It is hard to know quite what to make of India's capitulation at the tail-end of this series. Any team can have a once-off, but the last three tests saw increasingly pathetic efforts, with a first innings of 148 in 61 overs, seemingly inevitably followed by a 29 over second innings of 94. The shots weren't always terrible, but the ease with which the English bowlers found the edge of the bat was alarming. That England could make 486, even helped by some poor fielding, showed there was nothing untoward in the pitch.
India, plainly talented, and as seen in the one-day series, capable of much better, just didn't seem to mind if they lost. In a dead-test, in a long but condensed series, perhaps that is understandable. Nor is it the first time they've seemingly quit. Shipped around the world to pay back political favours on the ICC board; loved for their boost to the hip-pocket, but not their play; and adored at home regardless of what happens on foreign soil. A loss without consequence, a win without meaning. At least it didn't take long to play out.
England's efforts in the last three test restored them to third in the rankings, but by a miniscule margin over India and Pakistan, with Sri Lanka lurking. With something to play for, and a little grit to go with the angst, we might have seen some interesting cricket these past few months. In the end though, we had some excellent games, but a bit of a blur. For England too, unfortunately, everything remains geared to next summer.
Pace bowlers like to play off at being big dogs, snarling and menacing, apparently capable of ripping out a throat. Rangana Herath is a short-legged terrier, seemingly harmless, but relentlessly aggressive, letting go only when his opponent is subdued. It earned him 14 wickets in this match, 9/127 in the first innings and 5/57 in the second, as he bowled Sri Lanka to a series victory. It was a hard-fought win, grinding out 320 in the first innings; over-coming a 12 runs deficit to post a defendable target in the third. Sri Lanka didn't dominate with the bat, but they nullified Saeed Ajmal, who bowled 79 overs for only 4 wickets and 166 runs. That was sufficient to give Herath something to bowl to, and he did the job.
Sri Lanka have held off the post-Murali decline for several years now, and Herath is a major reason why. They might be mildly concerned, that with Jayawardene retired, and the most substantial contributions apart from Mathews, coming from Sangakarra and their portly spinner, that their youth hasn't flourished. But they aren't the only side with that predicament. There could be no more appropriate send-off for Mahela than a victory at home, led by his old mates.
When so few tests are played, it is hard to know how a team will perform when placed in one. England ought to have won comfortably; they are better resourced, better trained, more experienced, fully professional, and with a significantly better record in global events, playing at home. They didn't though. Perhaps the focused training on limited over cricket is part of the reason, as neither they nor Australia looked comfortable in the test format in the televised match in Perth.
Either way, on a more lively pitch than the one served up 12 months ago, India rolled the home team on the opening morning. While the efforts of Gunn kept them pegged back, England were unable to set a large enough target in the fourth innings, and Raj and Pandey were able to close out the game. Reports almost universally lauded India's feat as if England had won every other test encounter against the tourists, not just the one (and that by only two runs). They might as easily praise India for their unbroken run of victories, dating back 8 years. Limited overs results are a good proxy for test results, but they aren't perfect, and India might rightly feel that they deserve to be lauded the better test nation.
A very unpredictable fixture. The West Indies turned out some dross on their last two test tours, and don't seem terribly committed to a home fixture against Bangladesh. But the tourists are hardly plain-sailing, with Shakib under a misguided ban, and recent results being pretty miserable. The ratings suggest the West India will win comfortably. Fortunately, for both teams, noone really cares.
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 4th September, 2014 23:28:41 [#]
Eng v India