Missing the chance to do a preview prior to the second test had its advantages: not least, the natural tendency to over-state the meaning in New Zealand's first test victory. This was a dominant performance, for the first three days, anyway. Centuries by Williamson and Neesham backed by 80s by Latham and Watling, got them to 7/508 in the first innings, the wickets being shared amongst Benn and Shillingford. The old guard of Gayle 64 and Chanderpaul 84* provided the only resistance to Southee 4/19 (16) and Craig 4/91 in the second. With two days to play with, fast runs and an inevitable win seemed the likely result. But the runs were neither fast nor plentiful, and it was Taylor and Roach taking the wickets, as New Zealand slumped to 8/156 before declaring. This didn't matter, as only Shillingford's 29 ball 53 stopped it being a rout to Southee, Sodhi and Craig, whose 4/97 rounded out a good debut. But it showed the West Indies at least had the potential to cause damage.
Jerome Taylor had not played test cricket for five years prior to this series. Yet, with Roach, he was one of the few West Indians with superior figures to the apparently inadequate bowling of Darren Sammy. He is, at his best, a match-winner, with a test century under his belt to boot. Latham's 82 set a platform to put on another sizable total for New Zealand, but after Roach removed the opener just prior to tea, Taylor 4/34 ripped out the middle order to dismiss New Zealand for 221. Like Taylor, Darren Bravo is a match-winner, but one the world is still waiting to fulfill his talents. He lacks he discipline to choose his shots, and that will keep him down, until, if ever, he learns. But he will have his good days, and his 109 was one. Along with Brathwaite's 129 and other contributions the West Indies for to a 239 run lead, with plenty of time, even with rain threatening.
Roach's 4/74 was the pick of the bowling in New Zealand's valiant 331 off 152 overs. They took the game until the middle of day 5, and left a tempting target of 95 that Gayle (80 off 46) made short work of. Deservingly, this series will have a final match to decide it. It's a pity it won't garner the attention a topsy-turvy contest between closely matched sides deserves.
There was much comment made that this match only sparked to life in the final session, but it offered an interesting tactical battle throughout. Sri Lanka demonstrated the benefit of choosing to bowl first even when the opposition scores heavily, with a Sangakarra master-class in batting (147 and 61) leading them to a deserved draw. With little on offer after the opening session, Sri Lanka resorted to short-pitch bowling in an attempt to remove Prior and Root - whose 200 not out showed again his talent, once he gets in. It worked, in the sense that it took wickets, but failed, in the sense that it also allowed the lower order to take 195 runs off the last 32.3 overs. That pace, when Sri Lanka had already been batted out of the game without something remarkable would almost come back to bite them later.
The pick of the English bowlers was Jordan, whose arm-pumping run-up and bruising short pitched bowling, reminiscent of Patrick Patterson, kept them going through the long partnership between Mathews and Sangakarra, and produced one of the more comical dismissals of recent times when Pradeep fell on his wicket before he could be bowled. England's third innings was fast enough, given Herath took out the middle order, and a chase of 300 odd in a day was potentially very doable. The top-order continues to fail. It was hidden by Prior in the first innings, and the declaration here, but they need more than one batsman to get going: Bell and Cook in particular.
The last day was a fight. The pitch offered little. And after a relatively fast start, neither did Anderson (4/25 off 19) nor Broad (3/43 off 21) whose workload should worry the selectors. The absence of a genuine spinner was a problem, and Cook was loathe to trust Moeen Ali, but both openers bowled 50 overs in the match, and need to back up 6 more times this summer. It was Anderson who sparked the late collapse, and Broad who almost stole it at the finish. Reiffel is clearly still a paid up member of the bowler's union, letting Herath walk with his hand off the bat off the first ball of the final over; and gunning Pradeep off an inside edge on the fifth to set off premature English celebrations. In the end, Pradeep's final-ball edge fell a few feet short of Jordan at slip, and Sri Lanka escaped. They'll be lucky to do so again at Headingley, where the pitch and skies are friendlier to the bowlers.
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 June, 2014 16:10:30 [#]