After highlighting their lack of big scores a week ago, South Africa went really big in the third test. 224 for Kallis, 160 not out for de Villiers and a ton for Petersen left them racing only the clock to get the win. With Philander back that was no problem, taking 3 wickets in both innings, Tahir picked up 2 and 3 with only Samaraweera offering serious resistance. South Africa has had inconsistent form throughout the summer, partly because of the form of Smith and Morkel, who barely contributed throughout, putting pressure on their team-mates.
Sri Lanka have that problem, but moreso. Samaraweera wasn't supposed to tour but top-scored, Sangakarra keeps on, and Herath and Welegadara bowled well in parts, but otherwise only he gradually developing Mathews produced. Like several other teams, they need to regenerate after a long period of stability and the recent retirement of key players. Ultimately, a 2-1 loss is actually a positive result for a team that hadn't looked like winning anything since Muralitharan retired. Fortunately for them, the consequences of repeated failure at test level aren't severe.
Teams are allowed poor games, and heavy losses. Even England lost badly in Australia last year. With each heavy loss though, the probability that India are actually an average side, and not a good side having a bad run becomes higher. Tendulkar and Ashwin aside, none fo the batsmen looked like making heavy runs on a pitch that Australia showed had no demons. Making 400 was a decent effort, but Australia was confident of victory having dominated for the first three days.
The only hiccup, was the early loss of the inexperienced top-3. After a period of consolidation India barely looked like getting a wicket, with only a loose shot by Ponting providing them one for the next two days. Clarke's innings rightly got the plaudits, but Ponting's was the more interesting. Two years since his previous ton, he slowed considerably as the day wore on, indicating that maintaining concentration across a full day is still difficult. While he has made several 50s in recent times, he is yet to score big across a whole day (this innings being split from the 47 not out overnight), not for lack of fitness, certainly, but struggling to become set and comfortable. His experience and fight allow him to remain competitive, but the big runs are surely gone. His retirement awaits only the settling in of a proper replacement.
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 9th January, 2012 22:05:44 [#]