Associate and Affiliate Podcast: Ireland with Barry Chambers
Russell Degnan

The associate and affiliate 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 Ireland media manager Barry Chambers (@irishcricket1) joins Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and myself to discuss the recent Irish tour of the UAE, the proposed inter-provincial matches and upcoming international season in Ireland, and the task ahead as they work towards test status. We also look back at the Kenya-Canada I-Cup match, and preview the ACC Twenty20 Cup and World Cricket League Division 7 in Botswana.

Direct Download Running Time 50min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 27th March, 2013 11:58:59   [#] [0 comments] 

Inevitability and its surprises, Ratings 19th March
Russell Degnan

3rd TestIndiavAustralia
Expected MarginIndia by 6 runs
Actual MarginIndia by 6 wickets

Massively unbalanced series have become the norm in recent years. Even series that have been close through the first few games have ended up as whitewashes or near enough to, as they progressed, as the losing side senses the inevitability of their looming defeat. It is almost unfathomable that Australia could lose this match, having had the first day washed out, and ground their way to 400 on the back of a large opening stand, and unexpected runs from Smith (92) and Starc (99).

But they found a way, or more precisely, India offered them the chance and they took it. Vijay (153) was again very good, but completely overshadowed by Dhawan (187) who tore relatively poor bowling to pieces on the second day, putting India within 125 of Australia's total with 10 wickets in hand, and two days to make something of the game.

India were, again, only mediocre from there. Kohli's 67 was the only score of note; they rather collapsed to 499, offering the hint that Australia might even do something, were the able. But of course they were not. Warner's horrible dismissal set the tone, Hughes (69) did well but like Clarke was sawn off, in a manner that only losing sides seemingly are. Another rescue act from Starc and Lyon lasted neither enough overs (for the draw), nor produced enough runs (for the win). Australia of a decade ago would have set 250 in quick time and rolled India. The current side fought through to the end, but was always going to succumb. It is hard to see how any other result could eventuate in the final rubber either, though a raw would at least protect their tumbling rating.

2nd TestNew ZealandvEngland
Expected MarginEngland by 135 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn

England had their own inevitable win to ponder after three days of this game. Centuries to Compton and Trott and support from Pietersen and Trott laid the foundation. Broad's 6/51 left New Zealand 11 short of the follow-on, though McCullum and Watling almost allowed them that sliver of breathing room. And at 1/77 in their second innings, still two days to play, only a remarkable batting performance, English collapse, or both, could have produced any other result than an English victory.

Or New Zealand rain, unseasonable, it must be said, but always a threat. New Zealand did well to be only two down after 68 overs when coming and going off the field. But the decisive event was a complete washout of the fifth day. The series goes to Auckland all square, and deservedly so, given the backbone New Zealand have shown. A New Zealand series victory remains unlikely, given the solidity of the English batting to date, but with Pietersen out, it is at least a possibility, which wasn't a consideration a month ago.

2nd TestSri LankavBangladesh
Expected MarginSri Lanka by 252 runs
Actual MarginSri Lanka by 7 wickets
Series rating884.8725.7

On a pitch more conducive to a result, Sri Lanka achieved one. But that doesn't tell the real story. A seven wicket victory against a side missing its best player - meaning its best bowler and its best batsman - a side with no depth, no record of great achievement and a rated expected loss of more than an innings, lacks punch. Even more-so when nearing stumps on the third day Bangladesh were well placed to set a challenging target in the fourth innings on a pitch taking turn.

They didn't, and although 160 was challenging enough to stretch the top-order, Bangladesh still lack the bowling to take advantage of favourable conditions, or put pressure on a tight chase - Sri Lanka's 2nd innings run-rate of 3.84 speaks directly to the problem they have producing pressure when they need to. Herath was the key difference in this respect, having emerged from his role as understudy to Muralitharan to become one of their best ever bowlers in his own right. 5/68 and 7/89 off plenty of overs kept chipping away at a Bangladeshi line-up that neither collapsed nor quite threatened to score heavily. That role was filled by the Sangakarra (139 and 55) and Chandimal (102) who made sure they scored enough runs to take the series, if not the plaudits in what was a sub-par result.

1st TestWest IndiesvZimbabwe
Expected MarginWest Indies by 259 runs
Actual MarginWest Indies by 9 wickets

Somewhat like the Bangladeshi performance, in that Zimbabwe defied expectations for a time, before collapsing, almost on cue, and letting the match come to the expected conclusion. Like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe beat expectations, but they have less to build on, and the West Indies can surely play better.

Somehow Zimbabwe had eight double figure scores in the first innings (nine with extras) and yet only made 211. Only Mawayo (50) got past 30, as the spin of Shillingford and Samuels worked them over. Yet they bounced back with the ball. Jarvis (5/54) continues to impress, and from 6/151 it took an inspired (perhaps mad) 73 off 69 from Sammy to get the West Indies a lead. Tino Best and Ramdin again combined to stretch it out, before Shillingford (6/49) took over. This won't rate as a great bowling effort - by most accounts Zimbabwe's batsmen merely failed to negotiate regulation turn and bounce - but he can only bowl to the batsmen put in front of him, and Shillingford returned by far the best figures. One more test for Zimbabwe, before they return to hibernation; it is surely insufficient for them to adjust to this level, but that is their lot for the moment, and one they seem unwilling to work around.

I-Cup MatchU.A.E.vIreland
Expected MarginIreland by 117 runs
Actual MarginIreland by 117 runs

A run-fest for the ages, played on a pitch so unresponsive it hosted two one-day matches a week later and still showed barely a mark on it. Ireland scored heavily through Joyce (155) and Niall O'Brien (126) but were held up long enough by Arshard Ali (95 off 271) and Khurram Khan (115 off 232) that they declined to enforce the follow-on, allowing for Porterfield (101) to get his eye in for the one-day matches, but no sort of result. In the end 1137 runs were scored for the loss of 19 wickets Hardly an advertisement for the I-Cup, but a result both sides are probably comfortable with. Ireland remain on top leading by 30 points to third and almost certain to make the final. The UAE will need to win both their remaining games and hope Afghanistan stumble to make the final. Their focus will undoubtedly be on chasing the second automatic qualifying spot for the world cup, where they are well-positioned to take a tilt.

Rankings at 19th March 2013
1.South Africa1324.6
6.Sri Lanka997.9
7.West Indies960.9
8.New Zealand866.1


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 March, 2013 02:20:06   [#] [2 comments] 

Associate and Affiliate Podcast: WCL/I-Cup Review
Russell Degnan

The associate and affiliate 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.

Theoretically, a briefer episode than normal, as Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and I round up the Afghanistan-Scotland matches and the Canada-Kenya WCL games. We lead into a discussion of HPP funding, TAPP funding and the problems of having test status.

Direct Download Running Time 45min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 19th March, 2013 01:36:26   [#] [0 comments] 

Panic and Dull Pitches, Ratings 12th March
Russell Degnan

2nd TestIndiavAustralia
Expected MarginAustralia by 17 runs
Actual MarginIndia by an innings and 135 runs

A debacle that has subsequently turned into a farce. Albeit one that where I side strongly with the management. Once again India fired on a few cylinders, and Australia barely any at all. Telling is that the biggest partnership between Vijay (167) and Pujara (204) garnered 370 runs. The next three biggest (Clark and Wade, Cowan and Warner, Tendulkar and Dhoni) produced 257 runs, and the other 25 only 239 between them. Clearly as Gideon Haigh argued, this is a pitch to get in, and stay in. Australia though seem capable of neither. The order collapsed to the gentle swing of Kumar, the rest to Jadeja, Ashwin or themselves, particularly in the second innings. It was a monumental loss, where in almost no aspect of the game was Australia competitive, or even looking like competing.

Needless to say, some introspection, above and beyond the introspection that ought to be a continuing process of a professional cricketer was in order. That some members of the squad failed in this most basic of duties speaks to some serious issues with application. Yet underlying the suspension is the fact that none of the players were indispensable. Watson's lack of bowling and fairly woeful average meant he ought to be shown the door anyway. Johnson wasn't in the side, and probably oughtn' be in the squad. Khawaja ought to be in the side, but has blown his opportunity for reasons only he can guess at. While Pattinson, far and away Australia's best bowler, only avoids needing a rest because his batsmen failed to post a score for him to bowl to.

Not that the performance is likely to improve. It might, of course, and i would want to, but the preparation required to succeed needed to happen months - even years - ago, and bar Clarke, none really seem to have any great idea how to combat the conditions.

1st TestNew ZealandvEngland
Expected MarginEngland by 139 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn

A quite amazing first day, that reverted to type thereafter. England played particularly poorly, and New Zealand capitalised with Martin and Wagner taking four apiece. They ought, really have bowled England out for less, but Trott held things together, and any nastiness in the pitch (of which there was little) disappeared. Thereafter runs were more easily made. Rutherford (171) played beautifully, and McCullum was his bludgeoning self to set England a difficult task to bat out the last two days.

Perhaps fortunately for New Zealand, the loss of the first day to rain prevented them having to chase a middling score. Cook and Compton looked comfortable and set for many more runs in the immediate future. Even so, New Zealand had a chance to win coming in to the final day, and couldn't even remove Finn, who made 56, only departing when the draw was secured. An effort from New Zealand that both surpassed expectations and confirmed them. They'll struggle to remove England twice, and remain vulnerable when batting. Expect a better performance from the tourists in the second test.

1st TestSri LankavBangladesh
Expected MarginSri Lanka by 261 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn

Well that was boring. Bangladesh cross 600 ranking points for the first time since their early days ranking ajustment. The also passed 600 with the bat for the first time, which was no mean feat without their best two batsmen in Tamim and Shakib, but Ashraful has his days, and Mushfiqur Rahim is a dogged and talented player. But ultimately the winner was the pitch on which the two sides might have played the ten days scheduled for both tests without a result. Sri Lanka passed up numerous records stopping at 4/570 and only lost 8 wickets in 218 overs of batting. Sri Lanka would be better advised to bowl next time; but then it isn't clear they really care if they win this series.

2 TestsWest IndiesvZimbabwe
Expected MarginWest Indies by 259 runs

It is a testament to the West Indies recent upswing in results that they are expected to smash Zimbabwe at home. An innings victory isn't that unreasonable, given the uneven performances of Zimbabwe's batting and bowling, and the probability that at least once innings will end in a catastrophic collapse. Conversely, the West Indies have not come into a series as heavy favourites in several years, amd putting away a more limited opposition will stretch the captaincy experience of Sammy and the nous of his players.

For Zimbabwe, having not played a test in a year, and not played together since the World T20, the tour represents a rare opportunity to show that they can compete with the teams above them. The lack of cricket is alarming, particularly when they continue to draw on millions of ICC funds per year, ostensibly to play test cricket. They need to prove themselves a viable touring option or sink into the abyss between the test nations and the games organised below.

I-Cup MatchAfghanistanvScotland
Expected MarginAfghanistan by 39 runs
Actual MarginAfghanistan by an innings and 5 runs

Speaking of the lower level. There are, or were, two I-Cup games coinciding with three test matches. A feast of 24-hour test cricket that ought to happen more often. This preview being late, and Afghanistan bowling Scotland out cheaply twice on the back of Izatullah Dawlatzai's 11/94 and good performances from Dawlat Zadran and Mirwais Ashraf, the match finished well before I posted.

Scotland, who came into ths tour with high hopes and the reputation of a number of county players in their ranks, will leave the UAE with five losses from five games, across the three formats, their hope of a repeat final appearance now resting on a likely need to defeat Ireland and have results go their way.

Afghanistan come away with their reputation as the best non-Ireland-non-test team restored after some poor results in the earlier matches. They will need more wins to progress in both competitions, but on this evidence they are well placed to do so.

I-Cup MatchU.A.E.vIreland
Expected MarginIreland by 117 runs

Another match that has started, but with plenty of cricket in it. Ireland has their full strength lineup, which ought to be sufficient to win, even on the hom pitches of a U.A.E. side that has surprised to date. The pitch seems to be playing spoiler, but the Irish look likely to take at least first innings points and continue their march towards the final. The U.A.E. are not out of the competition regardless of the result with easier games to come, so a draw will help immensely.

I-Cup MatchKenyavCanada
Expected MarginKenya by 75 runs

Two very young sides bringing up the bottom of the table. It is worth reminding yourself how young, because as a strategy for the future it is one that one would hope will succeed, rather than going back to older, and in Canada's case, ex-pat players. But both, Canada in particular, have struggled for runs with their talented, but inexperienced and reckless top-order. Neither team is likely to take anything out of the I-Cup, but they have a handful of opportunities to ascertain their best side for the all-important world cu qualifiers, where anything less than a top-8 finish will have significant consequences. A match worth keeping an eye on to see who can claim their place.

Rankings at 12th March 2013
1.South Africa1324.6
6.Sri Lanka1006.5
7.West Indies961.4
8.New Zealand862.0


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 14th March, 2013 08:47:22   [#] [0 comments] 

Associate and Affiliate Podcast: WCL/I-Cup Preview
Russell Degnan

The associate and affiliate 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.

Andrew Nixon (@andrewnixon79) and I are on our own for episode four. Excuse the rambling and poor sound quality. We'll sort that out next time. We discuss the Africa Division 1 T20 qualifiers, the South American championships, review the forthcoming WCL and I-Cup matches from the UAE, discuss cricket in the Olympics, the format of tournaments, and reserve some praise for the ICC's decision to stream World Cup qualifiers from their website.

Direct Download Running Time 49min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

Cricket - Associate - Podcast 7th March, 2013 09:51:48   [#] [0 comments] 

The economics and politics of a tiered Test league
Russell Degnan

Talk about the problems - such that they are - with test cricket, and it isn't long until a two-tier championship is mooted. Michael Vaughan is the latest to propose it, but the ICC investigated as long as a decade ago. A few lessons on why it failed to progress then and will do so again seem to be in order.

Politics 101

The MCC world cricket committee has its problems, but it did at least get this right:

"In discussing the marketing of Test cricket, [David White, CEO of New Zealand Cricket] added that a two-tier Test match championship - an idea involving promotion and relegation which has been raised in some parts - would be catastrophic for the long-form of the game in the nations outside the top four in the world."

There are 13 members of the ICC Executive: 10 full members, and 3 associate representatives. To pass, a vote needs a majority of the executive (7 votes), and 2/3 of the full members (7 votes) to be in favour. The associate votes are therefore irrelevant. The four teams excluded by a 6-team division will not be. An eight team first division might get closer, but even then, two teams are vulnerable to relegation. It is a big risk that more than half the full members won't take.

Finance 101

Over a 4-year period New Zealand generated approximately $130 million USD in revenue. Of that, approximately $35 million comes from the ICC. Around $25 million comes from Indian TV companies, primarily paying to see Indian cricketers; and around $10 million from TV deals to other nations (primarily England). In addition, their primary sponsors come about because they are a global team playing in front of a global - but mostly Indian - audience.

There is no point discussing cricket's structures unless you talk about finance or more specifically, ownership of the tv rights, and how much those rights are worth. Because of the context of the Future Tours Programme and ICC dividends, all full members can negotiate the sale of home matches for between $25 and $70 million over a four-year cycle. Exclude India, England and Australia from that cycle and the value of those matches goes down. If only test matches are excluded the hit might not be catastrophic, but it will hurt, even before they have to sell second-tier matches to their home crowds.

Ethics 101

There is a fundamental unfairness to the calls for tiers. Here is Athar Ali Khan in 2005:

"The annoying thing is that this idea is only ever spoken of when Bangladesh plays poor cricket. If we look back two, three or four years down the line, it was England who were at the foot of the table, but there was no talk of a two-tier system then. I simply don't understand the inconsistency."

Bangladesh ought to have improved more than they have, and Zimbabwe have their own problems. But even Sri Lanka copped the treatment after struggling in Australia this year - regardless that they remain in the top-6. There are people whose views on this are consistent, who'd readily accept India, England or Australia in the lower division, and the consequences.

But they are few on the ground. In the main, people suggest formats that prevent their side having to play low profile fixtures. And in the main, cricket writers emerge from England, India and Australia. Cricket's financial disparity is also reflected in its media disparity and the membership of its high profile committees, despite their laughable claim to diversity.

Ideas to improve the context of test cricket are welcome and needed. Ideas that only help the top-8, top-6 or top-4 are bad for the game, because they will stymie growth and reinforce an inequality that is already test cricket's biggest weakness.

Mathematics 101

There is a tendency in making plans to over-estimate how much cricket it is possible to play in a season or several, particularly given the slow encroachment of T20 leagues. The season of most nations is bounded by the Champions League in September and the IPL in April. Some matches can be scheduled outside that in several nations - Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa, but not necessarily profitably.

In general, where five of the six sides play in the southern hemispheric summer, the sides will need to play five home series and four away. Assuming a three-test series takes five weeks - a warm-up and three tests over four weekend - that is 45 weeks of test cricket. Squeezing that into two seasons is extremely unlikely - there is a reason Australia has not expanded their home season beyond 5 or 6 tests per summer.

Even if a way was found to schedule them out of season it would almost certainly sound the death knell for the five test series. Some may argue that it is worth it in the interests of rational and fair planning and context. I can't say I see the appeal.

Alternatives are possible. A 7-team tier can almost certainly be accommodated over three years; an 8-team or 9-team division over 4. But that works strongly against having each series carry some context. Football seasons drag out towards the end for mid-table teams. But they still only last 6-9 months.

Conversely, a 6-team competition can be conducted in a single year, if teams played in two groups of three, and time was found for a final home-away series in September-October. It depends what constraints are in place.

History 101

The prevailing opinion in cricket is that international cricket should be conducted as a league where every team plays every other. But it isn't clear why this is the case.

Cricket is, needless to say, mired in mid-19th century exhibition matches, conducted by touring XIs. But the next evolutionary step by professional sports in the late 19th century was the cup competition (FA Cup 1871-72), usually conducted as a challenge competition (as probably only the Americas Cup remains) whereby the previous winner plays off against the winner of the cup competition. This invention gave teams the context for play, and has endured in various forms, but particularly international play ever since.

Professional matches of the early 1870s were organised haphazardly, with a preference for playing the "big" clubs who'd generate a profit. Hence, in the 1875 National Association, Boston played almost seven times as many games as Keokuk. The invention of a league, played on regular and (almost) even schedules came about to protect the financial interests of clubs who couldn't rely on exhibition matches or a decent cup run to generate consistent revenue.

The preference for leagues in cricket stems from the same source: a desire to play certain teams and generate revenue. Except that sports revenue is no longer ticket-driven, and league play, while desirable in a competition between teams unhindered by geography, and therefore playing base, is not necessarily the best option for international teams.

By and large, fans don't really want to see weak teams play strong teams, just to preserve the financial integrity of the weak. A competition structure that allows weak and strong to segment themselves into groups, and then plays most matches amongst the best players is much more desirable. A fact that can be seen by the ever-growing length and importance of play-offs, relative to leagues in professional sports.

It is important cricket moves out of the mid-19th century. But the late 20th century is a better option than the late 19th.

Finance 102

There are three methods by which the financial inequities of a second tier can be ameliorated.

  • As discussed by Michael Wagener, there can be cross-division games, whereby the second division hosts the first, albeit less regularly. The down-side is that it must be scheduled on a much longer schedule - 4 years or more - and it is at best a partial solution.
  • The richer nations can pay into a fund that is then distributed amongst members. This was mooted after the ICC study proposed various changes to the FTP to accomodate a league structure. Neither the BCCI nor the ECB would agree.
  • The ICC can assume control of the scheduling, ownership and running of the test championship from which they fund the various members involved. On a very small scale, this is the model the proposed 4-team 3-match test championship will take; assuming it is not post-poned again.

The third, ownership and control, is how the majority of sporting bodies work with respect to tv rights. The alternative - such as in MLB or La Liga - ends up with vast inequities, because the rich teams have no desire to give up revenue - and why would they? That doesn't matter that much in cricket, because the players cannot switch teams, but will if the players switch formats because test/international cricket cannot afford to pay for their services.

Politics 102

The big-three have no wish to engage in a test league either.

Obviously, the threat of relegation puts at risk their (and cricket's) most valuable properties: the Ashes, the Border-Gavaskar and the Patuadi Trophy. Nor should we discount the value of these series on the grounds of elitism. They are valuable because they are popular. Popular generates income. Context for other series won't necessarily make up the difference losing or diminishing them will cause - by making them 3-test series for example.

This is a problem if some form of monetary distribution is to take place. A test league that reduces the total value of the test cricket franchise makes it unlikely it will come from a surplus, and works against the aim to improve the lot of players eyeing better pay-days.

Nor ought we expect a system to stay in place if it works against the priorities of the teams involved. Were India relegated that financial hit will hit teams in the first division. Under those circumstances it is almost guaranteed that the 6-team division will become the 7-team division or the 8-team division. Or that "extra" series will be scheduled.

That's politics, but given that situation, the design of any new structure ought to reflect the need to preserve these series in their best form: 5 tests, semi-regular.

Economics 101

The premise of Vaughan's article is wrong anyway. T20 domestic cricket is not the same as league cricket attempting to out-bid county cricket for players - as was the case in the early 20th century. T20 domestic cricket is organised by individual ICC members. While it is certainly true that the organisation of these leagues is impinging on test cricket, that is because other ICC members are organising international matches in conflict to T20 domestic leagues, and vice versa.

The basic economic equation of sport: match interest is driven by the presence of star players; the matches with the most star players will over-shadow interest in matches without any. Domestic matches, where stars are spread between teams generally produce more income because they have more matches (more teams and more fixtures) and make more efficient use of fixed resources (grounds for example).

Domestic leagues therefore have a lot of money, but there is no market driven out-competing of T20 domestic leagues over test cricket. What there are administrators in numerous nations who refuse to sit down and devise periods when T20 domestic cricket can be played, and when test and international cricket can be played without conflict. With relatively few exceptions, this is the norm in football or rugby. It obviously doesn't suit the BBL or BPL to have some of their star power outbid by IPL teams, but IPL teams leave a lot of players on the bench.

The sad fact is, cricket is a cartel but is too disorganised to organise and market their games in a way that maximises their resources to serve customers; and therefore leaves enormous amounts of money on the table because of a deficiency of governance.

Politics 200

There is a really good reason I began my manifesto with an extensive discussion of what cricket should aim to achieve. Those goals are in conflict. A path through them that satisfies most parties - administrators, players, fans - while growing the game, adding context to test cricket, and preserving its unique history is very difficult. But it is also the only way that test cricket can move forward from its current scheduling malaise.

A tiered league system for test cricket is a terrible idea. Every person who sits down and works through the consequences agrees on this. It has benefits for the top-ranked test sides and the top-ranked associate sides. But in the former case they are teams that want for nothing, and in the latter, it is at best a marginal improvement, as they will be entering much the same type of competition they just left: the Intercontinental Cup.

It is also a lazy solution, grabbed upon because that is what popular domestic sports have, when those very sports are pushing for a tournament orientated approach that adds more immediate context, while using a distributed ownership model of television rights.

A tournament, played home and away, with a year of qualifying and a year of match play between the best sides - the others playing a secondary or tertiary tournament - would work considerably better than a league. It would allow the flexibility outside the tournament to schedule the marquee tours; the ICC to assume the ownership rights to the non-marquee tours at relatively little cost to the big-three; a balance between key match-up and opportunities for smaller nations; and add immediate context to a range of matches within a time-frame that the public can follow.

Nor is this a new model. The Davis Cup has operated a home or away style tournament for over a century; the FIFA World Cup operates an extensive home and away qualifying model that is far more inclusive (and mismatched) than cricket would ever dream. Although weather is a factor in cricket, limiting the ability to schedule a straight-knockout, both those events are vastly superior as cups than they would be as leagues. A cup format is the appropriate model for international sport and cricket needs to embrace it, instead of chasing rainbows elsewhere.

Cricket - Articles 3rd March, 2013 14:35:36   [#] [1 comment] 

Belief or the lack of it, Ratings 2nd March
Russell Degnan

3rd TestSouth AfricavPakistan
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 145 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by an innings and 18 runs
Series rating1407.91028.0

Belief is an important part of cricket. It keeps a team on their toes when they might otherwise be struggling to keep working. Lack of it tends to do the opposite. After having the second test taken from them, Pakistan seemed set in their belief that it was inevitable that it would happen again. At 6/248 in the first innings South Africa might have been in a little trouble. A session later AB de Villiers (121) and Philander (74) had capitalised on the hard new ball and dragged them to 409. From there, Pakistan was never going to overcome the trauma of previous collapses.

The catalyst for the collapse was a new factor. Kyle Abbott seemlessly replaced Morkel, taking 7/29 in the process. Sent straight back in, Hafeez looked utterly unready to face Steyn in being dismissed first ball, and only a late rally from Sarfraz Ahmed and Saeed Ajmal put any respectability on the second innings score.

The reverse of Pakistan's doubt is South Africa's confidence, which has only grown since getting past England last year. Whether they can carry that through a tour of the sub-continent with a pace-based attack will be a good test. But right now, you'd not bet against them.

1st TestIndiavAustralia
Expected MarginAustralia by 29 runs
Actual MarginIndia by 8 wickets

It wasn't that bad for Australia. But that might be because outside Tendulkar, Kohli, Dhoni, Ashwin and to a lesser extent Jadeja, India played pretty badly. Having had Clarke carry them to 380 - with a bit of help from Henriques who played much better than his record suggested he would - Australia ought to have had a small lead, and the opportunity to bowl last on a wicket offering a lot of turn and uneven bounce.

Then Dhoni (224) happened, Lyon again failed to contain the runs, and the fielding (and keeping particularly) let the bowlers down. Except for Pattinson the bowlers looked bereft of ideas; the field placements, normally a strength of Clarke's were negative and let the batsmen score easily without risk; the batting looked short, and the value of Henriques as an extra seamer was negated by playing another three specialists.

The second innings collapse was somewhat inevitable, given the shakiness of the top four against spin, and only Henriques (81) again, kept the defeat from being worse than it was. India played poorly; their seam attack is limited, and their openers struggling; although Pujara will no doubt find some runs. But that might not matter, because Australia's panicked response suggests their own trauma at having to play on turning pitches against players who punish the loose ball. And that may end up being the biggest difference in this series. India score so freely, and Australia are so constricted by contrast, that even if the ball that does something arrives, it is the former who'll have the runs on the board.

3 TestsNew ZealandvEngland
Expected MarginEngland by 139 runs

Visitors to New Zealand have occasionally struggled to come to terms with the cold weather, seaming pitches and disrupted play. England however, are right at home, and few sides have better records on the islands than the northerners. With New Zealand at a relatively low ebb, and England still a strong team, it is hard to see these matches as being anything other than large losses for the home team. Man for man it is not clear whether a single New Zealander would even challenge for a place in the English side. While you should never completely discount any side at home, only rain will likely prevent a three-nil scoreline in favour of the away side.

2 TestsSri LankavBangladesh
Expected MarginSri Lanka by 261 runs

Sri Lanka have long been one of Bangladesh's biggest tormentors. The Sri Lankans have dropped away, but while the possibility of an upset might have played in the back of the minds of the Bangladeshi players, it remained unlikely. Right now though, this series is near impossible to predict. Like the West Indies before them, the players have targeted the low profile series to make a point about contracts, and refused to sign on. Whether they will play, or whether they'll be replaced by others is uncertain. In the former case, expect Sri Lanka to win, but hope for a better match than has been the norm between these two sides. In the latter, a home defeat is a reasonable proposition, as it was when the last set of players decided to use a Bangladesh series to make a stand.

Rankings at 2nd March 2013
1.South Africa1324.6/td>
6.Sri Lanka1016.5
7.West Indies961.4
8.New Zealand857.7


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 3rd March, 2013 14:33:33   [#] [0 comments]