Close, but no cigar
While it is tempting to think that England's last wicket pair's efforts to draw the Cardiff Ashes test
represent a rare feat, the reality is that it has happened three times already in 2009! As this post is being written, it seems like the West Indies "B" v Bangladesh test
at St. Vincent is also heading to a closely fought draw. West Indies "B" need to get 122 runs more to win, but have only 3 wickets in hand!
In fact, there were two instances in the same series (England's tour of West Indies). At Antigua
, West Indies managed to squeeze out a draw. The third instance was New Zealand against India
Some other recent tests where a side had already lost 7 wickets and still managed to salvage a draw (criteria being an end-of-game lead <= 50) include Pakistan escaping at Bangalore in 2007
, India escaping at Lord's in 2007, West Indies escaping (against India, twice in the same 2006 series - what's it with close draws and West Indies?!) at St. Lucia and Antigua
and Australia drawing at Old Trafford the 2005 Ashes
After the Antigua test of 2006, I wrote about other similar close tests
However, the interesting part is that out of the 84 "they gutsed it out for a draw" results in test cricket so far
, over 30 have been in the last 20 years.
Is it an indicator that it is increasingly becoming easier for tailenders to bat out time? Is it because pitches don't quite start rapidly helping bowlers later on in the game? Is it because umpires nowadays tend to be more cautious when it comes to lightmeter readings? Do umpires not clamp down on ruthlessly enough on obvious time-wasting tactics? Is it about bowlers taking their batting lessons seriously?
I suspect the answer is 'All of the above'.
Then again, if you just looked at the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s, there were 16, 12 & 13 tests across those decades. So maybe there is
no pattern there. The number of instances prior to the 1960s is low because the number of countries that played tests then is so low.
Pakistan started out in test cricket in the 1950s while India & New Zealand started playing more regularly from that decade and they got reasonably competitive from the 1960s. I think that explains the spurt in close draws from the 1960s. In addition, the other sides like Australia, West Indies, South Africa and England were also fairly well balanced and that would also have increased the number of close games.
Labels: ashes, ashes 2009, close finishes, statistic