Massively unbalanced series have become the norm in recent years. Even series that have been close through the first few games have ended up as whitewashes or near enough to, as they progressed, as the losing side senses the inevitability of their looming defeat. It is almost unfathomable that Australia could lose this match, having had the first day washed out, and ground their way to 400 on the back of a large opening stand, and unexpected runs from Smith (92) and Starc (99).
But they found a way, or more precisely, India offered them the chance and they took it. Vijay (153) was again very good, but completely overshadowed by Dhawan (187) who tore relatively poor bowling to pieces on the second day, putting India within 125 of Australia's total with 10 wickets in hand, and two days to make something of the game.
India were, again, only mediocre from there. Kohli's 67 was the only score of note; they rather collapsed to 499, offering the hint that Australia might even do something, were the able. But of course they were not. Warner's horrible dismissal set the tone, Hughes (69) did well but like Clarke was sawn off, in a manner that only losing sides seemingly are. Another rescue act from Starc and Lyon lasted neither enough overs (for the draw), nor produced enough runs (for the win). Australia of a decade ago would have set 250 in quick time and rolled India. The current side fought through to the end, but was always going to succumb. It is hard to see how any other result could eventuate in the final rubber either, though a raw would at least protect their tumbling rating.
England had their own inevitable win to ponder after three days of this game. Centuries to Compton and Trott and support from Pietersen and Trott laid the foundation. Broad's 6/51 left New Zealand 11 short of the follow-on, though McCullum and Watling almost allowed them that sliver of breathing room. And at 1/77 in their second innings, still two days to play, only a remarkable batting performance, English collapse, or both, could have produced any other result than an English victory.
Or New Zealand rain, unseasonable, it must be said, but always a threat. New Zealand did well to be only two down after 68 overs when coming and going off the field. But the decisive event was a complete washout of the fifth day. The series goes to Auckland all square, and deservedly so, given the backbone New Zealand have shown. A New Zealand series victory remains unlikely, given the solidity of the English batting to date, but with Pietersen out, it is at least a possibility, which wasn't a consideration a month ago.
On a pitch more conducive to a result, Sri Lanka achieved one. But that doesn't tell the real story. A seven wicket victory against a side missing its best player - meaning its best bowler and its best batsman - a side with no depth, no record of great achievement and a rated expected loss of more than an innings, lacks punch. Even more-so when nearing stumps on the third day Bangladesh were well placed to set a challenging target in the fourth innings on a pitch taking turn.
They didn't, and although 160 was challenging enough to stretch the top-order, Bangladesh still lack the bowling to take advantage of favourable conditions, or put pressure on a tight chase - Sri Lanka's 2nd innings run-rate of 3.84 speaks directly to the problem they have producing pressure when they need to. Herath was the key difference in this respect, having emerged from his role as understudy to Muralitharan to become one of their best ever bowlers in his own right. 5/68 and 7/89 off plenty of overs kept chipping away at a Bangladeshi line-up that neither collapsed nor quite threatened to score heavily. That role was filled by the Sangakarra (139 and 55) and Chandimal (102) who made sure they scored enough runs to take the series, if not the plaudits in what was a sub-par result.
Somewhat like the Bangladeshi performance, in that Zimbabwe defied expectations for a time, before collapsing, almost on cue, and letting the match come to the expected conclusion. Like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe beat expectations, but they have less to build on, and the West Indies can surely play better.
Somehow Zimbabwe had eight double figure scores in the first innings (nine with extras) and yet only made 211. Only Mawayo (50) got past 30, as the spin of Shillingford and Samuels worked them over. Yet they bounced back with the ball. Jarvis (5/54) continues to impress, and from 6/151 it took an inspired (perhaps mad) 73 off 69 from Sammy to get the West Indies a lead. Tino Best and Ramdin again combined to stretch it out, before Shillingford (6/49) took over. This won't rate as a great bowling effort - by most accounts Zimbabwe's batsmen merely failed to negotiate regulation turn and bounce - but he can only bowl to the batsmen put in front of him, and Shillingford returned by far the best figures. One more test for Zimbabwe, before they return to hibernation; it is surely insufficient for them to adjust to this level, but that is their lot for the moment, and one they seem unwilling to work around.
A run-fest for the ages, played on a pitch so unresponsive it hosted two one-day matches a week later and still showed barely a mark on it. Ireland scored heavily through Joyce (155) and Niall O'Brien (126) but were held up long enough by Arshard Ali (95 off 271) and Khurram Khan (115 off 232) that they declined to enforce the follow-on, allowing for Porterfield (101) to get his eye in for the one-day matches, but no sort of result. In the end 1137 runs were scored for the loss of 19 wickets Hardly an advertisement for the I-Cup, but a result both sides are probably comfortable with. Ireland remain on top leading by 30 points to third and almost certain to make the final. The UAE will need to win both their remaining games and hope Afghanistan stumble to make the final. Their focus will undoubtedly be on chasing the second automatic qualifying spot for the world cup, where they are well-positioned to take a tilt.
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 March, 2013 02:20:06 [#]
Inevitability and its surprises, Ratings 19th March
Inevitability and its surprises, Ratings 19th March