An outstanding test match. Both sides played high quality cricket, including India, despite losing by a significant margin in the end, and failing to bowl England out in either innings. The latter was in large part due to the absence of Zaheer Khan, who had started brilliantly before his hamstring went. Whether that means they can come back as the series progresses depends in large part on whether the remaining bowlers turn up Sreesanth and Sharma are both erratic, Kumar is a dangerous player, and accurate, but English batsmen are better equipped than most to play swing.
The greater problem for India is that they were bowled out twice - something tey ought to be immune to in interrupted games. Having Tendulkar sick and Gambhir injured was another problem on that front, but more than one batsman was guilty of ugly wafts outside off stump. It is a shameless one-day stroke, suitable for true fast pitches with no slips, not a fifth day test pitch in England. That indicates the problems with preparation highlighted by numerous people before.
India, traditionally, have come back strong from poor starts. England certainly gave them hope that they could do so. Their batting was very good in the first innings, but almost let India back into the game in the second. Their bowling was superb, particularly Tremlett who was unlucky yet still took four wickets, yet India still made 550 runs for the game. Some terrible catching in the slips helped. It will be very hard for India to win from here, but there is much cricket to be played.
Kenya are undergoing a long overdue transition, having moved on the last vestiges of the great side of 2003. UAE will need to go through that process themselves soon enough, but will hope to make one more tilt at the top before doing so. The ODI series was split 1-1 with some uneven batting performances from both sides. Expect the cup match to be low scoring and close. The UAE ought to prevail, but Kenya have been a good side for a long time; at home that self-belief might tip the balance in their favour.
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.
Monday Melbourne: CCXXXVI, July 2011
|3rd Test||West Indies||v||India|
|Expected Margin||India by 89 runs|
|Actual Margin||Match Drawn|
India emerge from this series unscathed, having won the series, and been relatively well placed in the drawn games, without being certain victors. The ICC ratings series bonus explicitly favours the kind of negative draw that marred the finish to what could have been a tight an exciting game. To the extent that anyone cares if India remain number one by a lot or a little leading into their next series, it was the right decision.
That is not the case for Darren Sammy, who, while obviously delighted to take the honourable 0-1 loss, should be ashamed that his response to the offer wasn't to shove four fielders under the batsman's helmet, and force their hand. That said, it was a good series for the West Indies, their bowlers performed well, even though they were unable to dislodge Dravid and Laxman at crucial moments; their batting failed, bar Chanderpaul. The next generation need to lift if they aren't to go further backwards when he retires.
India's next generation need work too. Their opening pair failed badly, and their young players failed to make a hundred. Kumar and Harbajan played well, but didn't look threatening, Sharma played well, but is known for inconsistency. That won't matter for a year or too, by which stage they'll have matured, but theiy might want to enjoy the current ascendancy while they can.
|Expected Margin||England by 75 runs|
The most keenly anticipated series in some time. Of proper but not full length at four tests, and played between the best two sides in the world. England ought to win, at home, playing well, with batting and bowling capable of using the conditions, and at full strength. India, without Sehwag early on, though if the ball is swinging he can struggle, their key batsman and bowler with recent lay-offs, the rest fresh from different conditions in the West Indies, will be most vulnerable at Lord's.
The weather though, as it has in the series recently concluded, may have its own say on precedings. If one or two games are washed out, the series may be decided by whoever happens to be in front when the sun shines. They are, very similar sides; solid batting capable of playing in all conditions, in good form and experienced in English conditions. Their bowling, comprising a quality swing bowler (Khan, Anderson), a tall seamer (Tremlett, Sharma), an accurate spinner (Harbajan, Swann) and one other, is also much the same. Tremlett and England's fourth bowler would seem to be the keys, being superior to their counterpart in experience, and probably skill.
Both are also highly resilient, India because their top-order protects them from too many losses by finding a way to draw, England because they maintain pressure well and bat reasonably deep. Yet both are prone to the odd massive loss, and the series may be marked as much by played out draws and sudden collapses as closely fought games. Hard to see India winning, unless 1-0, but their recent record is examplary, so I won't write them off.
|Rankings at 21st July 2011|
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.
Test matches are on thing, but series are where it is at. This is a list of the best rating, accumulated quality ratings ignoring games rated below zero. Obviously it favours five test series, but then, so do our memories.
|The most under-rates series and oddly the rated best. The absence of a quality pace bowler let the West Indies down, but the 4-1 scoreline between two great sides isn't representative of the tightness of the contest, decided by just 4 wickets.|
|The closest of series, between a weaker Australian side than the early 1950s, but a stronger West Indies one; but for a single run and 3 wickets the West Indies would have won 3-1.|
|A ridiculously close series, all Australia's until Botham took over at Headingley, and even then they ought to have won two of the remaining three matches.|
|But for Warne England would have walked this, with McGrath for longer Australia would have done the same. The swings in fortune were immense, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats, meaning England's tight victories were tense but from well in front.|
|Who said the 1950s were boring. A great comeback from South Africa, having collapsed from winnable positions in the first two tests, and been denied by inaction in the third.|
|England walked this, but the infusion of youth meant Australia were stronger by the finish, and only 12 runs and 3 wickets from a series victory.|
|Aubrey Faulker may be the most under-rated cricketer of all time. He was majestic here, outscoring Hobbs with the bat, and taking 29 wickets with the ball.|
|The first two tests in this series were as tight as any before a strong Australia eased to victory. England were 2 wickets and 50 runs from victory, and 1 wicket from a white-wash.|
|Technically over-rated because Australia was without their WSC players, but Australia's three victories were all on a knife-edge.|
|A damp summer punctuated by collapses. The first two tests were wash-outs, the last two amongst the closest ever played.|
|South Africa fought back in this series against a very strong English side before succumbing to Laker and Lock in the last.|
|As above, strong sides, close games, and a perhaps unlucky England losing by a lot less than the margin suggests.|
|Won by a single run, the side accustomed to winning got the better of a draw in Brisbane, and scraped home in Adelaide. The handover would wait another two years.|
|Close, but not tight games, with South Africa over-coming statistical inferiority to draw.|
|Australia were waning as Taylor's era closed. Only Slater's blistering hundred in Sydney kept this series from being tied.|
|Bizarre series: two wickets from a loss in the first test, two wickets from winnings after following on in the second, and one wicket from victory in the fifth, the West Indies lost 1-0 after declaring twice in the fourth.|
|Australian collapses let England win three games, but this was a tight series between two good sides.|
|the highest averaging series per game. The best two sides of the 80s toe to toe, paired with another drawn series in Pakistan.|
|West Indies||South Africa||2000/01||5||1||2||0||4421.05|
|South Africa clearly superior, yet they won twice by less than a hundred runs as Walsh held the fort.|
|Australia always had the better of this series, but, as with the whole summer, a few key moments decided every game.|
The best series from the four unrepresented sides:
|South Africa||New Zealand||1961/62||5||2||2||0||4006.3|
|A forgotten series, neither side strong, but close games throughout.|
|Three times Australia conceded a lead, sometimes massive, three times they clawed their way back with Warne to the fore.|
|So close for Zimbabwe, years later Pakistan would be the site of their greatest triumph, but the two Ws were formidable opponents.|
|Not terribly close, except by Bangladeshi standards. Well placed several times, they always fell short.|
Yellow Peril, Red Exhaust. Taken July 2011
This is by no means meant to be definitive. By calculating the rankings of the two competing sides, and minusing 10 times the calculated run margin, or, if a draw, the distance to victory of both sides, I have created a basic measure of game quality. It doesn't account for dead tests, series context, or other intangibles, nor does it correct for slight ratings inflation as weaker sides have been added. It also strongly favours great sides, particularly Australia who are fairly consistent on that front, meaning some great games between mediocre sides have missed out. That said, the list is interesting, and occasionally surprising.
|South Africa||Australia||1996/97||2||Port Elizabeth||Australia by 2 wickets||1360||1925.4|
|Amazing comeback from Australia, led by series winning knock from Mark Waugh|
|Australia||Pakistan||2009/10||2||Sydney||Australia by 36 runs||1945||1926.0|
|Questionable comeback as Pakistan crumble in low chase.|
|The second tied test, epic high scoring game as India chased 347|
|England||Australia||1882||1||The Oval||Australia by 7 runs||9||1930.0|
|The game that birthed the Ashes as Spofforth takes 14|
|Australia||India||1977/78||1||Brisbane||Australia by 16 runs||809||1937.2|
|Under-rated WSC years match as Thomson holds back Gavaskar|
|Australia||England||1884/85||3||Sydney||Australia by 6 runs||19||1940.0|
|Flowers and Read bring England close in an under-rated fixture|
|England||West Indies||1980||1||Trent Bridge||West Indies by 2 wickets||880||1945.9|
|Despite 5 wickets from Willis, Haynes and Roberts sneak home|
|West Indies||England||1973/74||5||Queen's Park Oval||England by 26 runs||738||1950.3|
|Boycott and Grieg draw the series in a fluctuating game.|
|England||Australia||1981||3||Headingley||England by 18 runs||905||1969.7|
|A truly great comeback but played between two average sides.|
|Australia||West Indies||1960/61||5||Melbourne||Australia by 2 wickets||506||1972.5|
|The final chapter in an epic series as Australia blocked out the Windies spinners to win|
|Pakistan||England||2005/06||1||Multan||Pakistan by 22 runs||1770||1973.3|
|A great comeback, started by Butt and Inzaman, finished by Shoaib and Kaneria|
|Australia||West Indies||1960/61||4||Adelaide||Match Drawn||504||1973.4|
|Mackay and Kline survive the final session to draw|
|Australia||West Indies||1951/52||1||Brisbane||Australia by 3 wickets||340||1979.2|
|The most under-rated series, as Australia just squeeze past Ramadhin and Valentine|
|Sri Lanka||South Africa||2006||2||Colombo||Sri Lanka by 1 wicket||1812||1979.2|
|Sri Lanka survive a late collapse as Murali takes 12|
|England||Australia||1902||5||The Oval||England by 1 wicket||74||1985.1|
|Jessop's ton allows Hirst and Rhodes to close a brilliant comeback.|
|South Africa||Pakistan||1997/98||2||Durban||Pakistan by 29 runs||1403||1985.7|
|Pollock sparks a collapse, but Mushtaq Ahmed holds off the long South African tail.|
|England||West Indies||1969||3||Headingley||England by 30 runs||655||1987.9|
|A West Indies comeback falls just short after a middle-order collapse|
|Australia||West Indies||1968/69||4||Adelaide||Match Drawn||645||1993.8|
|Australia runout half their side chasing a last day target, before surviving the last few overs to draw|
|England||Australia||1961||4||Old Trafford||Australia by 54 runs||510||1994.2|
|Lawry leads a comeback capped by Benaud as England collapse on the final day|
|India||England||1972/73||2||Eden Gardens||Inda by 28 runs||706||2008.6|
|Despite Grieg's efforts, England lose a low-scoring affair|
|West Indies||Australia||1998/99||3||Bridgetown||West Indies by 1 wicket||1453||2013.6|
|Extraordinary 153 not out by Lara to overcome McGrath and Gillespie|
|England||Pakistan||1971||3||Headingley||England by 25 runs||689||2016.9|
|Lever sparks late collapse in see-sawing game|
|West Indies||Pakistan||1987/88||3||Bridgetown||West Indies by 2 wickets||1097||2024.1|
|Amazing series ends with Winston Benjamin an unlikely batting hero|
|West Indies||England||1967/68||5||Georgetown||Match Drawn||636||2032.5|
|Cowdrey and Knott hold off Gibbs and Sobers all day to draw.|
|West Indies||Pakistan||1987/88||2||Queen's Park Oval||Match Drawn||1096||2036.6|
|An amazing match, concluded with both sides in sight of victory|
|South Africa||Australia||2005/06||3||Wanderers||Australia by 2 wickets||1795||2045.9|
|Martyn and Hussey mean South Africa fall short again|
|Australia||England||1894/95||1||Sydney||England by 10 runs||42||2055.6|
|The first side to win following on as Peel sparks extraordinary collapse|
|India||Pakistan||1998/99||1||Chennai||Pakistan by 12 runs||1442||2060.7|
|Tendulkar gets India to brink before lamentable collapse of 4/4|
|Australia||England||1954/55||2||Sydney||England by 38 runs||392||2073.2|
|Harvey's 92 not enough as Tyson takes 10 to complete comeback|
|England||Australia||1997||6||The Oval||England by 19 runs||1377||2074.7|
|Tuffnell and Caddick prevent Australia chasing low target in dead match|
|Australia||England||1982/83||4||Melbourne||England by 3 runs||943||2095.2|
|Thomson and Border fall just short in a game that stayed close the whole way|
|Australia||Pakistan||2002/03||1||Colombo||Australia by 41 runs||1615||2100.2|
|Shoaib's spell offers Pakistan hope but they fall just short|
|England||Australia||2005||3||Old Trafford||Match Drawn||1760||2109.4|
|Ponting holds back England for just long enough as last pair hold on|
|Australia||England||1998/99||4||Melbourne||England by 12 runs||1436||2116.2|
|Australia collapses alarmingly to Headley in evening finish|
|Sri Lanka||Australia||2003/04||2||Kandy||Australia by 27 runs||1688||2136.1|
|Gilchrist and Martyn start comeback in Warne/Murali showdown|
|Sri Lanka||South Africa||2000||2||Kandy||South Africa by 7 runs||1505||2137.4|
|Sri Lanka lose 4/8 after Ranatunga's dismissal to fail just short in low chase|
|England||West Indies||1963||2||Lord's||Match Drawn||544||2168.9|
|Cowdrey comes out with broken arm to see off Griffith and Hall in epic game|
|Australia||England||1928/29||4||Adelaide||England by 12 runs||179||2170.6|
|Dual tons from Hammond enough as young Bradman's runout by Hobbs leaves his side short in dead rubber|
|Pakistan||Australia||1994/95||1||Karachi||Pakistan by 1 wicket||1268||2177.3|
|Warne beats Inzaman and Healy for byes as largest last wicket chase is achieved|
|England||Australia||1902||4||Old Trafford||Australia by 3 runs||73||2182.4|
|Trumble's 10 enough to beat Lockwood's 11 as English collapse leaves them just short|
|India||Australia||2010/11||1||Mohali||India by 1 wicket||1972||2199.9|
|Laxman guides his team home in most recent epic game|
|South Africa||England||1956/57||4||Wanderers||South Africa by 17 runs||437||2207.6|
|Tayfield takes 9 in 4th innings to hold off English comeback|
|Australia||England||1924/25||3||Adelaide||Australia by 11 runs||160||2226.1|
|England almost pull off massive chase but fall just short|
|Australia||England||1950/51||2||Melbourne||Australia by 28 runs||328||2245.4|
|Low scoring game meant England continued their long losing streak|
|Australia||South Africa||1993/94||2||Sydney||South Africa by 5 runs||1243||2274.2|
|de Villiers bowls South Africa to famous victory as Australia fall just short two years running|
|India||Australia||2004/05||4||Wankhede||India by 13 runs||1720||2319.4|
|Crazy low scoring game on difficult pitch. A dead rubber but no less exciting for it.|
|Australia||West Indies||1992/93||4||Adelaide||West Indies by 1 run||1210||2345.3|
|My personal favourite, the dominant team of the past 15 years holds off the dominant team of the next 15 on epic fourth day|
|Australia||West Indies||1960/61||1||Brisbane||Match tied||498||2436.6|
|The first tied test, Davison and Benaud almost pull off unlikely chase in last session before runouts decide it|
|Australia||West Indies||1951/52||4||Melbourne||Australia by 1 wicket||345||2465.6|
|Series winning, 38 run, 10th wicket partnership from Ring and Johnston against Ramadhin and Valentine.|
|England||Australia||2005||2||Edgbaston||England by 2 runs||1758||2544.3|
|Warne and Flintoff combine to produce amazing game, finished by Harmison, Lee and Kasprowicz|
And, the best games from the three unrepresented sides:
|New Zealand||West Indies||1979/80||1||Dunedin||New Zealand by 1 wicket||873||1876.5|
|Hadlee overcomes the mighty West Indies in an ill-tempered game|
|Pakistan||Zimbabwe||1993/94||2||Rawalpindi||Pakistan by 52 runs||1240||1474.6|
|Wasim and Waqar take 9/52 to overcome a gallant Zimbabwe|
|Pakistan||Bangladesh||2003||3||Multan||Pakistan by 1 wicket||1658||1337.6|
|Twice Bangladesh has almost taken a proper scalp, twice denied by a great innings, this one by Inzaman|
After struggling through their first few games, Uganda no doubt shocked everyone in beating an otherwise dominant Namibia in the final of the African division 1. Both sides had already qualified for the WT20 qualifiers, going undefeated against their competition, which included a young Kenyan side, and a surprisingly competitive Nigeria and Ghana. Namibia was probably disadvantaged by a rusty middle order in the final as for much of the tournament their top-three of van der Westhuizen, Williams and Burger piled on the runs: 1191 in 9 games at 10 runs per over. They put on 92 in the final, but it wasn't enough as Mukasa (the only other century scorer in the tournament) led the Ugandan chase.
It is hard to know what to make of Kenya, given it was an under-19 side they might consider it a success to come in third (though 4th in the table), but they were well off the pace. Ghana finished last, but impressed, losing several games by tight margins, while Nigeria did equally well, picking up three wins. Both sides have a glut of young players. If opportunities to develop continue to be found the future of African cricket looks bright.
Americas T20 Division 1 will also see two teams move through to the WT20 qualifiers. Canada are clear favourites, but having qualified already their only aim is to win the tournament, and have sent an under-strength side. USA and Bermuda are the highest ranked teams, but all three of the Cayman Islands, Suriname and Argentina are capable of an upset. Bermuda has drifted down the divisions of late as their world cup side ages, and look vulnerable if one of their competitors finds form.
The European T20 Division 1 could go to any number of sides. As hosts, Jersey and Guernsey will be competitive, as will Italy and Denmark as he highest ranked competitors. As the top two teams go through the qualifiers will be decided by the semi-finals, so a certain amount of luck will be needed for whoever emerges out of those four competitors.
Of the rest, Germany and France are slowly becoming more serious European competitors, and Israel are worth watching given their distinctly home-grown squad. All three are in Group B, along with division 2 champions Belgium. Norway and Croatia are the most likely competitors to Italy and Guernsey in group A, but you never really know at this level, or in T20 cricket.
More Mist. Taken July 2011
Burgher Russ left the small house and moved on. Checking each residence on he path. Each time finding nothing but dust and neglect. Most even, showed nothing more than the passing of a single traveller; only one showed signs that someone, occasionally, was in residence.
And that too was empty.
"Perhaps", thought Burgher Russ, "they are all travellers, like himself". He thought back to his own house, and imagined its solid walls and carefully tended paths. Surely it too was in disrepair?
"But if they are travellers, where have they travelled to?"
He returned frequently to Lady Madrid's abode, the only one showing recent activity, looking for clues as to where he might find the former resident, hunting and finding nothing. He lingered on this longer than he needed, then began fanning out, spending days searching through every house in the area.
A search for any sign of life and a search for any sign of escape. Everywhere he went led back to the small community known as Xanga. Everywhere he went got him no closer to home. He began to despair, pondering whether he ought to return to the beach, and his raft, when he noticed something.
Lady Madrid's house was occupied. Or rather, at some point while he'd been searching, Lady Madrid had returned. At least, she had been there. The ouse remained abandoned, the paths in disrepair. Whoever she was, this place was clearly not her home, but rather the cave of a hermit, for reflection and meditation, and little else.
Burgher Russ was not one to disturb someone's reverie, nor was there any point waiting. His searching had found a way out. Concealed behind trees undisturbed for years was an another unpromising personal residence...
No surprises in East-Asia Pacific Divison 1. Unfortunately, the stunted region had only one place available and barring diaster in the final, that was always going to be Papua New Guinea. They won it from the top order, batting first in every game, Vala and Ura piled on 726 runs between them in their 6 games including two tons. Not that the bowling was shabby as they had 3 of the top 6 wicket-takers with the ball as well. Vanuatu were worthy finalists over a higher-rated Fijian side, losing in the group stages but winning their semi-final and pushing PNG the closest of any team. Samoa too, can consider the tournament a success, with a third place finish and wins over both Vanuatu and Fiji. Japan, disappointing, but it is very early days for them.
Africa Division One is a slightly strange tournament as although two qualifiers will progress, the five competitors include Kenya who have a guaranteed place in the WT20 (and had been listed to include Zimbabwe A). Why top associates can't qualify is beyond me, as it perpetuates an un-meritocratic division of teams that is the bane of associates looking to progress to test status.
It would be an extraordinary shock if the two qualifying teams were not Namibia and Uganda, who have the pedigree at the next level, and the high performance program dollars to properly prepare. Uganda will obviously be the most vulnerable, and it will be fascinating to see how deep cricket is at the next level, by comparing the efforts of surprise qualifiers Ghana and Nigeria to their experienced competitors. At the top, Namibia have a chance to show what recent results have only hinted at: that it is now they, not Kenya who are Africa's best associate team.
Update: or Namibia could, if Kenya hadn't of sent their U/19 team. Yet another sign that automatic qualification leads to a devaluing of competitions.