This test will go into the history books. Ben Stokes scored the fastest test 250 ever, and this afternoon Temba Bavuma became the first black South African to score a test century. Excuse me if I don’t spontaneously combust in excitement.
I don’t want to pass water on anyone’s parade here. Stokes batted incredibly well, and nobody can deny the brilliant political significance of Bavuma’s attractive innings – I hope he, and other black South Africans, score many more test hundreds – but big runs in a run-glut mean relatively little. Run scoring on this Newlands autobahn has been like taking candy from a baby. There’s been no genuine contest between bat and ball.
Although you’d have to be Hitler to begrudge Bavuma his heart-warming moment, part of me didn’t want him to reach three figures. His milestone is so significant that it deserved a better occasion, and most importantly of all, a different match situation. I didn’t want the first test century by a black African to be an inevitable march, against a tired attack, in a glorified net session. Such a momentous moment deserved more than being the fourth century of the game (and the smallest), at the fag end of the fourth day in a dead match.
South Africa’s history has been anything but a fairy-tale, and rarely follows a script, but the first test century by a black South African deserved better. It was probably too much to expect it to be a match-winning effort in the final innings, in front of a full house at Lord’s or Eden Gardens, but I think we could have expected something a little more dramatic and romantic?
Run-fests like this one are bad for test cricket. They’re worse than two-day shoot-outs, and make it absolutely impossible to defend the sport when it’s assaulted by critics or introduced to the uninitiated. The bottom line is that over 1,250 runs have been scored for the loss of just 13 wickets. That’s pathetic. If it wasn’t for Ben Stokes going ballistic, and Bavuma bringing tears to many an eye, it would’ve been a complete write off.
This game has almost been as bad as the first four days of England’s first test in the UAE. And the centuries scored mean just as little as Shoaib Malik’s 245 and Alastair Cook’s 263. If there’s nothing at all in the pitch for bowlers, and all batsmen need to do is stop themselves from committing hari kari, then what’s the point?
Although England might have benefitted from a mystery spinner today – and no doubt some will be bemoaning the absence of Adil Rashid – I’d wager even Warne and Murali bowling in tandem would’ve struggled to take twenty wickets on this utter highway.
Yes I know England missed lots of chances (they dropped six catches alone on the fourth day) and the game might have been more interesting if they’d snaffled them, but what I saw today still didn’t constitute a contest.
Besides, England probably dropped these chances simply because they were (a) exhausted (because of the pitch) and (b) bored out of their minds (again because of the pitch). So yes, you could say that I’ve got the hump. And it’s all because of this pitch. Wake me up when it’s over.