It wasn't quite Saeed Ajmal versus South Africa. But it was pretty close. Except for a 219 run partnership between Younis Khan (111) and Asad Shafiq (111), Pakistan's batting, particularly against the new ball was dire. Philander did the damage, taking 5/59 and 4/40, although particularly in the second innings there was a healthy dose of poor luck and poor concentration in the dismissals. Yet they ought to have won. The pitch favoured spin, and South Africa had real trouble with the Pakistani spinner, and even some awful officiating couldn't prevent the visitors taking a first innings lead.
That it wasn't bigger, a point from which the match was eventually won, albeit by a whisker, was down to de Villiers and Peterson, who managed to drag the score from 5/109 to within 8 of Pakistan. Expensive bowling from the pacemen didn't help - although Mohammad Irfan bowled well - Umar Gul took 1/120 off only 28 overs for the match, negating the persistent pressure from Ajmal. It seems unlikely Pakistan will get a friendlier surface, nor a better platform to push for victory - 155 in front with 6 wickets in hand with the world's best spinner on a friendly surface. That they failed to take advantage, demonstrates again, South Africa's ability to stay in matches, and take decisive advantage of opportunities.
The ratings don't lie. India are pretty terrible at this point, with an uncertain batting lineup of whom only Pujara (and maybe Ashwin) seems to be settled; a bowling lineup with no form to speak of. Fortunately they are playing a lineup equally unsettled (except for Clarke) and a bowling lineup with barely a game between them on the unrelenting decks of the sub-continent. And make no mistake, this deck will be unrelenting and sub-continental. A day out from the match it already looks dry India will bank on wearing out Australia's inexperienced pace-attack, and making enough runs off Lyon that their own spinners can destroy a team not known for playing spin well (or even at all).
The main hope for Australia will lie in their upsides. Their pace attack can bowl. Lyon is under-rated, owing to an unfortunate accident of birth, he has mostly bowled on the spinners graveyard that is Australia. He can play well in India, if he can work it out in the few minutes he has to do so. If the batting can hold together we might see a close series. They are both deeply flawed teams, and a few good performances from unexpected quarters could be enough to tip the balance.
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 21st February, 2013 20:17:40 [#]