It’s time to end the farce of two-match Test series, says AOC columnist David Green.
“Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Johnny Rotten provocatively asked the audience as what turned out to be the last Sex Pistols gig at the Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco came to an abrupt end in January 1978.
If Rotten – now John Lydon – was a fan of Test cricket (and given he has eagerly partaken in advertisements for something as quintessentially English as Country Life butter, who knows?) he could also be forgiven for making the same statement about two match Test series.
This winter has seen three such rubbers and the problem has had nothing to do with the cricket, which on the contrary has been absolutely scintillating in each series. Therein lies where cricket followers around the world have been short-changed.
Who can forget that Test in Cape Town? The duel between Dale Steyn and Michael Clarke, the Australian captain’s brilliant hundred, South Africa collapsing to 96 all out and then inexplicably Australia topping that by being shot out for just 47. What happened next? Australia somehow bounced back and tied the series by chasing 315 at Johannesburg.
Just a couple of weeks later, Australia were on the receiving end: following victory in Brisbane they collapsed in Hobart, as Doug Bracewell inspired New Zealand to their first win on the home soil of their Trans-Tasman rivals since 1985.
The final part of the trilogy saw England, after a winter nearly as disastrous as that endured by the German Sixth Army in the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43, bounce back from the debacle in Galle to tie the series and keep their No.1 ranking by the skin of their teeth.
This meant that the administrators who foisted these all too brief series on the cricketing public got what they deserved – three entirely unsatisfactory 1-1 draws. Unfortunately though, it is the fans – as usual – who get the raw deal.
They and the likes of Clarke, Steyn, Hashim Amla and the quick-starting Test rookie Vernon Philander from the South Africa-Australia series, Bracewell, the bat carrying David Warner and James Pattinson from the battle of the Antipodes, and Mahela Jayawardene, Rangana Herath, Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann from the heat and humidity of the clashes in Sri Lanka, all deserve better.
All of these encounters deserved a deciding third match. Would South Africa have finally beaten Australia at home for the first time since readmission? Could New Zealand have fully emulated the Richard Hadlee inspired side of the mid-eighties? And would England have won their first series in Asia – Bangladesh apart – since the defining series of Nasser Hussain’s captaincy in 2001 – against a much stronger Sri Lankan side, Murali and all?
Sadly we’ll never know. All the more reason why the ICC should issue an edict stating that two-Test series do not count towards the calculations of the Test rankings. It is the only way to end this unnecessary farce.
Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated? Sadly, yes.