Waitrose & Partners Weekend Issue 584

4 4 13 J ANUARY 202 2 SPORT Weekend is printed on certiäed, 100% recycled äbres, produced from sustainable sources in the UK Jonathan Agnew Photography: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images SPORT PICKS OF THE WEEK CRICKET 14-18 January Australia v England, 5th Ashes Test, Hobart England avoided a possible whitewash with their hard-fought draw at the SCG, but can they änish a troubled tour on a high in the day-night Test? FOOTBALL 15 January Manchester City v Chelsea, Premier League, Etihad A critical game in the title race with City looking to surge further clear at the top, while Chelsea bid to get back on track after some disappointing recent results. TENNIS 17-30 January Australian Open, Melbourne Park All eyes will be on Emma Raducanu to see if she can repeat her US Open success as the ärst Grand Slam of the year gets under way. NO WAY THROUGH Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad celebrate as England secure a draw in the fourth Ashes Test Test cricket is so severely threatened by the various short forms of the game that when amatch finishes amid nail biting drama and tension, it serves as a reminder of howmuch we stand to lose. Last week’s Test match in Sydney was one of those classics. True, the Ashes had already been won by Australia who were pushing for their fourth victory, but that did not reduce the excitement for those at home who were listening avidly to the radio or watching television. Any sporting contest between England and Australia has an edge and, given the struggle that Joe Root’s teamhas experienced on this trip, it was evenmore important that they stood up and stopped the Australian juggernaut. Three batsmen played on through the pain barrier – Jos Buttler with a seriously broken finger, Jonny Bairstowwith a badly damaged thumb and Ben Stokes with a strained side, which can be the worst soft tissue injury a cricketer can pick up. Australia’s bowlers chipped away, claiming wickets at keymoments until, with the stadium shrouded in low cloud andmist and with the floodlights burning eerily, England’s last man, Jimmy Anderson, settled in to face the final six balls of the game. If he survived, thematch would be saved and Australia’s dreamof winning this series 5-0 thwarted. Showing admirable calm, Anderson batted the first ball away. Stuart Broad, at the other end, walked down to o er encouragement but Anderson shooed himaway. He did not want to be distracted. Meticulously, Anderson defended the remaining five balls, shook hands with the Australians fielders who were all crowded around him, and walked o . The reaction here in Australia and at home demonstrated just howmuch people really care about Test cricket, and for those brought up on one-daymatches, in which you either win, lose or tie, there is no longer any need to ask me how a drawn game could possibly be exciting. Test matches are often a slow burn, with the course of the game taking twists and turns, and the fortunes of both teams ebbing and flowing over five days. Yes, there are some slow passages, most often when a fightback is being staged, which is the time tomake a cuppa or, if at the ground, nip for refreshments. It only requires the fall of a wicket, or for a batsman to begin playing elegant strokes for the game to change gear. It is an exercise in patience for players and spectators alike, which is in contrast to the very shortest forms of the white ball game in which non-stop action is themain attraction. Themessage that must be grasped by the game’s administrators is that there is room for both. However, the balance has become heavily skewed in favour of white ball cricket’s instant thrills and spills, and the ingenious improvisations that have become such a feature of Twenty20 cricket are having a negative impact on the batsmen’s technique that is essential to their succeeding in themore demanding Test arena. This, in short, is seen as one of themain reasons for England’s recent lack of success. The training ground for Test cricket, the county championship, has been relegated to the fringes of our summer. This might be convenient andmake room for all the domestic white ball cricket that must be squeezed into the schedule, but it is no preparation for Test matches. However, one advantage of the newly formed Hundred is that there are eight new teams that are, in e ect, separated from the all-powerful counties who still run our domestic game. Understandably, they do not want to vote themselves out of existence when the necessary reforms aremade, so what an opportunity tomodernise and improve our Test match structure at the same time by introducing an auction to The Hundred teams to buy the best red ball cricketers? Add a couple of teams to take it to 10, play the tournament throughout their summer alongside one-day formats and bingo – the image of championship cricket will be revolutionised and the standard will improve. It might be a while before I report on England winning here in Australia – after all, I havemanaged that only once in nine attempts, but without a revolution, that privilegemight eludemy successor, too. jonathanagnew.com We must act now and embark on a revolution to save Test cricket