Matt Maher: Once again, Test cricket’s obituary is all too premature

For a format the demise of which has been predicted countless times over the past decade, Test cricket suddenly appears in rather rude health.

India's Rishabh Pant, right, celebrates after hitting the winning runs to defeat Australia by three wickets on the final day of the fourth cricket test at the Gabba
India's Rishabh Pant, right, celebrates after hitting the winning runs to defeat Australia by three wickets on the final day of the fourth cricket test at the Gabba

The series between Australia and India, which concluded this week, can lay claim to have been among the greatest of all time – at very least it was probably the best since England and Australia duelled it out for the 2005 Ashes.

Despite losing a host of key players to injury and being without skipper Virat Kholi after he returned home for the birth of his first child, India somehow found a way to rebound from the embarrassment of being bowled out for 36 in the opening match and claim a 2-1 series win.

Victory was sealed on a dramatic final day of the fourth Test in Brisbane, when the tourists chased down 328, a record for a venue where the hosts had been undefeated since 1988.

There is always something uplifting about watching summer sports from abroad during winter months in the UK, even in the years when there wasn’t a pandemic on. The experience is that bit more enjoyable when it is the Australian cricket team who are falling apart.

Not that England fans would be wise to do too much chirping. Their team face nine Test matches against an Indian team now ranked No.1 in the world over the course of 2021, starting with a four-match series on the subcontinent next month.

It is not only India who have impressed in recent weeks. New Zealand briefly went top of the rankings when they claimed a good home series win over a Pakistan team, who displayed their considerable talent in England last summer. With the West Indies also improving, the red ball game across the globe looks strong.

There really are no bad forms of cricket. The limited overs game serves up no shortage of drama and excitement of its own.

Yet the more protracted pace of the longer format allows storylines to fully develop and it remains the Test arena where careers are ultimately defined.

Whatever he goes on to achieve, Rishabh Pant’s batting performances in Australia will always be talked about. On the flip side, the series defeat may spell the end for Australia skipper Tim Paine, whose loss of composure on the field seemed to spread to his team-mates as good chances of victory in both the third and fourth Tests slipped away from the home side.

For Paine there was only despair and for India joy. For everyone else, it was unmissable entertainment.

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