Tails wagging the dog; Ratings 23rd July
Russell Degnan

2nd TestEnglandvIndia
Pre-rating1054.21152.3
Form-40.1+6.2
Expected MarginEngland by 9 runs
Actual MarginIndia by 95 runs
Post-rating1039.11161.7

Until one ball before lunch on the final day this was a fluctuating match that England ought to have won. What is apparent is that they fundamentally cannot do so, regardless of what is offered. Having wasted a green pitch on the opening morning with short bowling, England still managed to have India 7/145 after tea, before Rahane's counter-attack found support from Binny and the rest of the tail. They turned 4/211 - with only Kumar finding swing to trouble the top-order - into 319 - still a lead. And in the second innings, had removed the specialist batsmen with India only 211 in front. Jadeja and Kumar's 99 run stand was, in the context, as vital as Ishant Sharma's bouncers inducing a collapse of 6/50 either side of lunch on the final day; a point when, again, England had got themselves into a position to challenge for victory.

Sharma's 7/74 and Dhoni's willingness to try a spell of short pitched bowling looks like genous only in hindsight. The spell was not near as menacing as England made it look; runs flowed at first, and the balls that took wickets were well wide of off-stump and easily left by clear-headed batsmen. England though are far from that. Prior's departure leaves only Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson of the core that formed England's best side. The batsmen in that group are woefully out of form, and even the performances of the youth cannot hide it. The bowlers must be nearing exhaustion, having clocked nearly 200 overs each in the past 6 weeks, and Broad carrying a long-term injury.

India look a settled and confident side only by comparison. The batting has been failing, the sins hidden by the tail, whiich can't be relied on. Dhoni is struggling which they cannot afford when playing five bowlers, even if 7-9 are competent, and occasionally match-winning. If England can click, they can challenge and win this series. It would be a shock if that happens with Cook at the helm however.


1st TestSri LankavSouth Africa
Pre-rating1035.61299.4
Form+28.7-36.6
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 82 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by 153 runs
Post-rating1032.71302.6

Contrary to my preview, a relative lack of impact from Imran Tahir and Duminy - the undeserved wicket of Sangakarra nowithstanding - didn't impact South Africa at all. The reason is that Dale Steyn is a genius, and Morne Morkel is very tall and awkward to face. The latter primarily contributed in taking out the tail. Steyn did as Steyn has done for going on 371 test wickets, taking 9/99 for the match. South Africa were challenged only once after Elgar (103) and du Plessis (80) got them away to a start. For a brief moment, after de Villiers was dismissed a 5/266, Sri Lanka were placed to put pressure on South Africa with the bat. Duminy's even 100 not out got them to 9/455 declared. Sri Lanka could only respond with sporadic scores from Tharanga, Mathews and Sangakarra, none going over 100, when they needed more.

South Africa having declared in both innings, the second after a race to set a target that showed admirable aggression; this was a more emphatic victory than the score suggests. Whether it will be repeated depends on Steyn. Morkel remains a useful support; the spinners added litle, and Philander went wicketless on his least friendly surface. It would surprise if the next match wasn't closer, but this was an impressive victory by the tourists in their new era.


Rankings at 23rd July 2014
1.South Africa1302.6
2.Australia1273.7
3.India1161.7
4.Pakistan1093.9
5.England1039.1
6.Sri Lanka1032.7
7.New Zealand937.8
8.West Indies870.2
9.Bangladesh600.6
12.Zimbabwe560.2

10.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia383.4
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 24th July, 2014 01:54:11   [#] [0 comments] 

ICC Conference and ACC AGM with Shahriar Khan; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast
Russell Degnan

In the wake of the ICC Conference in Melbourne, Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and Russell Degnan (@idlesummers) look at the news - or lack of - from changes in the ICC. Russell speaks to media manager of the Asian Cricket Council, Shahriar Khan about the recent success of Asian sides, the leadup to the Asian Games, and some of the ICC conference outcomes, as they affect Asian cricket. There are reviews of World Cricket League Division 4, ICC Europe Division 2, and cricket in Romania and Scotland. The episode ends with some governance news from Kenya, Canada and Nepal.

Direct Download Running Time 88min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men's women's, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 21st July, 2014 00:24:48   [#] [0 comments] 

Grind until a fine paste; Ratings 16th July
Russell Degnan

1st TestEnglandvIndia
Pre-rating1067.61150.1
Form-52.9+7.3
Expected MarginEngland by 9 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn
Post-rating1054.21152.3

England's rating slips a little further, on a pitch offering little to the bowlers, but which nevertheless offered both sides ample opportunities to press for victory. That they didn't came down to the last wicket partnerships between Kumar and Shami, that lifted India from 9/346 to 457; and between Root and Anderson, that took England from 9/298 to 496. Anderson's heroics with the bat came on the back of 38 overs in he first innings, and 59 in the match, which probably explains why England failed to Jadeja, Binny and Kumar when at 6/184 the game promised one final twist.

Bowling short and in the channel instead of full at the stumps didn't help either. On a pitch with no bounce, little pace, and sapped by the workload - there remain another four tests, lest we forget - bowling in the low-80s left the batsmen (and the bowlers masquerading as such) with far too much time. With Lord's promising to be flat, and neither captain likely to be take undue risks, we are in line for an attritional series marked by the odd inexplicable match-losing collapse. In this, England's squad bowling and batting depth probably tilt things in their favour. India's decision to play five batsmen could haunt them at some point, but if they win the toss and bat, they could have England in the field six days in nine. For a team already looking jaded, that's a worrying prospect.

The ratings now predict an English victory by a single run. Attritional cricket might lack a certain sexiness, but it still brings interesting narratives. And the longer the stays in the balance, the more interesting they become.


2 TestsSri LankavSouth Africa
Pre-rating1035.61299.4
Form+28.7-36.6
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 82 runs

South Africa enter this test as favourites, but their form, and the loss of both their captain and most solid batsman in the last year means they are probably not at quite that level. Sri Lanka's win in England showed a resilience they have often lacked while travelling. If they can couple that with the natural advantages playing on turning tracks at home gives them, then this could be a close contest.

The key for South Africa will be Imran Tahir. Leg spinners - or at least Warne - enjoyed Sri Lankan conditions, when the pitch wasn't completely dead. If he can contribute in ways he hasn't always on seaming, bouncing southern hemisphere pitches, then the South African seamers will be sufficiently strong to cover for any batting frailties. If not, South Africa's attack looks thin, and the tourists could be a middle order failure from Amla, du Plessis and AB de Villiers from an undefendable total.

Rankings at 16th July 2014
1.South Africa1299.4
2.Australia1273.7
3.India1152.3
4.Pakistan1093.9
5.England1054.2
6.Sri Lanka1035.6
7.New Zealand937.8
8.West Indies870.2
9.Bangladesh600.6
12.Zimbabwe560.2

10.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia383.4
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 16th July, 2014 22:15:14   [#] [0 comments] 

A tale of two hundreds; Ratings 10th July
Russell Degnan

3rd TestWest IndiesvNew Zealand
Pre-rating880.7931.1
Form-24.9+11.8
Expected MarginWest Indies by 25 runs
Actual MarginNew Zealand by 53 runs
Pre-rating870.2937.8
Series rating902.8910.6

A competitive series ended with a match that looked tighter on the scoreboard than it felt at the finish. The West Indies were set 308 runs on the final day, and were on track time-wise to make it. But despite getting to 254, an earlier collapse to 7/144, primarily to Southee (3/28), meant that they were always unlikely, and the new ball did for Taylor to end the contest.

Although 20 players got past 20 in the match, only one went on to make a score: Williamson's 161 being the major difference between the sides, With the ball Roach's 8/116 was the best of any bowler, but like the runs, the wickets were largely shared, and New Zealand's strength in depth allowed them to maintain pressure throughout the match. New Zealand's recent record is very good, but the series rating indicates both how close this series was, and that the gap to the top remains to be bridged. They have a capable side though, and enough youth - particularly in Williamson whose potential exceeds any - to maintain an upward trajectory.

2nd TestEnglandvSri Lanka
Pre-rating1087.31022.9
Form-53.9+13.7
Expected MarginEngland by 82 runs
Actual MarginSri Lanka by 100 runs
Post-rating1067.61035.6
Series rating1008.41108.4

A test that in many ways resembled Sydney 2008, whether from the grandstand finish, the persistent sledging from the winning side, or the failure to capitalise on a dominant position from the eventual losers. The umpiring was (fortunately) generally better, and the acrimony (fortunately) not long lasting. The turning point came from Mathews, beginning with his 4/44 in England's innings, and hitting a high-point in his 160 that took the match away from England. Mathews is a captain who, six months ago, basically gave away a test from negativity, so he'd have appreciated similarly generous field placings from Cook, that allowed him to aggressively hit through the ball without fear of being caught, while keeping the score ticking over.

For England, the positives were the performance of their young batsmen, with both Robson and Moeen Ali scoring tons; the latter a masterclass of concentration and resistance that deserved to secure the draw. Plunkett, and to a lesser extent Jordan both bowled well, but Cook's failure trust his young players, and tendency to look to Broad and Anderson cost them. Anderson had a very good series, but he is better as a stike-bowler than a work-horse, and will be lucky to last the summer, with seven tests in such quick succession.

Sri Lanka achieved a famous victory, and their pace bowlers belied their reputation and averages (albeit averages mostly achieved in unfavourable conditions) to out-bowl the home side. But their batting looked terribly dependent on Sangakarra, and they need bigger scores from the rest of their top-6 to challenge sides who remember how to win matches.

5 TestsEnglandvIndia
Pre-rating1067.61150.1
Form-52.9+7.3
Expected MarginEngland by 9 runs

A series for the present regime, with five tests in seven weeks between cricket's biggest money-earners, if not their most in-form sides. India had a better tour of South Africa than is recognised, and might have won with better captaincy, or some more consistent performances from their pace attack. England, are a mess. Their youth looks promising, but is being let down by their senior players, and either a lack of belief, or captaincy that leads one to believe they can't win.

At home, against a still inexperienced Indian batting lineup, and a still weak Indian pace attack, England ought to win. The ratings don't indicate one side or another, but India have not won away of late, and that will matter. Much may depend on whether their secondary bowling can cover for the inevitable slumps that so much cricket in such a short period will bring. If it comes to that, England probably can find adequate replacements, whereas India almost certainly cannot. But runs matter too, and if India can adjust to conditions (or as is apparent at Trent Bridge, find them to their liking), they have the talent to score heavily. With both sides rebuilding, and neither with any great confidence it should be an interesting, if occasionally poorly played series.


Rankings at 10th July 2014
1.South Africa1299.4
2.Australia1273.7
3.India1150.1
4.Pakistan1093.9
5.England1067.6
6.Sri Lanka1035.6
7.New Zealand937.8
8.West Indies870.2
9.Bangladesh600.6
12.Zimbabwe560.2

10.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia383.4
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 10th July, 2014 01:07:13   [#] [0 comments] 

World Cup Group Qualification
Russell Degnan

As per the last world cup, but this time more interactive, and theoretically better. The axes show the goal difference in the final group games. The flag shows the team that ought to be in the place. This cannot show where two teams are equal, and therefore puts the team with the current highest goals scored - taking into account the minimum ascertained from goal difference - in the highest place.

+5+4+3+2+1Draw+1+2+3+4+5
+5
+4
+3
+2
+1
Draw
+1
+2
+3
+4
+5


Football 24th June, 2014 02:01:25   [#] [0 comments] 

Australia v Netherlands
Russell Degnan

Another match in which the commentators have fallen over themselves to praise Australia for their ability to concede easily, while looking occasionally threatening. The Netherlands set up in a similar formation to that used against Spain, and it led to exactly the sort of frenetic long-passing game predicted. The down-side for Australia is that leaving, as Michael Cox noted, "a series of 1 v 1 battles all over the pitch", played into the hands of the Dutch strengths: van Persie's skill and Robben's pace, and a lost-ball and missed lunge was sufficient for an early concession.

Netherlands playing five at the back also made it theoretically more difficult for crosses to find their mark, but Cahill came up with something remarkable to immediately equalise. His play in the two games making you wonder if his career in the midfield has wasted a natural number-9, good at getting on crosses and holding the ball up.

Unlike Spain, conceding Australia possession is dangerous, as they put numbers forward and have pace on the wings. Australia should have scored with Bresciano, and later Leckie - though that was on the break. Those chances are ones Australia can ill-afford to waste, especially as defensive errors continue to haunt.

The Dutch switched formation and had more of the ball, particularly Sneijder and Depay, the latter knocking a simple ball to an Persie when he was played onside and scoring from distance when not shut down.

All told, Australia scored two relatively fortunate goals - a brilliant volley, but don't count on it, and a penalty - and conceded three from sloppy back play against a side who could afford to wait for those opportunities, and knew they could take them. As good as it looks to be streaming forward, there is a naivety in Australia's approach; a looseness that allows good teams to cut them apart, and there aren't any sides in this world cup with the quality to overcome conceding two soft goals (or more) per match.

Spain lacked any of their usual verve and movement against Chile, but it would surprise if they can't find something for this game. If so, Australia will offer them plenty of small openings, and a blowout is entirely possible. Their lack of pace can be exploited though, and Australia has shown glimpses of quality in this world cup. It would be out of character for them to leave anything on the park.

Football 21st June, 2014 17:22:44   [#] [0 comments] 

England almost win but problems persist; Ratings 19th June
Russell Degnan

3 TestsWest IndiesvNew Zealand
Pre-rating894.7923.5
Form-53.4+29.3
Expected MarginWest Indies by 36 runs
Actual MarginNew Zealand by 186 runs
West Indies by 10 wickets
Pre-rating880.7931.1

Missing the chance to do a preview prior to the second test had its advantages: not least, the natural tendency to over-state the meaning in New Zealand's first test victory. This was a dominant performance, for the first three days, anyway. Centuries by Williamson and Neesham backed by 80s by Latham and Watling, got them to 7/508 in the first innings, the wickets being shared amongst Benn and Shillingford. The old guard of Gayle 64 and Chanderpaul 84* provided the only resistance to Southee 4/19 (16) and Craig 4/91 in the second. With two days to play with, fast runs and an inevitable win seemed the likely result. But the runs were neither fast nor plentiful, and it was Taylor and Roach taking the wickets, as New Zealand slumped to 8/156 before declaring. This didn't matter, as only Shillingford's 29 ball 53 stopped it being a rout to Southee, Sodhi and Craig, whose 4/97 rounded out a good debut. But it showed the West Indies at least had the potential to cause damage.

Jerome Taylor had not played test cricket for five years prior to this series. Yet, with Roach, he was one of the few West Indians with superior figures to the apparently inadequate bowling of Darren Sammy. He is, at his best, a match-winner, with a test century under his belt to boot. Latham's 82 set a platform to put on another sizable total for New Zealand, but after Roach removed the opener just prior to tea, Taylor 4/34 ripped out the middle order to dismiss New Zealand for 221. Like Taylor, Darren Bravo is a match-winner, but one the world is still waiting to fulfill his talents. He lacks he discipline to choose his shots, and that will keep him down, until, if ever, he learns. But he will have his good days, and his 109 was one. Along with Brathwaite's 129 and other contributions the West Indies for to a 239 run lead, with plenty of time, even with rain threatening.

Roach's 4/74 was the pick of the bowling in New Zealand's valiant 331 off 152 overs. They took the game until the middle of day 5, and left a tempting target of 95 that Gayle (80 off 46) made short work of. Deservingly, this series will have a final match to decide it. It's a pity it won't garner the attention a topsy-turvy contest between closely matched sides deserves.


2 TestsEnglandvSri Lanka
Pre-rating1105.81017.5
Form-67.7+11.8
Expected MarginEngland by 94 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn
Post-rating1087.31022.9

There was much comment made that this match only sparked to life in the final session, but it offered an interesting tactical battle throughout. Sri Lanka demonstrated the benefit of choosing to bowl first even when the opposition scores heavily, with a Sangakarra master-class in batting (147 and 61) leading them to a deserved draw. With little on offer after the opening session, Sri Lanka resorted to short-pitch bowling in an attempt to remove Prior and Root - whose 200 not out showed again his talent, once he gets in. It worked, in the sense that it took wickets, but failed, in the sense that it also allowed the lower order to take 195 runs off the last 32.3 overs. That pace, when Sri Lanka had already been batted out of the game without something remarkable would almost come back to bite them later.

The pick of the English bowlers was Jordan, whose arm-pumping run-up and bruising short pitched bowling, reminiscent of Patrick Patterson, kept them going through the long partnership between Mathews and Sangakarra, and produced one of the more comical dismissals of recent times when Pradeep fell on his wicket before he could be bowled. England's third innings was fast enough, given Herath took out the middle order, and a chase of 300 odd in a day was potentially very doable. The top-order continues to fail. It was hidden by Prior in the first innings, and the declaration here, but they need more than one batsman to get going: Bell and Cook in particular.

The last day was a fight. The pitch offered little. And after a relatively fast start, neither did Anderson (4/25 off 19) nor Broad (3/43 off 21) whose workload should worry the selectors. The absence of a genuine spinner was a problem, and Cook was loathe to trust Moeen Ali, but both openers bowled 50 overs in the match, and need to back up 6 more times this summer. It was Anderson who sparked the late collapse, and Broad who almost stole it at the finish. Reiffel is clearly still a paid up member of the bowler's union, letting Herath walk with his hand off the bat off the first ball of the final over; and gunning Pradeep off an inside edge on the fifth to set off premature English celebrations. In the end, Pradeep's final-ball edge fell a few feet short of Jordan at slip, and Sri Lanka escaped. They'll be lucky to do so again at Headingley, where the pitch and skies are friendlier to the bowlers.


Rankings at 19th June 2014
1.South Africa1299.4
2.Australia1273.7
3.India1150.1
4.Pakistan1093.9
5.England1087.3
6.Sri Lanka1022.9
7.New Zealand931.1
8.West Indies880.7
9.Bangladesh600.6
12.Zimbabwe560.2

10.Ireland594.8
11.Afghanistan587.6
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia383.4
15.Kenya276.4
16.U.A.E.257.3
17.Netherlands182.4
18.Canada147.9

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Cricket - Ratings - Test 21st June, 2014 16:10:30   [#] [0 comments] 

ACC Elite, and WCL4 Preview with Jeremy Bray; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast
Russell Degnan

Tournaments are coming thick and fast. Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and Russell Degnan (@idlesummers) review the ACC Elite, won by Singapore, the Pan European T20, won by Malta and the North Sea Pro Series. Andrew speaks to former Irish international and current Danish coach Jeremy Bray about the upcoming World Cricket League division 4. And there are also previews of ICC Europe Division 2, and the Scotland and Netherlands ODIs. Finally, we discuss private tournament ownership, and the lack of ICC (and member) development in women's cricket, amongst other news from Ireland, Nepal, USA, and Uganda.

Direct Download Running Time 61min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men's women's, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 19th June, 2014 18:00:49   [#] [0 comments]