Until one ball before lunch on the final day this was a fluctuating match that England ought to have won. What is apparent is that they fundamentally cannot do so, regardless of what is offered. Having wasted a green pitch on the opening morning with short bowling, England still managed to have India 7/145 after tea, before Rahane's counter-attack found support from Binny and the rest of the tail. They turned 4/211 - with only Kumar finding swing to trouble the top-order - into 319 - still a lead. And in the second innings, had removed the specialist batsmen with India only 211 in front. Jadeja and Kumar's 99 run stand was, in the context, as vital as Ishant Sharma's bouncers inducing a collapse of 6/50 either side of lunch on the final day; a point when, again, England had got themselves into a position to challenge for victory.
Sharma's 7/74 and Dhoni's willingness to try a spell of short pitched bowling looks like genous only in hindsight. The spell was not near as menacing as England made it look; runs flowed at first, and the balls that took wickets were well wide of off-stump and easily left by clear-headed batsmen. England though are far from that. Prior's departure leaves only Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson of the core that formed England's best side. The batsmen in that group are woefully out of form, and even the performances of the youth cannot hide it. The bowlers must be nearing exhaustion, having clocked nearly 200 overs each in the past 6 weeks, and Broad carrying a long-term injury.
India look a settled and confident side only by comparison. The batting has been failing, the sins hidden by the tail, whiich can't be relied on. Dhoni is struggling which they cannot afford when playing five bowlers, even if 7-9 are competent, and occasionally match-winning. If England can click, they can challenge and win this series. It would be a shock if that happens with Cook at the helm however.
Contrary to my preview, a relative lack of impact from Imran Tahir and Duminy - the undeserved wicket of Sangakarra nowithstanding - didn't impact South Africa at all. The reason is that Dale Steyn is a genius, and Morne Morkel is very tall and awkward to face. The latter primarily contributed in taking out the tail. Steyn did as Steyn has done for going on 371 test wickets, taking 9/99 for the match. South Africa were challenged only once after Elgar (103) and du Plessis (80) got them away to a start. For a brief moment, after de Villiers was dismissed a 5/266, Sri Lanka were placed to put pressure on South Africa with the bat. Duminy's even 100 not out got them to 9/455 declared. Sri Lanka could only respond with sporadic scores from Tharanga, Mathews and Sangakarra, none going over 100, when they needed more.
South Africa having declared in both innings, the second after a race to set a target that showed admirable aggression; this was a more emphatic victory than the score suggests. Whether it will be repeated depends on Steyn. Morkel remains a useful support; the spinners added litle, and Philander went wicketless on his least friendly surface. It would surprise if the next match wasn't closer, but this was an impressive victory by the tourists in their new era.
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 24th July, 2014 01:54:11 [#]