Lehmann responds to Moeen’s fears
Australia coach Darren Lehmann does not share England allrounder Moeen Ali’s concerns about the future of Test cricket, saying the game’s longest format is very much “alive”.
Moeen said on Friday the “disappointing” crowds during the Magellan Ashes, which England lost 4-0, “opened his eyes” to the struggles of Test cricket.
But Lehmann disagrees with Moeen’s opinion, saying the record-breaking crowds during the Test summer – the second-most attended Test series in Australia behind the 1936-37 Ashes season – showed the appetite for Test cricket is as strong as ever.
“No, I don’t,” Lehmann told cricket.com.au in Durban when asked if he shared Moeen’s concerns around the future of Test cricket.
“I thought the Ashes crowds were fantastic, our crowds were great.
“I think they broke all records, whether they were at the ground or watching, streaming or listening on the radio.
“It was an outstanding Test series. I’m not sure where that comes from, from Moeen, but that’s his opinion.
“From my point of view as a cricket fan, I loved it. It was great.
“I thought it was intense cricket. The games could have gone either way.
“Four-nil wasn’t probably a fair reflection of how England played. I thought they played quite well.
“For me, I think Test cricket is alive, and we only had to see the way people turned up to the whole game throughout the summer.”
Of the 866,732 fans who flocked to the five Ashes Tests this summer, nearly 200,000 attended the first-ever men’s day-night Ashes Test, while 2.1 million national viewers tuned in to watch the third session of day two in Adelaide.
And on day one of the fourth Test, 88,172 fans filled the Melbourne Cricket Ground with 252,672 fans attending the only drawn match of the summer as part of the second largest crowd of a Boxing Day Test.
Perhaps unaware of those facts and figures, Moeen said playing in the Ashes had him worried about the future of Test cricket when he spoke to the media from New Zealand.
“Yeah, (I fear for Tests). I feared in the Ashes actually,” he said.
“The crowds were quite disappointing. There were a couple of big days, but even when (Australia) won the Ashes there weren’t that many celebrating. That’s when I thought, ‘Actually, we’re struggling a bit.’
“We’re very lucky in England. After being all around the world and seeing the crowds everywhere else, we’ve got the best fans, we’ve got full houses most of the time. I feel fortunate in that way.
“It is a worry. Test cricket is the pinnacle. It is, in my opinion, where the best players play.
“You can really see who is the best. It’s been a worry for a while but Australia really opened my eyes.”
While Moeen ruminates on the future of Test cricket, Lehmann is concerned with the present state of the game and preparing his side to take on the Proteas in four Tests starting at Kingsmead from Thursday.
The pitches in the Proteas’ preceding three-Test series against India favoured fast bowling to the point where only one batter – Virat Kohli – scored a century while each side passed 300 just once.
Lehmann expects “good” pitches in Australia’s tour but wouldn’t be surprised if the wickets resembled those the Indians encountered to help the hosts’ high-octane pace attack.
“If they spice them up, then great, game on,” Lehmann said.
“I’m not too worried about whichever way they go with the wickets, that’s up to them.
“From our point of view, we’re going to have to play well against a quality bowling attack and they’re going to have to play well against ours.”
Qantas tour of South Africa
South Africa squad: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn, AB de Villiers, Dean Elgar, Heinrich Klaasen, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Morne Morkel, Wiaan Mulder, Lungi Ngidi, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada.
Australia squad: Steve Smith (c), David Warner (vc), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Tim Paine, Jhye Richardson, Chadd Sayers, Mitchell Starc.
Warm-up match: Australia beat South Africa A by five wickets. Report, highlights
First Test Kingsmead, Durban, March 1-5
Second Test St George’s Park, Port Elizabeth, March 9-13
Third Test Newlands, Cape Town, March 22-26
Fourth Test Wanderers, Johannesburg, March 30-April 3