Should I bother reviewing a series the players cannot be bothered playing? Jayawardene's decision to cease chasing late on day five made perfect sense accepting the logic that a series win is all that matters. Conversely, Misbaq's acceptance made no sense given he had little to lose by attacking relentlessly after the Sri Lankans had quit. What is left unsaid is that series victories are basically meaningless in the same way that all test cricket is a meaningless treadmill, and that the opportunity to take a game to a thrilling finish ought not be squandered when all four results are on the table. Neither of the tied tests would have occurred in this climate of risk-aversion. I know which games will be talked about for longer, and which will inspire future fans.
Sri Lanka would have won easily, but for the unbeaten 81 run partnership on the fifth morning. Their inability to make the break-through meant Pakistan batted for 30 overs more than half those allocated before declaring; the game now poised between a low-ish target and a more pressing run-rate, and the early lead of the Sri Lankans squandered.
If the ICC cared there are options, such as increasing the value of wins in the ratings (at the moment a loss would have cost Sri Lanka twice what a win would gain), or providing a competition structure that doesn't reward conservatism. But at some level it comes down to the attitude of the team, and the media. Australia routinely gets involved in close games because their captains are expected to win first, second and third before taking the draw. It is why they chased down 310 at the Wanderers last year, when rain seemed to have stymied the chase, amongst numerous other examples. Unlike that match, this will be soon forgotten.
Having lost the first two days to rain, Ireland did remarkably well to almost force a win. Afghanistan's still lack experience in damp conditions and were rolled for 84 by Sorensen and Cusack inside the first 30 overs of play. Ireland continued to dominate with the bat, ending the day 42 in front with time to force a win. White and Wilson continued in the morning, posting half centuries before the declaration. The Afghan second innings was just enough. They surpassed their first innings score without loss, but lost regular wickets thereafter to end seven down and 41 in front. Ireland will rue the weather that allowed only five sessions of play and prevented a certain victory, but nevertheless consolidated their lead in the table with the first innings victory. Afghanistan lurk in third, with plenty of competition for a repeat of their finals' berth.
An understrength Dutch team that will nevertheless be slight favourites to win against an improved Emirates side at home. The danger, as with this entire round of European fixtures is the rain, which has already washed out half a day, with more to follow. With both teams tied on 23 points, and an outright result unlikely, getting first innings points will be vital.
English summer hype has no cricketing equal, and this match-up against a very good South African side should not be dismissed lightly. That said, England at home, given their recent home record, and South Africa's own spotty record with its over-dependence on Steyn and long tail, ought to win easily. Rain, as ever this northern summer, will undoubtedly cause some problems; and Steyn (and probably Philander) will, at some point, run through the English side. A 1-1 draw is possible, as is a South African victory. But given reasonable conditions England should win 2-1. Their batting is superior at the top, and deeper at the bottom, their bowling is at least equal, depending on who takes the field, and whether Morkel and Tahir can provide some spark and support.
The danger for England is that while South Africa blow hot and cold, their heat is something special. Their batting is capable of big totals if it settles, and the bowling is near unplayable in the right conditions. English techniques ought to hold them in decent stead, and ultimately home advantage will probably be decisive. This is a popcorn game for me regardless, so even if England do win 3-0, as long as we get some close cricket, unaffected by weather then that will be something.
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 July, 2012 18:08:01 [#]