The world’s most boring thing happened overnight in India, and will meander along even more monotonously on Monday if anyone can be bothered getting out of bed, which is no given.
What happened was, South Africa batted really, really slowly in a Test match in India. The Ganges flows more urgently towards the sea in its lower reaches than South Africa’s batsmen wielded the blade.
Ever tried to get an official document processed in India’s notorious bureaucracy? You’ll be there forever but the process will still be quicker than yesterday’s action at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, where the South Africans scored 72 snoretastic runs in 72 overzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Normally in modern Test cricket, teams score at somewhere between 3.5 and four runs per over. A slow rate is three. Cricket becomes tedious with a rate in the twos. A rate of one run per over, as we saw yesterday, is positively soporific.
The previous most boring thing involving the number 72 was the song embedded at the top of this story. Now it’s a cricket match. But not everyone is unimpressed. Enthusiasts of Test match draws have sprung up like mushrooms overnight. Sidharth Monga from the website ESPNCricinfo.com just about did his lollies.
“Oh so much time to ponder so many things. The beauty of Test cricket. Time,” Monga waxed in Wordsworthian tones.
“Now we have a whole night's time to ponder what might be, and one of the teams can't even win this match.”
But he was only warming up.
“Ashwin nearly had that moment that could immortalise him, that could put him in the league of absolute and rare legends such as Shane Warne. Imagine a batsman hell-bent on defence, giving you nothing, someone who has scored just 11 off 121, many of them as an afterthought. And you, an offspinner who has rediscovered yourself by bowling and trusting your stock delivery and have tormented this batsman and the others through the series, slip him a legbreak, which completely throws him off his rhythm, but the edge misses the catching man by a couple of feet. Just imagine if it goes go to hand. That's direct entry to the Hall of Fame, to murals being erected outside grounds.”
Quick Translation: this game is so boring that if something actually happens, just one actual thing, you’ll be rewarded with instant access to the hall of fame.
Now, this writer is the first to agree that a draw can be beautiful. Test cricket, like travel, is about the journey, not the destination. It’s about incessant, subtle probing for weaknesses. If no one cracks and there is no victory or loss, so be it.
But you sensed something more than a dour struggle for survival in South Africa’s defiance yesterday. To this observer, it looked like South Africa were trying to piss India off.
This has been a bad series for the spirit of cricket. Dusty pitches have been blatantly tailored to suit the home team’s spin attack. If India and South Africa played each other on neutral territory, South Africa would win almost every time. But India leads this four match series 2-0 with one match drawn.
South Africa’s two leading batsmen, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, seem desperate to deny the hosts a third win. Call their unbroken stance “epic” if you must. A more accurate word would be defiant.
If India is going to ruin cricket off the field, South Africa will do it on the field. That’s one interpretation of what happened, anyway.