Friday, 1 August 2008

Test Match Cricket and Character

Test Match cricket is the greatest of all sports because it is just that, a true test. It is a test in the classic meaning of a scientific test or experiment: is the effect of one side batting and the other side bowling the same when the roles are reversed? If it is, victory will generally go to one side, and if it is not a draw will be declared. The research hypothesis will be rejected.

But it is also a test of character. Never was this more amply demonstrated than today, when Paul Collingwood played perhaps the best innings I have seen whilst under personal pressure. It was almost common knowledge that such was his dearth of form and lack of runs that this would be his last test match inning if he failed. He was completely out of touch, and the South Africans reminded him of his inevitable fate constantly.

Yet what did he do? He got his head down, and battled. He resolved to try his best to do what he used to. To play each ball on its merits. To attack the bad ball. To stick to the shots he trusts. Playing each ball on its merits is hardest of all when you are out of touch. Every nerve in your body says 'attack this ball' to end the build up of pressure, and the ceaseless chatter from the oppoition. The quick release of tension is the epitome of temptation. But Collingwood did not yield. Instead he left the ball alone, and grafted. Through his own dogged determination he slowly turned the tide. Never reaching his best form, he reached a century before the day was done.

He hardly celebrated, for his team was not yet out of the mire. Truly though, this test of character had been passed, and Collingwood the man can be proud for eternity.

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