Momentum is bullshit, Ratings 1st December
Russell Degnan

1st TestAustraliavEngland
Expected MarginEngland by 9 runs
Actual MarginAustralia by 381 runs

The pattern of the past few Ashes has been for the contest to be won by the side that has collapsed the least often. There have been a number of massively lop-sided games, and some (such as the Adelaide-Perth-Melbourne sequence of three years ago) have followed close on the heels of each other. The collapses point to a fragility in both sides batting (Australia's especially) and a weakness in the third and fourth options, that has released the pressure if the opening salvo could be negotiated.

We saw both from England in this test. Broad induced first-day jitters that looked to have them well on top, before their batting fell to pieces against Johnson and Lyon. Twice, in fact, the two bowlers England probably least feared induce a collapse, and if anything should be worrying them, it is that. Johnson has always bowled (and batted) better when he doesn't need to be relied upon, mostly because he has always taken wickets by virtue of being very fast and very hard to pick up. Players are consistently late to his deliveries, balls flash to the slips or off the top edge. Lyon, by contrast, is merely improving as any young bowler with barely any first class experience ought to be. He is doing so in the harshest environment, but his form from mid-way through the Indian tour has been very good, and that puts pressure on England they'd not have expected to face.

Whether it can carry to Adelaide - likely to be slow, low and a bit dry - is another matter. It was unusual from England to chase Johnson, because normally they are more circumspect, despite the shortened decision-making frame he offers. He also benefited in Brisbane from deep square boundaries, which even the widened Adelaide Oval won't have. Notwithstanding the worries about England's declining production in the top-order and the absence of Trott, it would be a shock if they didn't come back well in this test. Whether they can force a win is another matter.

A draw beckons, the weather indicates patches of rain, and a dead pitch. There is speculation over both attacks, with Bresnan likely to return, and Faulkner a good chance, though for whom isn't certain. The team who bowls first will have the advantage of time for both obtaining a draw and a win, but only England is likely to try that. Brisbane was an odd match; Australia won by a lot; but with the ball, not the bat, on which they remain vulnerable. The Adelaide pitch is a new one, and that makes things even harder to predict. But if England can score runs, they seem a slightly more likely winner; though when the winner depends on the vicissitudes of collapsing batsmen and external conditions, anything can happen.

3 TestsNew ZealandvWest Indies
Expected MarginNew Zealand by 18 runs

Another predicted margin that is very close. The West Indies were pretty woeful in their last match-up, and while this series is a little longer and oe they will have been better prepared for, New Zealand would still seem to be good favourites at home. The most likely source of an upset would be for one of Gayle (when he returns) or Samuels to make a big aggressive score, and for their spinners to befuddle the New Zealand batsmen. But New Zealand's attack is, these days, quite strong, and with the ball likely to move around a little, they will surely keep the games low scoring. New Zealand's batting is coming along; it seems to have been doing so for a while, but they have little to fear from the West Indies attack - at least the one that played in India - and that means they ought to score enough runs for their bowlers to do the job. Still, this series is predicted to be close, and some good games should be on offer, if anyone remembers they are on.

Rankings at 1st December 2013
1.South Africa1324.1
6.Sri Lanka997.9
7.West Indies936.5
8.New Zealand873.2


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 2nd December, 2013 23:52:12   [#]