David Leggat: Welcome back to the real game

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The music is a giveaway.

You replace the rock/grunge/pop at decibels designed to prevent conversation with the more sedate soft folk/gentle pop/string quartet sounds which lend themselves to reclining on the grass bank, indulging in the odd nap.

Ripples of applause take over from mindless chants and - God save us - Mexican waves.

Away for the moment with the one-day game and welcome back test cricket. There was a time when all cricket was played in whites. Stephen Fleming, Matthew Bell, Chris Martin and Mathew Sinclair are the only current New Zealand players who were alive before coloured clobber started in 1977, although their memories will be at best hazy.

There are other indicators that test cricket is back with us.

The patrons - to pinch the term Augusta National demands Masters spectators be called - don't include a large proportion whose priorities are getting hammered, streaking or having a scrap.

Bangladesh played two tests in Dunedin and Wellington early in January, but as neither lasted until tea on the third day, they had more the feel of a first-class game between a group finding their feet and another, older side who know what it's all about but, for much of the time, were trying to remember their lines.

You could forgive them on that.

Between December 2006 and January 4 this year, New Zealand did not have a single test at home. The focus was strictly on the ODI game in preparation for last year's World Cup in the Caribbean. It got New Zealand their customary semifinal finish.

Tests were put in the cupboard and gathered dust.

With due respect to Bangladesh: England are here, the ODIs are done and the real game is back with us.

There's a proportion of the cricket public who'll yawn and get back to life's realities. For others this is what they've been waiting, well, years for: a true test of a cricketer's worth.

The opening day at Seddon Park on Wednesday was a chance to renew acquaintances with some of the nuances which are cricket's traditional appeal. Batsmen working to lay a foundation, then having to retrieve a decent position after setbacks. Bowlers trying to set up a dismissal - not a one-ball plan but an operation which might last several overs.

It is those elements which made cricket the game it is. The coloured clothes, shortened matches are add-ons to the basic contest.

There are times the five-day game can drone on. But they are fewer now.

A decent proportion of tests don't require a fifth day, not because of what could be called the Bangladeshi factor, but because tests tend to be played at a faster pace. The game is more advanced at an early stage.

Modern players have been reared on the one-day game where there's little scope for messing about. "Get on with it" is the mantra, which relates well to their everyday pace of life .

They have taken it into test cricket, and the long game is the better for that.

- NZ Herald

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