Ratings - June-July 2007
Russell Degnan

Wow, so late I missed a series... not that it was a series of any note.

England v West Indies

Opening Ratings: Eng: 1174.65 WI: 832.90
1st Test: Drawn
2nd Test: England by an innings and 283 runs
3rd Test: England by 60 runs
4th Test: England by 7 wickets
Closing Ratings: Eng: 1174.56 WI: 833.77

I can put a precise date on the day I started to fear for West Indies cricket: 19th November 2000. It was a week before the first test of a series they'd go on to lose five nil, and they were engaged in a lead up fixture against a solid Victorian side. Victoria had ended the second day on 304/3, 137 runs ahead, but it was not the thrashing that concerned me when I went to watch the third afternoon. It was the attitude. This most illustrious cricket playing nation - not only in need of some playing time, and of some confidence and form - could barely muster itself to put up some fight. The commentary gives some sense of the abjectness of it all. The odd bad bounce being sufficient reason for the whole team to treat the game as some merry jaunt.

More than half a decade later, and you can only conclude that what might, at first, have been merely an unprofessional group of players, is now clearly the presiding culture. Having got lucky in the first test, though they batted well enough despite the rain, the second test was as embarassing a performance as any in an increasingly long list - ill-disciplined and poor in every department. The third test seems to be anomaly in this regard, as the bowling was better - particularly Darren Sammy, and an inspired Chanderpaul in the face of a big chase. But things regressed again in the fourth, Chanderpaul's runs merely hiding what would otherwise have been another significant defeat.

England then could be well pleased. A depleted bowling attack, led by Monty Panesar and the recalled Sidebottom brushed aside everyone but Chanderpaul, and to a lesser extent Dwayne Bravo, who struck a fine average for a player who never made the most of his opportunities. The English batting, on the other hand, cashed in, with nine centuries in the top seven, and only Strauss struggling for form. Sad, but it is becoming increasingly difficult not to think of the West Indies as the minnow their small population always suggested they should be.

Bangladesh v India

Opening Ratings: Ban: 599.35 Ind: 1105.52
1st Test: Drawn
2nd Test: England by an innings and 283 runs
Closing Ratings: Ban: 604.95 Ind: 1102.90

Once the rain cleared, Bangladesh did just enough to draw the first match. Despite good bowling from Mortaza and Hossain, Tendulkar and Ganguly centuries gave India a sniff if they could have bowled Bangladesh out for not many. It took a fast paced 79 from Mortaza to prevent it, having collapsed to 7/122, and the game petered out. When the opposition is only heading back to the pavilion injured or ill, a team is in terrible trouble. But to follow a mauling of 3/601 with 4/7 (all out 118) and 3/10 is to invite scorn. That Saleh, Ashraful and Mortaza blazed 179 between them is typical of why Bangladesh continue to struggle. Like the West Indies, the talent to play flashy strokes needs to be focused. India's bowling was even, the wickets spread. But then, noone pays much heed to records against Bangladesh these days.

Sri Lanka v Bangladesh

Opening Ratings: Ban: 604.95 Sri: 1095.42
1st Test: Sri Lanka by an innings and 234 runs
2nd Test: Sri Lanka by an innings and 193 runs
Closing Ratings: Ban: 597.99 Sri: 1100.60

This is the one I missed, but you could have guessed my preview: Sri Lanka at home are a tough proposition, Bangladesh are still struggling in tests. Needless to say, I'd have been right, but who would be wrong? Still, regardless of the result, I prefer to highlight the positives of Bangladeshi performances. There is little positive to say here though. First innings results are your best guide. In three (three, shock!) tests Bangladesh scored 282 runs for the loss of all 30 wickets (top score: 29). Sri Lanka scored 1528 runs for 16 wickets (2 double centuries, 5 singles, 2 fifties). Sangakarra and Jayawardene may make up a disproportionate amount of the Sri Lankan batting order but they made hay here. Likewise the bowling: Muralitharan picking up 26 wickets, and the pacemen picking up the scraps. To be fair, in their second innings Bangladesh did better each time, but after a World Cup in which they were said to be progressing quite well, the last five tests have made clear they have much much further to go.

Forthcoming Series:

England (1174.56) v India (1102.90)- 3 Tests

Easy to say the right thing half way through the series, but harder to say why. Given England's ratings advantage and their respective home and away records, India would seem to be no chance. Compounding that, their great batsmen, games against Bangladesh aside, have been struggling for some time, while England's are just coming into their own. But, there is something to be gained from last year's series against Pakistan, where the weakened English attack struggled to contain a rampant Mohammed Yousef. With Jones, Flintoff and Hoggard still injured, and Harmison formless, much is left to Monty Panesar - a dependence that could prove problematic against Indian batsmen. Conversely, Kumble remains a danger, Zaheer Khan is back and firing after a stint in county cricket, and Sreesanth continues to impress. A longer series would have been nice here, especially given the efforts of the West Indies. As it is, we'll probably be left wanting more.

Australia (1st) 1441.45
Pakistan (4th) 1102.43
South Africa (5th) 1101.32
New Zealand (7th) 1065.59
Zimbabwe (9th) 671.01

Cricket - Ratings - Test 5th August, 2007 04:32:11   [#] [0 comments]