Ratings - July 2006
Russell Degnan

West Indies v India
Opening Ratings: WI: 812.76 Ind: 1142.25
1st Test: Drawn
2nd Test: Drawn
3rd Test: Drawn
4th Test: India by 49 runs
Closing Ratings: WI: 832.00 Ind: 1123.44

Whisper it, but the West Indies may finally be turning themselves around. They are still rubbish. The formerly invincible are now so low it may take them a generation of players to haul themselves out of the low the past generation left them. But even though they lost, they came out of this series against India with a whole lot more than the Indians. Their biggest problem for some time now, is woeful inconsistency. It made this series fascinating if somewhat middling in quality; against an Indian team suffering the same problem, squandering big totals, and not pressing through on sharp bowling became the norm.

In the first test, outstandingly tight West Indies bowling and a solid batting performance gave them a 130 run first innings lead. Wasim Jaffer's double ton and some solid support completely turned the game around, until it was a surprisingly circumspect Chris Gayle, and a captaincy free and rejuvenated Chanderpaul scraping the draw. Rain and Brian Lara saved the West Indies in the second, after conceding a mere 373 run lead thanks to Sehwag, Dravid and Kaif, and the surprisingly effective bowling of Sehwag, and the less surprising Kumble.

The third test was the West Indies big chance, as all the batsmen fired; but having not enforced the follow-on when pressed for time (a reasonable decision when you aren't pressed, but not otherwise), the eventual result was closer to an Indian victory than a Windies one. There was time enough though, and the bowling failed to deliver when it counted. Finally, after three draws, the fourth test was decisive, and in barely two and a half days. Only Dravid's brilliance, the stoic Laxman and Kumble stood up to Taylor and co. as India were rolled for 200. In 33.3 overs (!) the West Indies threw it away, Harbajan taking 5/13 off 4.3. The second innings was similar, but worse for India; Taylor and Collymore took 4 and 5 respectively, and Dravid scored a very valuable 68 (out of 171), however it was enough. There were no Lara heroics, Sarwan, Bravo and Ramdin did well on such a pitch, but fell short, and Kumble's six wicket haul got India home by 49 runs. Falling, not chesting the line, for India, but a rare overseas victory nevertheless.

Dravid stood head and shoulders above the rest, not just for the consistency of his runs, but because he scored them when the flat-track bullies he is surrounded by fell down. The Indian spinners (particularly Kumble who will surely be missed soon) were superb, but their pace attack is rubbish. Collymore and Taylor were good for the West Indies, but consistency haunts them as it does their batsmen. The West Indies are getting there, but no big scores were made (the best was 135) despite multiple 50s and that hurts them. One last unusual statistic: Brian Lara may have struggled with the bat, but he took 13 catches from the 58 Indian dismissals -- an amazing return.

Forthcoming Series:

England (1180.93) v Pakistan (1183.32) - 4 Tests.

Because they are at home, England should be favoured for this series. Yet, Pakistan are on the up, while the wheels (not to mention the legs and arms) of the England team are falling off. This is not the team of the golden run from last year, and certainly not the team that won the Ashes. It could go either way, and much depends on whether the English bowling can get the sort of penetration they did when they were sweeping all before them. If not, there are Pakistani batsmen who love a big score, and an English batting line-up that in the past year has looked very vulnerable. A draw is a possibility, and it will definitely be an interesting series -- not least because the Ashes loom closer, and we know what really counts.

Australia (1st) 1379.29
South Africa (5th) 1101.97
Sri Lanka (6th) 1086.68
New Zealand (7th) 1028.9
Zimbabwe (9th) 672.64
Bangladesh (10th) 598.51

Cricket - Ratings - Test 4th July, 2006 15:41:44   [#]