Review – The Test Season 2

Reviewers note: This review is for the first two (2) episodes of The Test Season 2 that were kindly provided by Prime Video for review.

Cricket is one of Australia’s ultimate pastimes. On Boxing Day every year, while nursing the Christmas day hangover or food coma’s, you’ll find most people around the television at 10am to watch the first ball that kicks off five days of highs, lows, wickets, sixes, classic catches, and sunshine! Aussie’s just love cricket and watching the Australian Men’s cricket team dominate each year in the summer series! But there’s no better battle on the pitch than the Ashes – a century old battle between Australia and England for cricketing dominance.

Then, in 2018, the cricketing world was shocked when evidence of cheating within the Australian squad rocked the nation, and the world. Captain Steve Smith, leadership delegate David Warner, and relatively new player to the team, Cameron Bancroft, all received sanctions after an incident involving the use of sandpaper to tamper with the ball was caught on the live broadcast cameras. Not within the spirit of this great game, Smith was revoked of his captaincy and banned from playing international cricket for 12 months. As did Warner, who was banned and dropped from the leadership group within the team.

It was at this point that a rebuild was required within the Australian squad, and the search for a new captain and a new coach was documented by Prime Video, in conjunction with Cricket Australia, for a series called The Test. This documentary series provided never-before-seen access behind the scenes as Australia prepared to face England on their home turf during the 2019-2021 Ashes series. A series Australia needed to win to win back the love and respect of their fans back home and around the world.

The Test’s first season is truly brilliant television. The documentary did a brilliant job of making the cricket thrilling, the drama and tension taut, but also displaying the humanity and passion that we often don’t get to always see on the field as audiences. Now, almost 3 years after The Test premiered, a highly anticipated follow up season covering the 2021-2022 Ashes series is being released.

Only three weeks out from the first test match against the Poms in Brisbane, another scandal rocks the Australian team, as current captain Tim Paine stands down from the team and his leadership duties following the leak of inappropriate texts to a Cricket Victoria colleague years prior. The argument ensues externally in the media as to whether court of public opinion is too harsh on Paine but having this happen so close to an important match leads the Australian team to quickly find not just a new captain for the squad, but a new wicket keeper too.

The no brainer choice falls on fast bowler Pat Cummins to lead the Aussie squad into battle, and One Day International star Alex Carey makes his test debut behind the stumps. Both these men are recently new fathers, and The Test’s first episode dedicates a segment to how these two players are managing the lives of being professional cricketers and engaged fathers. It’s moments like this during The Test that provide the heart at its core. What we as cricket fans idolise on the field is just a fragment of who these blokes are and seeing them at their most vulnerable outside of the game makes for emotionally engaging television.

Outside of blood relatives, the show also explores the odd, yet endearing ‘big brother-little brother’ relationship with batting legend, Steve Smith, and the current best batsmen in the world, Marnus Labuschagne. Their back-and-forth banter, constant bickering, but unrequited love for each other, and the game of cricket, creates infectious happiness and laughter on the screen. The Test attempts to help the audience understand the strange nuances of the relationship between the outstanding batsmen, but not even they can put into words how their minds work!

Going deeper into the players personalities and lives leads down an avenue in which the show respectfully explores the religions Marnus Labuschagne, a man of Christian faith, and Usman Khawaja, a man of Islamic faith. The two candidly talk about what their faith means to them, and how the team is open and respectful to their beliefs. This is highlighted when Usman Khawaja was not in a team celebration which consisted of the classic spraying of champagne, but captain Pat Cummins asked his team to put the bottles away so Usman could celebrate the win with his squad.

Episode two will be a highlight for many cricket fans, but also for those outside of the know, because many will remember the pandemonium of Scott Boland’s debut at the MCG for the Boxing Day test. A proud Gulidjan man, Boland is only the second Indigenous man to be selected to play test cricket for Australia. Only finding about his Aboriginal ancestry after the passing of his grandfather, Boland opens up about discovering his Indigenous roots and the importance it has to him as a man, and a cricketer. I won’t spoil what happens with Boland during that famous game, but the way it’s portrayed in this episode had me grinning from ear-to-ear every time Scotty came on screen!

And while The Test focuses on so many amazing moments within the Australian cricket team during this time, the underlying tension and build up of drama is still definitely present. Small rifts between coaches and players begin to show cracks in places that were assumedly rebuilt after the last Ashes series. While it’s alluded to during the first episode’s opening stinger, and sprinkled sporadically throughout episode two, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows behind the scenes as the spark gets closer to the powder keg.

One of The Test’s most exciting elements is how it captures the action on the field. Unprecedented access allows the cameras to capture this beautiful game in a way that audiences don’t get in the stadium, or at home. Seeing each boundary or wicket so up close and personal really transports you, making it feel like you’re right there on the field with the boys. Add some slow motion and tense music for good measure, and cricket has never felt so thrilling and fun!

The Test’s follow up season has started incredibly strong! It captures the highlights, and the lowlights, in a way that feels authentic and captivating. Getting to know the players on more of a personal level in this show allows a peak behind the curtains that doesn’t expose our sporting heroes but shows them in a light of humanity that is not often shared with the world. The Test is outstanding, and it’s doing for cricket what The Last Dance did for basketball.

The Test Season 2 premieres on Prime Video January 13.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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