Aussie victory gives life to Tests

IN THE final moments of the stupendous second Test match in Johannesburg, someone held up a banner which asked a question surely on the lips of everyone enthralled by a renascent Australia's two-wicket victory.

"Who said Test cricket was dead?" asked a spectator who wasn't dressed up as a nun or a penguin or a chorus girl but who had plainly come along to watch the cricket.

Who said it indeed? A whole legion of hucksters who tell us that the long form of the game, the one that yesterday drew out the character and the technique of the superb teenaged Aussie match-winner Pat Cummins and flinty veterans like Ricky Ponting and Brad Haddin, is now irretrievably subordinate to the instant gratification of the one-day versions.

The extent of the sacrilege was marvellously exposed as the Australian nerve held despite a barrage of superior bowling from the new star Vernon Philander and the classic one-two combination of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

At no point was it possible to anticipate the result. The early loss of Australian captain Michael Clarke and then the removal of Ponting, who had found some of his old resistance, put some new life into the South Africans but then there was Haddin, back to his most obdurate and willing to strike for the boundary whenever the chance came, and from the undefeated Mitchell Johnson there was clean hitting and plenty of competitive character.

A few months ago, when the great Michael Holding said how much he feared for the future of the Test game, the worries were compounded by India's shocking abandonment of their No 1 ranking in the face of a fine effort by England. Yesterday there had to be a new stirring of hope. It came with the reminder that if ever cricket consigns the Test game to the past it simply forfeits any right to survive.

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