The post mortem on a home series draw with the Kiwis is perhaps more complicated for Australia than it first appears. Mitigating factors include a New Zealand batting lineup as strong as any they've produced, competent bowling in conditions closer to that found on the other side of the Tasman, than the Australian mainland, and a narrow loss and big win that is not that far from expectations.
Nevertheless, their batting is a shambles. Warner succeeded beyond all expectations - the third highest percentage of a completed fourth innings - but it is hard to see a significant future for four of the top seven, and Khawaja is far from safe either. Selectors are conservative, and the changes will probably be minimal, notwithstanding continuing injuries to the bowling stocks.
For New Zealand, the win came against the opponent they most like to beat. Australia has rarely taken them seriously, which is a pity because it is always enjoyable cricket, even when mismatched. This win ought to be savoured particularly because it came on the back of young kids: Brownlie and Bracewell. There is potential in the team. If their batting continues to develop, and if they can unearth one genuine quick, the next few years could see some excellent cricket between the two rivals. Unfotunately, pecuniary considerations are likely to keep the series rare and short.
A game that largely passed me by, dominated from the off by a Pakistan side playing its best cricket in years. Bangladesh have struggled badly in recent times, with the faltering form of Tamin Iqbal largely to blame. Against England and India Bangladesh earnt a certain respectability for grinding out totals even if they were still peppered with collapses and inevitable losses. Their last few games have been merely inadequate, and Younis Khan is not one to let up with the bat. Nor Saeed Ajmal in helpful conditions with the ball.
There isn't anything Bangladesh can do, at least in the short term. They are almost certainly playing their best side, and while they are let down by both poor discipline and fielding - both fixable - they will lose most games regardless. Cricket's rigid class structure and the decreasing value put in playing them has made test status a form of curse (albeit a lucrative one).
Pakistan are putting together a decent run of results against weaker opposition, raising the possibility of a more keenly contested series against England than would have been the case two years ago. The main point of interest in the game to follow is whether the level of domination they showed in the first test can be maintained.
If any further evidence was needed of the importance of Muralitharan to Sri Lanka the last year has been salutary. No wins in fourteen games - albeit with only four losses, and a number of rain affected results - they've not looked capable of taking enough wickets to win games. That may change in South Africa where the pitches have recently produced plenty of wickets, but their losses have indicated a different problem. While Sangakkara has continued to score heavy runs, Jayawardene's form has dropped and the runs have not been picked up elsewhere in the order. With a long tail and the menace of Steyn and co. even draws look an unlikely prospect.
South Africa had the best of the series against Australia and no concerns with the ball - arguably Steyn, Philander, Tahir, Morkel and Kallis is the world's leading attack - but have their own batting issues: a longish tail and a struggling opening pair. They ought to have enough to win at least two matches against Sri Lanka however.
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 17th December, 2011 22:22:51 [#]