Panic and Dull Pitches, Ratings 12th March
Russell Degnan

2nd TestIndiavAustralia
Expected MarginAustralia by 17 runs
Actual MarginIndia by an innings and 135 runs

A debacle that has subsequently turned into a farce. Albeit one that where I side strongly with the management. Once again India fired on a few cylinders, and Australia barely any at all. Telling is that the biggest partnership between Vijay (167) and Pujara (204) garnered 370 runs. The next three biggest (Clark and Wade, Cowan and Warner, Tendulkar and Dhoni) produced 257 runs, and the other 25 only 239 between them. Clearly as Gideon Haigh argued, this is a pitch to get in, and stay in. Australia though seem capable of neither. The order collapsed to the gentle swing of Kumar, the rest to Jadeja, Ashwin or themselves, particularly in the second innings. It was a monumental loss, where in almost no aspect of the game was Australia competitive, or even looking like competing.

Needless to say, some introspection, above and beyond the introspection that ought to be a continuing process of a professional cricketer was in order. That some members of the squad failed in this most basic of duties speaks to some serious issues with application. Yet underlying the suspension is the fact that none of the players were indispensable. Watson's lack of bowling and fairly woeful average meant he ought to be shown the door anyway. Johnson wasn't in the side, and probably oughtn' be in the squad. Khawaja ought to be in the side, but has blown his opportunity for reasons only he can guess at. While Pattinson, far and away Australia's best bowler, only avoids needing a rest because his batsmen failed to post a score for him to bowl to.

Not that the performance is likely to improve. It might, of course, and i would want to, but the preparation required to succeed needed to happen months - even years - ago, and bar Clarke, none really seem to have any great idea how to combat the conditions.

1st TestNew ZealandvEngland
Expected MarginEngland by 139 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn

A quite amazing first day, that reverted to type thereafter. England played particularly poorly, and New Zealand capitalised with Martin and Wagner taking four apiece. They ought, really have bowled England out for less, but Trott held things together, and any nastiness in the pitch (of which there was little) disappeared. Thereafter runs were more easily made. Rutherford (171) played beautifully, and McCullum was his bludgeoning self to set England a difficult task to bat out the last two days.

Perhaps fortunately for New Zealand, the loss of the first day to rain prevented them having to chase a middling score. Cook and Compton looked comfortable and set for many more runs in the immediate future. Even so, New Zealand had a chance to win coming in to the final day, and couldn't even remove Finn, who made 56, only departing when the draw was secured. An effort from New Zealand that both surpassed expectations and confirmed them. They'll struggle to remove England twice, and remain vulnerable when batting. Expect a better performance from the tourists in the second test.

1st TestSri LankavBangladesh
Expected MarginSri Lanka by 261 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn

Well that was boring. Bangladesh cross 600 ranking points for the first time since their early days ranking ajustment. The also passed 600 with the bat for the first time, which was no mean feat without their best two batsmen in Tamim and Shakib, but Ashraful has his days, and Mushfiqur Rahim is a dogged and talented player. But ultimately the winner was the pitch on which the two sides might have played the ten days scheduled for both tests without a result. Sri Lanka passed up numerous records stopping at 4/570 and only lost 8 wickets in 218 overs of batting. Sri Lanka would be better advised to bowl next time; but then it isn't clear they really care if they win this series.

2 TestsWest IndiesvZimbabwe
Expected MarginWest Indies by 259 runs

It is a testament to the West Indies recent upswing in results that they are expected to smash Zimbabwe at home. An innings victory isn't that unreasonable, given the uneven performances of Zimbabwe's batting and bowling, and the probability that at least once innings will end in a catastrophic collapse. Conversely, the West Indies have not come into a series as heavy favourites in several years, amd putting away a more limited opposition will stretch the captaincy experience of Sammy and the nous of his players.

For Zimbabwe, having not played a test in a year, and not played together since the World T20, the tour represents a rare opportunity to show that they can compete with the teams above them. The lack of cricket is alarming, particularly when they continue to draw on millions of ICC funds per year, ostensibly to play test cricket. They need to prove themselves a viable touring option or sink into the abyss between the test nations and the games organised below.

I-Cup MatchAfghanistanvScotland
Expected MarginAfghanistan by 39 runs
Actual MarginAfghanistan by an innings and 5 runs

Speaking of the lower level. There are, or were, two I-Cup games coinciding with three test matches. A feast of 24-hour test cricket that ought to happen more often. This preview being late, and Afghanistan bowling Scotland out cheaply twice on the back of Izatullah Dawlatzai's 11/94 and good performances from Dawlat Zadran and Mirwais Ashraf, the match finished well before I posted.

Scotland, who came into ths tour with high hopes and the reputation of a number of county players in their ranks, will leave the UAE with five losses from five games, across the three formats, their hope of a repeat final appearance now resting on a likely need to defeat Ireland and have results go their way.

Afghanistan come away with their reputation as the best non-Ireland-non-test team restored after some poor results in the earlier matches. They will need more wins to progress in both competitions, but on this evidence they are well placed to do so.

I-Cup MatchU.A.E.vIreland
Expected MarginIreland by 117 runs

Another match that has started, but with plenty of cricket in it. Ireland has their full strength lineup, which ought to be sufficient to win, even on the hom pitches of a U.A.E. side that has surprised to date. The pitch seems to be playing spoiler, but the Irish look likely to take at least first innings points and continue their march towards the final. The U.A.E. are not out of the competition regardless of the result with easier games to come, so a draw will help immensely.

I-Cup MatchKenyavCanada
Expected MarginKenya by 75 runs

Two very young sides bringing up the bottom of the table. It is worth reminding yourself how young, because as a strategy for the future it is one that one would hope will succeed, rather than going back to older, and in Canada's case, ex-pat players. But both, Canada in particular, have struggled for runs with their talented, but inexperienced and reckless top-order. Neither team is likely to take anything out of the I-Cup, but they have a handful of opportunities to ascertain their best side for the all-important world cu qualifiers, where anything less than a top-8 finish will have significant consequences. A match worth keeping an eye on to see who can claim their place.

Rankings at 12th March 2013
1.South Africa1324.6
6.Sri Lanka1006.5
7.West Indies961.4
8.New Zealand862.0


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 14th March, 2013 08:47:22   [#]