The World Test Championship: A blessing for Test cricket
A new term ‘Bazball’ has recently been included in the dictionary of cricket as England has taken Test cricket to a whole new level, scoring with aggressive intent and chasing mammoth totals.
Although this brand of Test cricket got acknowledgement after England's recent run against New Zealand and India, the foundation to it was established a few years ago, when the World Test Championship started having its effects on the game.
Nowadays, big targets are being chased like never before, record chases are being pulled off frequently.
For instance, In 2021, India chased down 328 at the Gabba by 3 wickets, which is a record Test run-chase at the iconic cricket ground in Brisbane, Australia.
It was 100 more than the previous highest successful chase at Brisbane. Rishabh Pant's 89* was not only a display of his nerves of steel but also a sign of his game-changing ability while chasing a big target in tough conditions.
India were at the receiving end against England in 2022, when England pulled off the highest successful run chase (378) in Tests at Edgbaston. It was the highest successful run-chase in England's Test history, and also the highest successful run-chase against India in Tests.
Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root were the heroes who put on a 269-run unbeaten partnership, at a run rate of 5.10, just after things were looking impossible for England.
Just after the record chase by England, Pakistan too chased a target of 342 against Sri Lanka at Galle which is their second highest successful chase in Tests, which is also the highest successful chase at Galle. In the process, Abdullah Shafique pulled off the 3rd longest stay at the crease in Test cricket, while scoring 160* (408).
If we look at the year-wise number of times a 250+ target was chased in Test cricket,
2008 - 6 times
2022 - 5 times* (Just halfway through the year)
2004 - 4 times
2019 - 3 times
In fact, until June 2022, a 250+ score was successfully chased 67 times out of 899, which makes the success rate 7.45 per cent. Since June 2022, the success rate has been 100% (5 out of 5 times).
Test cricket has taken a massive turn toward more competitiveness, as no target is safe these days. It's more about winning than just 'not losing' a match, and the fans can thank the World Test Championship for that.
In every series, there are allotted points for the teams. And after a WTC cycle, the top two teams with the best PCT ([Points achieved ÷ Points participated in] X 100%) will get to play the final.
For the most competitive teams, it is a must to make the most of the opportunities to earn every point, and thus, ending up in a draw is not an option now as it was before.
Even if the target is 350+ and it has to be chased in a day or two, the intention is to go for it.
It is the new normal in Test cricket. New strategies are being implemented, the likes of Rishabh Pant and Jonny Bairstow are playing with an aggressive approach. Players like Joe Root are showing aggression, playing shots like 'the reverse scoop' to the fast bowlers.
In a nutshell, Test cricket has become more intense, thanks to the World Test Championship. The sooner a team adapts to the new brand of the format, the better for them.