There is a big difference in the way that Test cricket is played compared to the limited over game. Test matches are time-limited (five days of play with six hours per day) with no guarantee of a result, while the limited-overs format (50 overs per inning for one-day games and 20 per inning for the roughly three-hour Twenty20 format) are designed to guarantee a result.
In the Test match format, batsmen who could stay in for a long time and amass a big score of a hundred runs (or even 200 and more), even if fairly slowly, were prized while in the other forms quick scoring was at a premium and scores of even 50 were considered good.
In the past, when I was a boy, scoring in test matches was often slow and a run-rate of three per over would be considered very high. But I notice that nowadays a run-rate of three per over seems to be the minimum rate in Test matches. What is remarkable is that this seems to happen even when wickets are falling rapidly.
Why is this surprising? Because the fall of a wicket gives the bowler and fielding side a morale boost. Two wickets in rapid succession would make them feel really on top. In Test matches where there is more time, a new batsman would try and deflate that enthusiasm by digging in and defending and not giving up another wicket quickly. When the bowlers and fielders had become tired and discouraged somewhat and more prone to making errors, the batsmen would then open up and score runs more freely. So the pattern would be that the scoring rate would drop after the fall of a wicket and pick up later.
But in the current Ashes series between Australia and England, that pattern does not seem to hold. The run-rate remains high even as wickets are falling rapidly. Take Australia. In the third Test, they were bundled out for a mere 136 in the first innings, an appallingly low score. But the scoring rate was 3.40 runs per over. Then in today’s opening day of the fourth Test, they were shot out for the embarrassingly low score of just 60 runs but the scoring rate was 3.24 per over! The full innings lasted less than two hours.
It is true that fast scoring makes for crowd-pleasing cricket. But old-fashioned fans like me can cite many engrossing games where batsmen saved the day by using dogged defense, thwarting the efforts of the bowlers for hours on end without scoring many runs. It seems to me that the ability to adopt a defensive posture and slowly but steadily build up a big score or recover from an early setback seems to be a skill that is disappearing due to the influence of the limited-over format.
I think the game is poorer for it.