Such is the pity that New Zealand won yesterday. Won on a pitch that deserves lambasting. And now, one fears, with victory achieved over Bangladesh, this flat chested strip of dirt will gain undue credit. Credit for generating a result, a result so unlikely for four days, until one poor attempt to occupy the crease by the visitors changed all, that interest disappeared into the constant spiralling of a Wellingtonian gale demonising the sensibilities of a summer game tortured with ennui.
With Test Cricket struggling to combat the sugar-coated excesses of twenty/20, this barren excuse for twenty-two metres of coiffured blandness, all looks and, yet, no substance, battered the life from the venaculars of the few remaining fans left with any will to live.
The Basin Reserve, the grand old dame of New Zealand Cricket has seen its share. It witnessed New Zealand’s first Test victory over England in 1978. John Wright top scored for New Zealand with fifty-five on debut. The greatest of all New Zealand fast bowlers, Richard Hadlee, took seven for twenty-three, his best ever haul, against India two years earlier on the same ground. In 1991, Martin Crowe and Andrew Jones set a World record partnership of four hundred and sixty-seven against Sri Lanka. So, yep, the old dame has experienced her share of the good.
January 12th to the 16th 2017 was not part of the good, though. Win or not, this pitch doesn’t deserve anything but its reputation pilfered. When it allows two sides of average batting dexterity, first in Bangladesh, followed by the home side, to post totals of five hundred and ninety-five and five hundred and thirty-nine respectively, to prosper, then there is something not quite right.
A Test pitch, as those in the know know, should have a little for all involved. Some seam for the pacemen early on the first morning. Afterall, why shouldn’t the batsmen be challenged? Hopefully the elements will permeate some swing into proceedings, too. That might sort those uppity little openers out. Ensure they struggle, fight for their survival. Just for a few hours. And then, if those holders of breathes timber do survive, let them strive to live to the grand old age of one hundred in relatively healthy conditions. Maybe, by days four and five, the squalor of spin will test the spines of any who may be spuriously inclined. Test their techniques, both bowler and batsmen, test their temperament, both batsmen and bowler, for talent of technique and talent of temperament over five days do equate to a test.
A test of all in all conditions, that’s how it should be.
But, please, not this constant coffle of one dimensional bowling, through no fault of the bowlers, going to painstaking lengths to embed our souls into the tethered turf of tedium.
Never misconstrue though, there is a place for all types in life. This hellish piece of dirt would make a wonderful one-day pitch. It’s flat – Not everything has to be well developed - provides a constant torrent of runs, so who could not find the delights of a flat chest to inspire art. For art is all-encompassing and a one-dayer is as much art to the sport as any these days. It exists, let it be.
Yet, please, do not test the Sanctity of Test Cricket. With no seam, no swing and no zest, other than Neil Wagner’s tiresome, yet entirely predictable, efforts to display a penchant for ineffective short pitched bowling and nothing else, there New Zealand sat with Trent Boult and Tim Southee, two fine exponents of swing and seam bowling, unable to make the most of these, at times, mind bending talents.
And with bents such as Boult and Southee in the home side, surely the Groundsman was not under instructions to produce this bland abberation of a wicket.
Let us hope not.
For the players deserve better, the paying public deserve better and Test Cricket deserves better.
If only the curator of the Basin Reserve had realised, and given this lifeless peasant some medium sized implants.