A few good sessions; Ratings 26th December
Russell Degnan

2nd TestAustraliavIndia
Expected MarginAustralia by 129 runs
Actual MarginAustralia by 4 wickets

India really only lost three sessions in this match.

In the first session of day 2 they dropped from 4/311 to all out 408. They had a good, not great first day, but were well placed to make either a competitive score, or an inadequate one, and ended up with the latter.

In the first session of day 3 they let Australia move from 4/221 (then 6/247) to 6/351 (and eventually 505) with sloppy bowling that played to Johnson's considerable batting strengths, and not his equally considerable weaknesses.

In the first session of day 4 they collapses from 1/71 to 7/157 to Johnson and Hazlewood and the match was effectively over.

There are a couple of things to take out of that. The first is that Johnson and Hazlewood (indeed most quicks) are vastly more effective early in the day, when they are fresh. Vijay and Pujara very successfully negotiated Johnson on the first day - though he was far from his best. On subsequent days they let Australia get on a roll and noone seemed capable of stopping it.

The second is that Australia are pretty vulnerable, but have match winners, and in home conditions that has been enough in recent times. That each decisive session was at the start of the day points to a laxity of preparation or mindset (off-field events on day four in particular seemingly unsettling). The collapse on day four in Adelaide was similarly damaging, and as in Brisbane, decided the match.

India aren't a million miles from winning matches in this series, notwithstanding that their bowlers have been generally poor. Melbourne will offer a little more, and they could come back to tie this series. But to do so they need to grind their way through important sessions. So far they've shown only an ability to gift Australia key advantages with loose play.

3 TestsSouth AfricavWest Indies
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 257 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by an innings and 220 runs

In the end, the expected margin was a grossly inadequate prediction. The West Indies had a good first hour and a bit, taking 3/57, and were never sighted thereafter. The loss of Roach hurt, as neither Taylor nor Cottrell could stem the runs or apply pressure, but Amla (208) and de Villiers (152) may have done the same to any attack, such is their skill.

It is unfortunate we'll never get to see them against their own, as Steyn, Philander and Morkel offer different tests of skill and mettle. In this case, the West Indies failed first to prevent Philander's constant probing from finding their outside edge; then in the second, with Steyn's pace and bounce, as they capitulated after following-on. It would be foolhardy to predict anything but a similar (if slightly less emphatic) result in the second test.

2 TestsNew ZealandvSri Lanka
Expected MarginTied Match

I couldn't resist predicting this as a tie, as the ratings so rarely predict them. Technically, New Zealand are very slight favourites. Given their recent form, and impressive comeback in the UAE; as well as the clear home advantage that they carry, and Sri Lanka's dismal touring record, this ought to be a comfortable victory. A team that was talented but young a couple of years ago is now finding their way in test crcket and producing not only performances, but increasingly results. Sri Lanka are a side increasingly capable of surprising. They had a very good 2014, defeating England away, and had both a narrow loss to South Africa and narrow victories over Pakistan at home. They too often depend on Sangakarra and Mathews to score their runs, and Herath to take their wickets, but Eranga and Pradeep showed they could exploit more helpful conditions in England and might do so again. Their biggest issue is likely to be that a 2-day warm-up is insufficient preparation to face a confident home side. Look for New Zealand to continue their ascension.

Rankings at 26th December 2014
1.South Africa1300.5
6.Sri Lanka1050.1
7.New Zealand951.0
8.West Indies862.5


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 25th December, 2014 12:05:52   [#]