciting outside of the ashes if its played in the right spirit and conditions. however this requires co-operation & effective communication between everyone. from the fans & groundsmen to head of the respective cricket board. proper planningis key. all of this is absent all over the world especially in west indies cricket at the moment. that is why the WICB put a series in england when gayle bravo and co were to be playing in IPL. no wonder it was such a disaster & Gayle said what he said that is why the player strike and the big stand off between WICB and WIPA took place in the summer. that is why test cricket is considered boring & is losing fans & sponsors in India & Pakistan because nobody ensures that good pitches are made for matches bangladesh vs wi actually was not as boring as 1 would think as in both tests either team could have won upto the final day just bad publicity and stupidity by WICB

  • Asim on November 29, 2009, 9:59 GMT

    @putrevus and Duthu....We are not talking about the quality of batsmen here just discussing the quality of cricket passion with which it was played..India no doubt have world's best batsmen but in this match everyone was waiting for the result till the last wicket fell. Siddharth I liked your article and you have spoken my heart out here..India series has been very lazy one as India are far superior to the Srilanka...Although m a Pakistani fan but I love Bond's bowling.He has got all the thrills which a flamboyant palyer needs...Umar akmal is the best upcoming talent in world cricket alongwith Amir....Best of luck Pakistan...and we want such matches on regular basis...

  • Binod on November 29, 2009, 8:35 GMT

    This match has yet again proved that no other formats even come clozer when it'z about sheer quality of pure cricket. Yes, Test match is the Heart & Soul of Cricket and no life can imagined if Heart is missing. So, Test cricket is here to stay, entertain and of course teach. Long Life Test Cricket!

  • Hameed on November 29, 2009, 7:53 GMT

    Wow Wow Wow. What a test match no one is looser, Both NZ and Pakistan entertained the world. It was tense all 5 days. I did not know what will be the result with Aamir is te last batsman a 17 years old yet to learn fear and magistic Bond and greatest Captain of NZ as chrismatic as Imran Khan in the field, I believe he is the one of the best man in the world of Cricket. Gratest bowlers from both sides working their heart out to win the match. Gratest and heartiest congratulations to both Newzealnd and Pakistan you have won our hearts. What a drama was that

  • shang on November 29, 2009, 7:07 GMT

    it was nice to see Mr. Bond back to where he belongs and doing what he does best. i have to agree with duthu that the quality of the cricket was not up there with the best. save Taylor & yosuf, there were no established batsmen. Pak & NZ have 2 most fragile top orders among top cricketing nations. but the see-saw battle right from the first day made up for thet. i guess it is better than the team batting first ends the first day on 417/2 which means the match was effectively over.

  • Evan on November 29, 2009, 4:45 GMT

    Wow!! Five splendid days of test cricket,full of fascination,intrigue,tension and drama. This test had it all with determined performances by both sides on a fantastic pitch in Dunedin which offered all the bowlers over the 5 days just a little encouragement and insentive if they were prepared to bend their backs and offered the batsmen full value for shots with a quick outfield and generous 65 metre boundaries square and 60 metres straight.What an absolute delight to watch this sporting theatre unfold over 5 days with both sides counter thrusting and exploring any potential week spots in their opponents. This is what Test cricket needed just to remind everyone why this game is so special. To have all 3 results as a real possibilty going into the last session on the last day, with every Pakistani boundary critical and every wicket greeted with passion and delight by the New Zealanders. Lets hope the second test match at the Basin Reserve is just as compelling.....Can't Wait!!!

  • naveed on November 29, 2009, 3:47 GMT

    I was following this match uninterrupted on It definitely showed that the test match is the best cricket where you can witness true ability of a batsman and a bowler. Disappointed a bit that Pakistan lost but glad that the match had a great touch of rollercoaster. I just want to see Umar Akmal showing his batting class against Australia thrashing them all over the place with his skills, finesse and solidity and Shane Bond bundling Australians with pace. I hope they both succeed against Australians and bring honors for their countries. Wish both Unar Akmal and Shane Bond best of luck and believe me that everyone would be cheering for you two when you face hollow Australians who are best when facing mediocrity.

  • fazle on November 29, 2009, 3:16 GMT

    Mr Siddhart, you brought out the best things that came out in this test. Let the failures like batting collapses fade into the background. This test should be remembered for its stellar individual performances, edge-of-the-seat excitements, ups-and-down moments and finally your poetry in motion. Two things : expecting great things from Umar, and we want Misbah-ul Haq back in the test team urgenty.

  • Babish on November 29, 2009, 3:04 GMT

    Indeed this was a good test match and watching it along with other tests/ODIs in parallel there are a set of new/relatively new players who are there to stay for next 8-10 years, Adrian Barath,Umar Akmal,Masakadza,JP Duminy,Shakib Al Hasan,Ed Morgan,Ross Taylor and also with good fast bowlers back in action for every team test cricket will see better contests compared to last 1-2 years.

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