Which of These Two Cricket Documentaries Has the Edge?

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David Warner Australia Ashes Old Trafford PA

When it comes to fictional films about cricket, it’s always been difficult to capture the excitement and the unpredictability of the game. This may be why film-makers have shied away from the sport for the last few decades, with 1984’s Bodyline being one of the most recent of the genre, in Western cinema at least.

Far more successful have been the documentaries on the game with examples like Fire in Babylon, about the heyday of West Indian cricket, and Death of a Gentlemen, which painted a fascinating portrait of the internecine politics behind the international game.

But, more recently, two very different documentaries have helped to redefine the very nature of cricketing films: The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team and The Edge. The former is a six-part series on Amazon Prime covering the 18 months immediately following the ball-tampering scandal of 2018, while the latter examines how coach Andy Flower and captain Andrew Strauss brought England up through the rankings to be the No. 1 Test team in the world.

Obviously, national pride will have a great deal in how each one is viewed. But the real question is: which one gives the truest insight into the pressures, and pleasures, of Test cricket?

In The Test,  the cameras are given what seems like pretty free access to all areas. We see batsmen like David Warner taking his anger out after dismissal on inanimate objects in the dressing room. We even get to see how the team entertain themselves during lengthy rain delays – often with a very disapproving Justin Langer looking on. We also get to follow the team to India, where Virat Kohli manages to get inside everyone’s heads, and see a fly-on-the-wall account of the 2019 World Cup and the Ashes series that followed it.

Of course, the contests between England and Australia that are some of the most compelling in international cricket. With the teams so closely matched – for example, fans of cricket betting can get exactly the same odds, 4/1, of them winning the 2021 T20 World Cup – it’s a rivalry that can only become more intense as times go on.

It’s the episode in which England stage their miraculous recovery at Headingley that we really get to experience the immense pressures of competition. This was the match that gave the home side no chance at all. But the heroics of Ben Stokes and Jack Leach saw them through. The Australian post-mortem the day after the match makes for very uncomfortable viewing.

There’s discomfort of a very different kind in The Edge in which players like Jimmy Anderson, Kevin Pietersen and, most affectingly, Jonathan Trott discuss the mental pressures they faced as part of the Flower and Strauss masterplan for world domination.

Trott’s mental struggles and resulting withdrawal from Test and county cricket have been much examined. More surprising are the revelations of players like Matt Prior about why he felt he had to quit too.

As to which is the better documentary is probably a matter of personal choice. The Test is more of a celebration of a team’s resilience to come back from a very dark place while The Edge provides an insight into just how hard Test cricket can be.

But both give unprecedented access to national teams at a remarkable, and possibly unrepeatable, stage in their development.

 

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