The history-making outcome of the second Test in Adelaide yesterday confirmed Test cricket’s greatest and enduring strength – its glorious uncertainty.
One of the legendary – but true – stories in Australian cricket history concerns the first tied Test between Australia and the West Indies at the Gabba in 1961.
On the final day, the game looked like ending in a tame draw, and the ABC’s doyen of cricket commentators, Alan McGilvray, decided to catch an early flight back to Sydney and leave the final session to local broadcaster, Clive Harburg. Clive’s call of the final overs has since been replayed perhaps a thousand times.
That was the first, and last, time McGilvray in his long and eminent career left a Test match early. Yesterday’s ABC commentary team remembered the McGilvray embarrassment, and stayed to the very end to call the thrilling last moments of the Test.
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In terms of the TV coverage, Channel 9 also deserves a big thumbs up, too. Not only did they stay with the game until its conclusion (we’ve come a long way since the ABC went to the news with Greg Chappell closing in on a century in his first Test at Perth in 1970-71) but they stayed with the post-match for a respectful time as well.
Too often in these sorts of instances in the past, the play finishes and the station rushes off to the news. But tonight they stayed for all the celebrations, we saw the utter elation of the Aussies, got interviews with Warne, Ponting, Hussey and Clarke, and got to see the players going over and thanking the fans — it was great stuff. They didn’t leave the coverage until the players were starting to leave the field.
But back to the cricket. Last year’s Ashes loss obscures the outstanding record of Australia in Test cricket since then. In calendar year 2006, Australia has played four Tests against South Africa, two against Bangladesh, and now two against England. It has won all eight, and now has a chance of going through a calendar year winning every Test it has played.
But there is a bigger winner than Ricky Ponting’s team — Cricket Australia. The first Test in Brisbane just about doubled the previous crowd record, and the Adelaide Test drew over 140,000 spectators. The corresponding Ashes fixture four years ago drew just over 70,000.
One might think Cricket Australia will be concerned that the Ashes series might now be decided in Perth. It has no worries – the two big money spinners, the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and the New Year Test in Sydney, are just about sold out.
The often predicted demise of Test cricket would appear further away than ever.