Opinion: Ashes and Sanga retirement shows Test cricket's not in great shape

Australian cricket lost another of its Invincibles over the weekend. Not Michael Clarke, but Arthur Morris.

The legendary left-hander and teammate of Sir Don Bradman was a key figure in the Aussies’ famous 1948 tour of England.  

What he made of 2015’s terrible Ashes series will never be known, but one thing is certain: Test cricket is unrecognisable to those days.  

The Black Caps, on the basis of this gutless Australian performance, should be licking their lips - Max Bania, ONE News Reporter

It’s a sport populated by batsmen with more temerity than talent; brawlers with big bats and bulging biceps who swing lustily in hope of blasting a quick fifty, knowing they lack the technical nous to work their way there.

This year’s Ashes were played out by two teams with a bus to catch. The final four Tests were blowouts, blighted by batting collapses: four totals below 150 attest to that.  

We’re not allowed to blame the rise of Twenty20 cricket for batsmen’s unwillingness to knuckle down and wear out attacks through grit and hard graft, even though that would appear the obvious diagnosis.  

Instead we’re meant to thank that truncated format when we see batsmen helplessly trying to blaze their way out of trouble.

We’re meant to marvel at the bravado of leaden-footed batsmen swinging from the bootlaces in the first over, and praise bowlers who snare victims to hoofs outside off stump or hoicks down fine leg’s throat.

We’re meant to celebrate Tests that last three days as “breathless” and “thrill-a-minute”, rather than lamenting two lost days that could’ve been entertaining and absorbing, had the losing team shown some pluck.

The Black Caps, on the basis of this gutless Australian performance, should be licking their lips. They possess bowlers with the pace and movement to coerce the Aussies into the same panicked aggression that proved their downfall in England.

The batsmen must not get sucked into the narrative of all-out attack, as they did at Lord’s in May. The current lineup has the perfect balance of steady accumulators and stroke-players to tame Australia’s imposing but impatient fast men.

Nothing short of a series victory over an Aussie side in turmoil and transition should suffice when the teams meet in a few months.

“I think the game is still the same, and it is a great game”, said Arthur Morris in one of the last interviews before his death.  After the shambles of this English summer, here’s hoping Brendon’s boys can prove him right.

Kumar Sangakkra: A true legend retires

Kumar Sangakkara celebrates his 203 in Wellington

Meanwhile, as Michael Clarke’s place among the greats is fiercely debated, one undisputed giant of the game has bowed out in the manner he played: graciously and without a modicum of fuss.

Kumar Sangakkara rightly sits alongside the likes of Ponting, Lara and Tendulkar in the list of modern batting legends.

The Sri Lankan left-hander perhaps lacked the profile of those illustrious names but arguably his run-scoring feats were even more laudable given they came on all surfaces in all parts of the world, often burdened with the wicket-keeping gloves, and with a faltering supporting cast of batsmen around him.

Sangakkara goes out on a high, having scored a brilliant double hundred in New Zealand and four straight centuries at the World Cup last summer.  His departure is another thing for which the Test game is poorer.