Australia may be clinging to second in the ratings, but on form it is Pakistan in second, South Africa in third and Australia floundering in fifth. The setting was different, but pattern of this match closely followed the first test against Sri Lanka: a blistering start with the ball, with South Africa 5/81, followed by an inability to hold down the runs as the ball aged as de Kock (81) and Bavuma (51) got South Africa to a small but not disastrous total. Similarly, a blistering start by Warner 97 (100) and Marsh was frittered away by a poor collapse. The lead of two runs may have been enough if Australia had the skills to bowl when tired, but they don't, and Elgar (127) and Duminy (141) got South Africa to a winning position, leaving de Kock and Philander to put the foot on their throat. The second innings batting was admirable, and the overs they put into Rabada and Philander may come in handy later, but the loss was sizeable, the middle order unworkable (and injured), and the attack neutered. Injuries to Siddle, Voges and Shaun Marsh will probably save Mitch Marsh from having to justify his place, and may have long term benefits in renewing the side. But every player is under-performing, some just have more rope.
On the other side, South Africa came into the series with plenty of concerns, but got unexpectedly good performances from Elgar and Duminy. Cook looks out of place, and the form of Amla and du Plessis is still a problem, as is the loss of Steyn. On the other hand, Bavuma's runout of Warner and solid batting cemented his spot, Maharaj took wickets on one of the least friendly decks in world cricket, and Philander looked good.
And then there is Rabada. The worry with Rabada isn't his performances. His action (and height) are reminiscent of Malcolm Marshall, as is his ability to produce swing fast deliveries both ways. The worry is that at 19 he shouldn't be bowling as much as South Africa needed him to in this match. The length and frequency of his spells would make a baseball manager cry: 6 overs on day one, two spells of 7 overs on day two, two spells of 8 overs on day 4, two spells of 6 overs on day 5, and a couple of bursts to finish. Two weeks worth of pitching in five days at his age is bound to end badly. But in the absence of substitutes we'll have to hope rather than complain.
This is the scenario for England: they are playing the best side in world cricket; in their own backyard where their two spinners averaging under 17; against a largely settled lineup of batsmen in the peak of their careers; whose recent record is excellent, and whose home record is incredible; who bat deep and have good seam-bowling support.
They are doing so with an unsettled top-order which includes a teenage opener and a flaky middle order that recently collapsed to an inferior attack; they cover this with a deep batting lineup that is adept at rescues and occasionally more; but their key bowlers are coming back from injury and none of their spinners inspire confidence.
England are a good side, and over five Tests they will have their moments (or at least we have to hope so). Hameed is undoubtedly a talent too, though he could hardly be given a tougher first assignment. India are quietly outstanding however, and this series will almost certainly show just how good they are.
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 8th November, 2016 21:07:17 [#]