## England out-gunned, Pakistan out-prepared; ratings 14th September Russell Degnan

2nd TestIndiavEngland
Pre-rating1220.61134.0
Form+12.6-8.3
Expected MarginIndia by 93 runs
Actual MarginIndia by 246 runs
Post-rating1235.71123.4

There are clear benefits to winning the toss on a pitch that will only deteriorate, but it isn't necessarily easy to force a victory. A team needs to score quickly enough to either declare or bowl the opposition out for less. Failure to capitalise in the first innings, or a collapse in the third can negate the fourth innings advantage with a routine chase. As a team India didn't play this game particularly well. Kohli scored 167 and 81, Pujara 119, and there wasn't many other batting contributions. Anderson and Broad bowled well, Rashid took wickets against the tail. But the match was won ultimately at the end of the second day when England collapsed to a run out, a poor shot, and any chance of parity was gone.

England once again batted more overs than India, which says more about their bowling than their batting. The second innings was proper trench warfare that still took in 97.3 overs, including 38 on the final day when they lost 8/71. They made India work for their win, and that bodes well for any possible come back in the series. That disparity in scoring rate makes a huge difference to their respective abilities to win matches however, with England much more likely to draw than win.

The only significant issue for England is Duckett, whose clearly lacking some combination of form and technique. The rest of the middle order have had their moments in this series, and ultimately the issue is probably not the selection but the quality of the Indian spin bowling over England's and the batting of Kohli, Pujara and Rahane. On the one hand that is an easily and often over-turned margin. On the other, they need a player to score big, or a collapse to do so. Right now, the odds are definitely favouring India for both those events.

1st TestNew ZealandvPakistan
Pre-rating1009.21139.1
Form-18.7-10.1
Expected MarginPakistan by 15 runs
Actual MarginNew Zealand by 8 wickets
Post-rating1017.31128.0

The scorecard probably understates the closeness of this match, and the difficulties New Zealand overcame in chasing down 108 in the last innings. Historically, scores that low are not chased very very rarely. But historically, the first three innings scoring only 500 odd runs is quite rare too. Williamson's 61 off 77 balls was not only the highest score of the match, but done at a pace that prevented any tension from arising. Raval's 55 and 37 not out in support were also impressive from a player on debut. The other debut from de Grandhomme was similarly successful with 6/41 in the first innings. With support from Boult, Southee and Wagner, and sprinklings of runs from most parties New Zealand were comfortable winners.

Nevertheless, Pakistan's ability to find the edge (if not always a safe fielder) means that they are always a good chance. Their batting was better in England, but a two-test series and little preparation makes tuning it a little difficult. It wouldn't be a surprise if the second test was closer, and New Zealand will need to improve their own batting to win again.

Rankings at 23rd November 2016
1.India1220.6
2.South Africa1151.9
3.Australia1144.9
4.Pakistan1128.0
5.England1123.4
6.New Zealand1017.3
7.Sri Lanka1000.6
8.West Indies831.6
12.Zimbabwe512.0

10.Ireland628.1
11.Afghanistan622.9
13.Scotland396.1
14.Kenya276.4
15.Namibia273.9
16.Papua New Guinea249.9
17.U.A.E.225.9
18.Hong Kong217.0
19.Netherlands179.0

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

Cricket - Ratings - Test 24th November, 2016 19:54:06   [#] [0 comments]

## The mysteries of consistent performance, ratings 16th November Russell Degnan

2nd TestAustraliavSouth Africa
Pre-rating1170.41128.7
Form-49.4+17.2
Expected MarginAustralia by 71 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by an innings and 80 runs
Post-rating1144.11151.9

Not much needs to be said about the details of Australia's latest capitulation. When a side gets bowled out twice in 93 overs they won't win matches. When only three of the top four batsmen are worth their place (one barely) then they aren't going to score enough runs. When their bowling consistently splutters to a halt after the first or second burst then they'll continue to leak runs against the lower order - particularly India and England's lower orders. When the continual drubbings get to a side such that the fielding falls apart and the collapse becomes a clockwork inevitability, then you get where Australia are now.

South Africa, incidentally, are playing good cricket. They like Australian pitches (particularly green Hobart pitches) and Abbott and Philander made appropriate hay. But they aren't a dominant world beating side. The problems of Australia really are the problems of Australia.

Which brings us to the autopsy. With one exception, the problems most people identify with Australian cricket have always existed. Selectors picking players on the back of a run of good form, ignoring their extended record, not accounting for their record as teenagers, getting hung-up over all-rounders because the bowling was failing, looking for upside instead of good records or X-factor over competency, or plumping for young players with almost no experience has happened throughout the past three decades. Examples abound, and except those few years when they picked no new players the selectors have always been hit and miss. The only thing you should ask of the selectors is that an argument can be made that it is the best available, and that they back their decisions. If the process is correct then the side shouldn't change, though the results depend on the quality in the side, and sometimes it just isn't there.

The Sheffield Shield has never offered either enough practice for players, nor opportunities for fringe/younger players (particularly spinners), nor enough data for selectors to make decisions from. It is an amateur structure in a professional era, but the best players never needed it. Certainly not the best bowlers, who often played less than a full season before making their Test debut. This, incidentally, is wrong. Players should play Shield cricket earlier in their career to ensure they keep progressing, they should have several seasons behind them on debut, and plenty of matches in different conditions to draw on. They haven't, they generally learn in the Test team, or float between the two until they are ready, at which point they feature in stories talking about their journey to success. But it was ever thus.

The schedule is no worse now than it was a decade ago, or two decades ago. To the extent Australia plays more tours in October now then that is their obligation to international cricket. The price of a consistent home summer. The players used to jump from ODI to Test matches in the middle of Test series. And before that they'd go to work or play grade cricket. Injuries occur roughly as often, though we tend to keep injured players in the system longer (courtesy of central contracts).

As for cultural explanations, perhaps, perhaps not. Sometimes the players coming through aren't as good. Sometimes you need to wait for the next decent lot of cricketers.

The only significant change over the past two decades, and it has likely been damaging, has been the influx of pathways and coaching, and the push for younger and more professional setups in Shield and grade cricket (and especially second XI sides). The downside to this is that Australia is not England. They've never had a large base of coaches because players always learnt from senior cricketers. The absence of senior cricketers (particularly in representative sides) means they don't learn the hard way, and the weakness in coaching (and to a degree playing opportunity) means some may not have learnt as quickly or at all. But this is still likely to be marginal. They are professional players with all the resources a very rich organisation can throw at them, and has thrown at them for a decade. Yet they play defensive shots like school-kids who've never seen a swinging or seaming ball.

Conditions weren't easy in Hobart, and a few players got decent balls, or played terrible shots. But ultimately the point of being a top-flight batsman is the ability to survive the former and excise the latter. They all have records that show an ability to do that (at least in Australia, against domestic bowling). For a side that was number one only a few months ago to produce several of the worst performances in Australian cricket history is actually quite baffling. Whatever is rotten, it is well hidden in the back of the fridge.

1st TestIndiavEngland
Pre-rating1224.41131.4
Form+26.9-18.1
Expected MarginIndia by 97 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn
Post-rating1220.61134.0

There are two perspectives one might take on the English performance in the first Test, a performance that far out-stripped expectations. If it is a performance on the outside of variability, then they will surely regress to the mean, the four hundreds scored will become one, or none; their inability to bowl India out in 210 overs (only slightly less than half of those available) will mean they find themselves on the losing side. If so, then their inability to force a victory - largely, it should be noted, because India batted well, and kept them at bay, rather than because England lack for something - will be seen as an opportunity missed.

The alternative option is that this performance typifies what we can expect from England in this series: a dogged Cook supported by a fluent Hameed, runs through the middle order, and a consistent attacking threat (if not an economical one) from Rashid, Ansari and Moeen Ali, with incisive support from Broad, Stokes and presumably Anderson. In this case, England will likely win the series, on the basis that they will out-score India, and that even here, only Kohli stood between them and a chance at the tail. Given how close they got, the 30 overs the last two first innings wickets faced for 72 runs, and the unused resources in the second innings probably cost them 10 overs. The declaration was well timed, but given they were always likely to need a declaration, England might have began hurrying earlier.

By comparative ratings, by recent efforts in Bangladesh, by the sub-par performance of Ashwin and Jadeja, and the likely pitches to come, the first of these perspectives is more likely. Despite having the worse of the pitch, playing poorly over much of the last two days, and being behind the entire match, India still took a credible draw. Perhaps the pitch made a draw all but inevitable. It seems unlikely however, that England will find pitches that better suit them as the series progresses.

2nd TestZimbabwevSri Lanka
Pre-rating523.9991.7
Form-29.1+29.2
Expected MarginSri Lanka by 184 runs
Actual MarginSri Lanka by 257 runs
Post-rating512.01000.6
Series rating517.0999.0

Despite suffering two significant losses there were plenty of moments to suggest that Zimbabwe is not hopelessly behind the Sri Lankan side. In the first test they were within a couple of hours of a draw. In the second, they too easily slipped from positions where other sides, better sides, would have pressed the advantage. In this test, Sri Lanka were 4/112 in the first innings, but Tharanga (79), de Silva (127) and Gunaratne (116) pulled them to 504. In response, Zimbabwe was 3/173 when Chari (80) was dismissed, but stuttered then collapsed, losing 5/19 to end up at 252. There is no shame in keeping Sri Lanka to 8/258 while they set up the declaration, nor being bowled out by Herath (8/63) for 233. It was inevitable when the earlier chances had been squandered.

Sri Lanka gain little from big wins against a side with barely any weight in their ranking, but they did climb back over 1000. With their young batsmen finding their feet, the future looks substantially brighter than six months ago. Though how they'll replace Herath when the time comes remains to be seen.

Rankings at 16th November 2016
1.India1220.6
2.South Africa1151.9
3.Australia1144.9
4.Pakistan1139.1
5.England1134.0
6.New Zealand1009.2
7.Sri Lanka1000.6
8.West Indies831.6
12.Zimbabwe512.0

10.Ireland628.1
11.Afghanistan622.9
13.Scotland396.1
14.Kenya276.4
15.Namibia273.9
16.Papua New Guinea249.9
17.U.A.E.225.9
18.Hong Kong217.0
19.Netherlands179.0

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

Cricket - Ratings - Test 17th November, 2016 00:23:36   [#] [0 comments]

## Australia slip, ratings 8th November Russell Degnan

1st TestAustraliavSouth Africa
Pre-rating1190.61113.1
Form-35.9-18.5
Expected MarginAustralia by 89 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by 177 runs
Post-rating1170.41128.7

Australia may be clinging to second in the ratings, but on form it is Pakistan in second, South Africa in third and Australia floundering in fifth. The setting was different, but pattern of this match closely followed the first test against Sri Lanka: a blistering start with the ball, with South Africa 5/81, followed by an inability to hold down the runs as the ball aged as de Kock (81) and Bavuma (51) got South Africa to a small but not disastrous total. Similarly, a blistering start by Warner 97 (100) and Marsh was frittered away by a poor collapse. The lead of two runs may have been enough if Australia had the skills to bowl when tired, but they don't, and Elgar (127) and Duminy (141) got South Africa to a winning position, leaving de Kock and Philander to put the foot on their throat. The second innings batting was admirable, and the overs they put into Rabada and Philander may come in handy later, but the loss was sizeable, the middle order unworkable (and injured), and the attack neutered. Injuries to Siddle, Voges and Shaun Marsh will probably save Mitch Marsh from having to justify his place, and may have long term benefits in renewing the side. But every player is under-performing, some just have more rope.

On the other side, South Africa came into the series with plenty of concerns, but got unexpectedly good performances from Elgar and Duminy. Cook looks out of place, and the form of Amla and du Plessis is still a problem, as is the loss of Steyn. On the other hand, Bavuma's runout of Warner and solid batting cemented his spot, Maharaj took wickets on one of the least friendly decks in world cricket, and Philander looked good.

And then there is Rabada. The worry with Rabada isn't his performances. His action (and height) are reminiscent of Malcolm Marshall, as is his ability to produce swing fast deliveries both ways. The worry is that at 19 he shouldn't be bowling as much as South Africa needed him to in this match. The length and frequency of his spells would make a baseball manager cry: 6 overs on day one, two spells of 7 overs on day two, two spells of 8 overs on day 4, two spells of 6 overs on day 5, and a couple of bursts to finish. Two weeks worth of pitching in five days at his age is bound to end badly. But in the absence of substitutes we'll have to hope rather than complain.

5 TestsIndiavEngland
Pre-rating1224.41131.4
Form+26.9-18.1
Expected MarginIndia by 97 runs

This is the scenario for England: they are playing the best side in world cricket; in their own backyard where their two spinners averaging under 17; against a largely settled lineup of batsmen in the peak of their careers; whose recent record is excellent, and whose home record is incredible; who bat deep and have good seam-bowling support.

They are doing so with an unsettled top-order which includes a teenage opener and a flaky middle order that recently collapsed to an inferior attack; they cover this with a deep batting lineup that is adept at rescues and occasionally more; but their key bowlers are coming back from injury and none of their spinners inspire confidence.

England are a good side, and over five Tests they will have their moments (or at least we have to hope so). Hameed is undoubtedly a talent too, though he could hardly be given a tougher first assignment. India are quietly outstanding however, and this series will almost certainly show just how good they are.

Rankings at 8th November 2016
1.India1224.4
2.Australia1170.4
3.Pakistan1139.1
4.England1131.4
5.South Africa1128.7
6.New Zealand1009.2
7.Sri Lanka991.7
8.West Indies831.6
12.Zimbabwe523.9

10.Ireland628.1
11.Afghanistan622.9
13.Scotland396.1
14.Kenya276.4
15.Namibia273.9
16.Papua New Guinea249.9
17.U.A.E.225.9
18.Hong Kong217.0
19.Netherlands179.0

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

Cricket - Ratings - Test 8th November, 2016 21:07:17   [#] [0 comments]

## Not entirely surprising upsets, ratings 6th November Russell Degnan

Pre-rating629.01139.3
Form+37.4-9.0
Expected MarginEngland by 205 runs
Post-rating656.41131.4
Series rating924.2838.2

Like many young runners-up, Bangladesh took the leap at the next time of asking. It wasn't without stumbles, as they largely wasted the 170 run partnership between Tamin Iqbal (104) and Mominul Haque (66) in being bowled out for 220 to Woakes (3/30), Stokes (2/13) and Ali (5/57). But they have the self-belief now that they can match England, and in Mehedi (6/82) a spinner who can exploit weak techniques and turning pitches. Bangladesh lack ruthlessness. Rashid and Woakes rescued England, getting them from 8/144 to 244, a significant deficit turned into a small lead. But it wasn't a big lead, and for England, the repetitiveness of lower-order rescues is more worrying than comforting.

The target of 273 they set England was slightly easier than the one Bangladesh just failed to meet the previous week, and ought to have been bigger. Their habit of losing wickets on the last ball of the day and session, or to apalling shots, speaks to a mental lapse that will be improved with more cricket, but also needs constant self-assessment. When Duckett and Cook cruised to 0/100 the game was firmly in England's favour. Unfortunately for the English, a familiar weakness against turn and the fragile top-order reasserted itself. 2/124 became 5/127, and when Stokes was bowled by Shakib (so often a lone defender, now able to apply the killer blows) with 112 still required it was only a question of when, rather than if Bangladesh would win.

In a decent championship model we'd look at this result and wonder whether Bangladesh could qualify for the next round. Instead England look to India, with no little fear, and Bangladesh ahead to a patchy schedule of one-off tests and short tours. "Test" cricket, for so long a test of a nations' ability against England, remains so in many quarters. Bangladesh just passed theirs.

3rd TestPakistanvWest Indies
Pre-rating1146.2831.6
Form+5.3-0.6
Expected MarginPakistan by 157 runs
Actual MarginWest Indies by 5 wickets
Post-rating1139.1838.1
Series rating1014.1963.9

One of the notable aspects of the West Indies' series against India was that the young players performed well at times, just inconsistently (as young players are wont to do). Both that promise and those performances carried through to this series. Brathwaite has 37 tests behind him, enough for many to cast judgement, but he is still only 23, perhaps a few years from his best. If this test is any indication that bets may be very fine indeed. Unbeaten innings of 142 (carrying his bat) and 60 (negotiating a tricky chase) showed rare talent and skill. Gabriel, Holder and Bishoo, who all looked to have more ability than their figures suggest took the wickets, and Dowrich (just 25 himself) put down his own marker with 47 and 60*.

Pakistan won't be entirely upset with the loss as it was relatively close and they got contributions from numerous players. But as with their loss to Zimbabwe three years ago, those contributions fall short of what was required. They let the lower-middle order of the West Indies score valuable runs, and they tamely surrendered themselves. As with Bangladesh's win, the absence of a broader context beyond rankings may have affected their motivation to win a dead test match. With another five tests to play until January, Pakistan may increasingly find both motivation and energy lapsing. Fortunately, as far as rankings go, England's slip means they remain in third.

1st TestZimbabwevSri Lanka
Pre-rating534.8981.7
Form-29.8+36.2
Expected MarginSri Lanka by 173 runs
Actual MarginSri Lanka by 225 runs
Post-rating523.9991.7

But for a couple of umpiring errors Zimbabwe might almost have been the third team to defy expectations as they took this match into the final hour. What they didn't do was keep it closely fought. Perera and Tharanga each scored 110 and Silva 94 in a total of 537. Cremer (102*) and Moor (79) combined to drag Zimbabwe past the follow-on when it looked dire at 6/139 but it was largely rain that prevented the early declaration and a more comfortable victory.

Cremer, again held up the Sri Lankan attack, and in batting out 90 overs in each innings they forced Sri Lanka to work. The pitch, sluggish and low helps with that, but Sri Lanka are better equipped than most to play on such a surface. They creep closer to New Zealand in the rankings, with plenty of opportunities to switch places in the coming months.

Rankings at 6th November 2016
1.India1224.4
2.Australia1190.6
3.Pakistan1139.1
4.England1131.4
5.South Africa1113.1
6.New Zealand1009.2
7.Sri Lanka991.7
8.West Indies831.6
12.Zimbabwe523.9

10.Ireland628.1
11.Afghanistan622.9
13.Scotland396.1
14.Kenya276.4
15.Namibia273.9
16.Papua New Guinea249.9
17.U.A.E.225.9
18.Hong Kong217.0
19.Netherlands179.0