Fulfilling expectations; ratings 18th May
Russell Degnan

2nd TestZimbabwevNew Zealand
Expected MarginNew Zealand by 191 runs
Actual MarginNew Zealand by 254 runs
Series rating479.31100.2

Both sides end this series with their ratings roughly as they started; their performances broadly matching what was expected; their reputations neither enhanced nor diminished. New Zealand's batsmen cashed in on the limited bowling attack, with only Nicholls failing to make 80 in the first innings. Zimbabwe only took 6 wickets for 748 across the two innings, but their greater sin was in conceding those runs in just over two days, leaving New Zealand ample time to bowl them out.

In this, the Kiwis laboured but persisted, as Zimbabwe faced 213 overs while still finding themselves 254 runs short. Ervine (146), Chibhabha (60) and Moor (71) all made good runs in the first innings, and they ultimately fell only three hours short of taking a well deserved draw out of the game. Sodhi (3/19) and Guptill (3/11), with more than a little help from the umpires, got through the middle order though, and the tail fell quickly. New Zealand remain sixth, despite Sri Lanka's rapid improvement. Zimbabwe the lowest of the Test nations, nominally twelfth, and still sliding.

3rd TestWest IndiesvIndia
Expected MarginIndia by 123 runs
Actual MarginIndia by 237 runs

India's return to the top of the rankings has been rather more as a claimant to a vacated throne than conqueror. Yet within a run of form that has encapsulated victories over Sri Lanka, South Africa and the West Indies, they've managed to win in several different ways. Ashwin's spin and Kohli's batting have been the more consistent standouts, but they get contributions from all over. Here it was Shami and Kumar with the ball, and Ashwin, Saha and Rahane with the bat.

They had to work for this win, but the West Indies did themselves no favours. Gabriel and Joseph ripped through the top-order on the first morning and with better catching they'd have got into India's long tail with only 140 on the board. Instead there was a 213 run interlude between Ashwin and Saha that pushed the tourists back in front. The loss of the third day made a draw the most likely outcome, but Cummins 6/48 in the second innings wasn't sufficient to stem the flow of runs, or the declaration that left the West Indies most of a day to bat. Bravo aside, they never looked like achieving it, capitulating to a 237 run loss.

It was, in a sense, a typical West Indies performance over the past decade. A shuffle forward with some talented and pacey young players, a few steps back with a lamentable performance where they seemed outclassed. For India, number one, and a long string of home matches to cement their status, but noone wins a kingdom from the confines of a castle.

4th TestEnglandvPakistan
Expected MarginEngland by 62 runs
Actual MarginPakistan by 10 wickets
Series rating1185.71101.3

As with all the Tests played this week, a very typical performance from the two sides. England's top-order failed as Cook and Root failed, but they managed to stay competitive thanks to Moeen Ali's 108 and some support from Bairstow and Woakes. Or would have, had Younis Khan not picked an opportune moment to find form. His 218 turned a good start, but one that might have ended with a small lead and final day jitters, into an unassailable lead and easy victory. Yasir Shah (5/71) did the bulk of the heavy lifting in the second innings, and while Bairstow (81) made runs, few others did.

The series rating indicates that England, overall, had the better of the series (by an average of 40 runs), but they failed at key moments to deal with Yasir Shah or the ageless Younis and Misbah. There is an enormous amount of potential in the English side; they bat a long way down, and they bowl well with seam or swing. But the top order is shallow, and the spinner gives away too many runs. Stokes helps, but by exacerbating both their strengths and weaknesses. They verge on greatness, but are missing some key elements.

Pakistan, by contrast, seem to have finally settled on a decent opening combination and number three bat, and they bring a varied and capable attack. But how long their middle order will remain in situ is an unknown. They may reach the heights only to need a rebuild just as soon. Flawed then, like all the top teams, but more consistent from place to place.

3rd TestSri LankavAustralia
Expected MarginAustralia by 68 runs
Actual MarginSri Lanka by 163 runs
Series rating1252.0920.0

Six horrific collapses and a 246 run partnership. Marsh and Smith's effort was utterly incongruous, towering over the other partnerships like the Eiffel Tower in central Paris's otherwise low-rise skyline. If anything, Marsh performing well in Asia, where he has had most of his success, merely muddies the water over Australia's selection policy for the Test matches at home. Across the board failures allow a fresh slate; the success of someone they weren't sure they want to play leads to headaches. Starc excepted, though his erratic offerings once the ball was old, and his pace less furious were a problem, across the board failure is what Australia got. Their most experienced players found something towards the end, Warner and Smith with the bat, Lyon taking 7 wickets at a much lower economy-rate with the ball. But the collapses, losing 9/113 and 9/60, were as bad or worse than those of the previous two Tests.

Herath, whose 13/145 while injured was merely one more tale to tell in an ever more glorious career, persistently got through the Australian defences with the ball that went straight on. His subtle changes of flight, direction, spin and trajectory keep knocking on the door, and the Australian batsmen guilelessly opened it time and time again.

Yet for Sri Lanka, the series may well go down as a triumph of youth. Dhan de Silva's 129 and 65* were glorious knocks: composed in an untenable situation (5/26) in the first innings, aggressive and confident setting a target in the second. While the more experienced Chandimal made 132, it was comparably painful, full of mistimed shots and ground out singles - over 356 balls no less. Add in Sandakan, Mendis and Perera, and the future looks considerably brighter for Sri Lanka than a few months ago.

Expected MarginScotland by 144 runs
Actual MarginMatch drawn

Some rain. Then more rain. Then enough rain they called the game off without Scotland having had a chance to bat. Doubly unfortunate for the Saltires as they have had few opportunities to prove themselves in this edition of the competition. But not much to write about.

2 TestsSouth AfricavNew Zealand
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 96 runs

South Africa enter this series down to seven on the ICC ratings, and with form so bad that a loss to New Zealand is certainly possible. Without de Villiers or Morkel, and further question marks over Philander and du Plessis's form, who South Africa play, let alone how they will perform is a good question. New Zealand are far more settled, and in Williamson, have someone they can rely on to score heavily. If South Africa cannot lift, it could be a close series. New Zealand have already had a series this year they were expected to beat their rating and compete in, and Australia defeated them handily. There are a lot of uncertainties in cricket right now, but you should still expect the home side to prevail.

Rankings at 17th August 2016
5.South Africa1121.5
6.New Zealand1029.7
7.Sri Lanka981.7
8.West Indies824.1

16.Papua New Guinea228.1
18.Hong Kong183.6

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 18th August, 2016 01:48:00   [#]