England took the lead 1-0 in a thrilling test match at Trent Bridge, reminiscent of the historic Edgbaston game in 2005, but the drama meant more than just an English victory, it could be the lifeline test cricket needs.
The Ashes is one of the most historic and fierce sporting rivalries in the world. It is the pinnacle of cricket, and for purists, test matches are the only form of the game worth playing.
The fast paced and revolutionary twenty twenty format is poisoning cricket’s blood, with billion dollar ventures like the Indian Premier League (IPL).
While this is an unjustified claim (the IPL has helped India become world number one in ODIs and number two in test matches), it is symptomatic of a wider debate about test match cricket’s position in the modern game.
Pundits were tipping this Ashes series to be a complete whitewash with England thrashing Australia in every game. How wrong they were.
The first test was thrilling and went right down to the wire. Australia fought hard and heroes were made. Teenagers Ashton Agar, a somewhat surprise pick, notched an impressive 98 while veteran Brad Haddin battled hard in the second innings. England’s bowlers were on the money however, and picked up wickets at crucial times. The batsmen helped them out with a fluid century from Ian Bell, perhaps his best yet.
For test match fans and the cricket community alike, there could have been nothing worse than a one-sided test match to kick off the Ashes.
Test matches already have a bad reputation in the modern game, known for being slow affairs, with no fireworks. It is for the old generation. It is no secret that England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are the only nations that manage to fill up cricket grounds for test matches.
Stadiums empty in India or West Indies when someone even mentions a test match.
And if the first Ashes test was to be, as critics predicted, an England dominated performance, then the sterile view would only be solidified.
Instead we were treated to a delightful match that swung one way and then the other. It was the most perfect advertisement that test matches could get. The wicket had a big part to play, offering something for bowlers who put the ball in the right areas, and batsmen who fought doggedly like Bell and Haddin.
Can one match change the fate of test cricket?
It seems a fantasy to say so. But what the game has shown is that test matches are not incompatible with the high-tension action experienced in T20 matches. Brad Haddin took the attack to Graeme Swann at one point, hitting back-to-back boundaries and the ending to the game was nail biting to say the least.
It is up to the likes of India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies to lead a revival of test cricket in those countries, not in terms of their ability to play the game, because they all have good teams, but in terms of drawing crowds in to watch the spectacle.
If the rest of the Ashes series continues in this vein, the nation will once more be captivated like they were in 2005, and it will be test matches and the whole sport that benefits across the world.
Do you think test cricket still has a role in the modern game? Would you like to see test matches abandoned? What do you think of the idea of a World Test Match Championship? Please leave your comments below.