## Redistribution but no Growth in Crickets Pie Russell Degnan

If one was to go off the most recent financial reports of Australia or England or India and you'd conclude that cricket's financial health has never been better. Total revenue has been increasing, almost as quickly as in the recent past. But scratch down below and the story is not as pretty. The ICC is scaling back tournaments, denying opportunities for international play to roughly a third of its members. At least five full member cricket boards border on bankruptcy, with another facing a crippling loss if India refuse to tour.

Meanwhile, the BCCI looks at the ICC dividend - a full 75% of revenue amongst the ten most privileged members - does some sums, and concludes that, as Indian fans are the major source of revenue, and as those fans mostly want to watch India, that they are entitled to much more.

The article cites La Liga as a model, referencing the larger tv rights deals negotiated by Barcelona and Real Madrid, for their own home games. It isn't clear if this is the BCCI view, though as Gideon Haigh notes, there is an underlying view that the BCCI's control over revenue affords it the same position as the NBA, NFL or other major sporting league.

The problem is that these analogies are both broken and actively destructive.

Let's start with La Liga. The first thing to note is that the BCCI (and the ECB and CA) already has a better position than either Barcelona or Real Madrid. Not only do they control their home tv revenues, they get to modify the fixture to suit their own purposes. Want to play El Clasico ten times in one season? Done. Over a five period, from October 2010 to October 2015, England, Australia and India will play 47 tests against each other; I don't even want to count how many ODIs. The gradual replacement of other fixtures with those between the big-3 has meant there is now roughly double the number of these matches against any comparable period. European football's giants don't entertain playing that level of glamour fixtures in their wildest dreams.

The second thing to note is that every commentator agrees that La Liga's financial model is hopelessly broken. That the league has become uncompetitive with most clubs mired in debt. That the inequitable tv deal is so bad there was a threatened strike before the start of the season. TV revenues for La Liga are only fourth largest as well; despite the quality on display. And this is a model for cricket?

On the right is what baseball looked like in 1875, before they realised that having one team play six times as many games as another, leveraging their success for solid profits, while others quit half-way through the season for lack of funds, was not in the best interests of the league, the teams in it, and the sport generally. Cricket is a 135 years behind other major sports in terms of the structure of its scheduling and the means by which that structure adds context and financial stability to its participants. And it is getting worse, not better, driven by the schemes of its most secure participants.

The major difference between cricket and other sports is obviously its international flavour. Numerous sports economists - Szymanski is the most cited - have commented on the difficulties of international (representative) sports compared to domestic (franchise) structures. Notably with uneven competition, the waste of talent unable to gain representation and the inefficiency of multiple stadiums being used for a few days per year. The IPL gets around some of these issues, as does the BBL and other T20 leagues. Their success would leave open the possibility of player wages being paid by domestic competition, and the international arm of the sport making only enough money to pay for its structures. But in order to achieve that, they need to be integrated with each other; and that is not happening; instead each tries to cannibalise the other, leaving both poorer for it.

There is another element to these leagues that we are decidedly not seeing in the case of the cricket governance. The NBA, EPL and others care first and foremost about their product, its growth, and development. They are aggressively targeting emerging East-Asian markets; they push to find players in any pocket of the world, and bring them into their league; they work on competitive balance and fixturing to chase market appeal and increase total revenue. Cricket, be it the ICC, the BCCI, ECB, CA or the other full members summarily fails to build its product. They are engaged in a game of redistribution, chasing every last piece of the Indian/Ashes market through whatever means gains them some access, destroying the good-will of fans with endless repetition of fixtures with barely a point.

If the BCCI wants to control cricket then they have that option. They have the market strength and sufficient control over the major stars of its biggest market to pursue that end. But that control comes with a need to actually develop cricket, as a product, not just at grass-roots level or by advancing the prospects of their national team. They have an enormous head start in the Indian market, but as ex-pat Indians return from Europe and the USA, and as the satellite dishes of the youth increasingly turn to what is globally popular, cricket's lead disintegrates.

Cricket's biggest threat won't come from the internecine fighting amongst the boards; it will come from globally dominant sports that have better products to sell. And cricket, great sport that it is, has a rubbish product to sell. Over-long events, uncompetitive structures, no context to fixtures, lack of media access to players, incoherent last-minute fixturing and an obsession with local appeal over the total package.

If the ICC executive board cannot organise itself sufficiently to fix the product and make it competitive; then the players need to realise that their livelihood is damaged from the incompetence above and break with the boards. It was players who invented modern cricket; they remain the star turn, the indispensable part of the appeal; and as with the ATP forty years ago, and twenty years ago, they are not being served by the administrators who ought to be doing the job. And if not them, then who?

Idle Summers 18th September, 2013 03:06:49   [#] [4 comments]

## Guernsey, USA and Ireland with David Piesing, Jamie Harrison, Ger Siggins and Justin Smyth; Associate and Affiliate Cricket Podcast Russell Degnan

Another enormous show, with news of almost every region. David Piesing of the Guernsey Cricket Board (@guernseycricket) chats to Andrew Nixon about the Inter-insular match against Jersey. President of the USYCA and new Chief Executive of the American Cricket Federation, Jamie Harrison (@JamieCricketUSA) discusses the organisation's plans and goals, and how they differ from the USACA. We wrap up the end of the Irish international season; Ger Siggins (@Siggo) chats about the English match and tensions between Cricket Ireland and their larger neighbour; and Justin Smyth (@justinsmyth1) talks to us about the Scottish WCL and I-Cup fixtures, and the prospects of both sides in their off-season. There is news of both the women's and men's teams of Namibia; the Hong Kong sixes are officially not on this season; and we wrap up the Dutch tour of Canada, and preview the important final matches of UAE and Afghanistan in the WCL.

Direct Download Running Time 80min. Music from Martin Solveig, "Big in Japan"

The associate and affiliate cricket podcast is an attempt to expand coverage of associate tournaments by obtaining local knowledge of the relevant nations. If you have or intend to go to a tournament at associate level - men's women's, ICC, unaffiliated - then please get in touch in the comments or by email.

Idle Summers 16th September, 2013 13:51:54   [#] [1 comment]

## Zimbabwes elastic snaps, Ratings 9th September Russell Degnan

1st TestZimbabwevPakistan
Pre-rating546.01120.9
Form-4.9-2.9
Expected MarginPakistan by 237 runs
Actual MarginPakistan by 221 runs
Post-rating546.81119.7

A match that for three and a half days tempted us with a monumental upset ended up with Zimbabwe crawling past the expected margin 9 wickets down - cricket with handicaps anyone? For a time it was Saeed Ajmal versus Zimbabwe, scoring 49 to spark a late revival, and taking 7/95 to keep the lead to just 78 runs when it threatened to be 150 plus. At stumps on day 3, the Pakistan lead was 90 ith six wickets in hand. A Younis Khan double ton later, supportd wth 64 from Adnan Akmal, and the chase was 342 runs. Zimbabwe's collapse to Saeed Ajmal (4/23) and Abdur Rehman (4/36) was to be expected perhaps, but wihout Taylor or Jarvis, this was perhaps a better result than they might have hoped. Their batting - particularly the openers - continue to fight and claw to stay in the match, and their bowling is tight if unthreatening. Pakistan are much too good a side to lose to a side with these limitations, and yet, but for Saeed Ajmal, they might have done so. Top-order collapses continue to haunt them, after the debacle in South Africa last summer, and while another rout is likely on the same ground when they resume; Pakistan will need more players contributing when they meet South Africa.

Rankings at 9th September 2013
1.South Africa1324.6
2.England1217.2
3.Pakistan1119.7
4.Australia1099.8
5.India1096.3
6.Sri Lanka997.9
7.West Indies963.8
8.New Zealand877.4
12.Zimbabwe546.8

10.Afghanistan575.7
11.Ireland558.9
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia405.9
15.Kenya287.0
16.U.A.E.235.0
17.Netherlands182.4

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.

Idle Summers 10th September, 2013 01:59:22   [#] [0 comments]

## Monday Melbourne: CCLXXXV, September 2013 Russell Degnan

River sunset. Taken September 2013

Melbourne Town 10th September, 2013 01:38:16   [#] [0 comments]

## The crazies are here; early Senate wrap 2013 Russell Degnan

Yesterday I posited that this could see a historically significant shift in minor party support that raised the prospect of any number of unknown parties getting into the Senate. This morning I updated the scale on my chart because Nick Xenophon destroyed it, and we are all researching the policy platform of the LDP, Motoring Enthusiasts, Sport Party. Palmer United and Family First comes across as mainstream by comparison. Here is the updated graph:

What is clear is that Labor has been wiped out in the Senate. This is catastrophically bad for them, and it will take a fundamental shift away from the minor parties for them to approach the numbers they'll need for third seats in future elections. The Liberals have no need to cheer either, as they lost ground in all but two states and saw no significant shift towards them even there. This election might be a once-off, but the trend for the past 30 years suggests it marks the beginning of a polyglot in the upper house.

One other thing to note: it is absolutely true that some parties are going to get in on the back of dubiously small first preference votes. But don't be deceived into thinking that - with the possible exception of NSW - they would have preferred Labor or Liberal or Green. If they'd preferred that they would probably have voted for them; and they clearly haven't. People may not approve of the particular minor parties, but these are not the first minor parties in the Senate, and the non-major-party vote continues to grow. People absolutely want someone other than Labor or Liberal (or the Greens) represented in the upper house, and they have certainly got it this time.

Which is not to say that the Senate voting system of 1 above the line doesn't need changing. It clearly does, and even first past-the-post with multiple members would work better than the cluster-fuck the major parties created thinking they could use it to shaft the Democrats. Getting reform through a Senate created by the process though? Best do it before next July.

South Australia
Nick Xenophon might regret not putting in a harder line of preferencing for his running mate - or more effort into polling. Two full quotas have been added to the minor party vote despite a decline from the Greens. Labor are nowhere near a second quota and will fall behind the Greens, elevating Hanson-Young back into the Senate. For reasons best known only to them they then elect Family First ahead of the second Xenophon candidate, and while they'd have got in anyway, based on Labor's preferences (amongst many others), those 10,000 votes will be decisive in electing the Liberals over Stirling Griff, unless there is a huge shift in below the line votes.
Liberals 2, Xenophon 1, Labor 1, Greens 1, Family First 1

Western Australia
The first sign of the Labor Senate apocolypse. The Liberals and Nationals combine for just over 3 quotas. But all the fun is in the Australian Sports Parties Steven Bradbury-esque miracle run through the exclusions. It is hard to see this holding through the below-the-line votes and pre-polls/postals. They start 1200 ahead of last, escape (and harvest the preferences of) the Climate Sceptics by 260 votes, Rise Up Australia party by 200 votes, the Democrats by 640, and depend on a couple of other key exclusions to ensure neither the Liberal Democrats nor the Palmer United party get up instead. If it falls as written, Palmer United will elect the Greens over Labor for the last seat. Weirdly, WA fell in a more sensible spot: Liberals exactly three quotas, Labor and Liberals deep into the count. But there is more than a quota of right-leaning micro/minor parties and that means one will probably get up.
Liberals 3, Labor 1, Greens 1 Sports Party 0

Queensland
A relatively sensible count unless Labor drifts further in which case a few other scenarios are possible. Both the Liberals and Palmer United will get up on Family First, Katter or Fishing votes, and the Greens vote, while big enough for second, can't get close to another quota with Labor in such dire straights (and them for that matter, remembering they took 6 seats three years ago). Not that Labor was helping them in Queensland anyway.
Liberals 3, Labor 2, Palmer Utd 1

Victoria
A Senate ballot and count so confusing I am not entirely sure who I ended up voting for. Labor and Liberal both cleared two quotas, and the Labor vote will shoot the Greens into a seat with a bit to spare. That least seat though, got a little weird. The Motoring Enthusiasts, with only 0.57% of the vote seemingly survive to the end, starting with the Fishing and Lifestyle exclusion (2600 votes), and harvesting regularly with only Family First (17000 votes) and Palmer United (15500 votes) putting them in doubt. We won't know for sure until they push the button, but with such large leads this is almost certainly an interesting result.
Liberals 3, Labor 2, Greens 1, Motoring Enthusiasts 1

New South Wales
Speaking of interesting. What ought to have been a straight-forward vote got weird because people in NSW made an even bigger blunder than Victoria did when the DLP got up. There is no other way to describe the Liberal Democrats getting 8.9% of the vote from the first slot while the similarly-named Liberals shed votes. There are no close exclusions in the count, and they are near certainties to be elected. For what it is worth, swing that marker around and the Liberals take three quotas promoting someone else - possibly Palmer United Party, possibly Shooters and Fishers. It seems unlikely that the Greens would have got in regardless. The combined Labor/Greens vote is too small, and they need to make up 1.5% to take the 6th spot; if we are honest, the LDP might actually add something to the parliament, unlike certain others.
Liberals 3, Labor 2, LDP 1

Tasmania
It turns out the swing against Labor was even bigger than expected, and a strong swing against the Greens meant they had to depend on Labor preferences for that final spot. The Liberal Democrats go deep in this count with 2% of the vote (and are within 600 votes of Palmer United at the final exclusion), but none of the last six exclusions preference them, so they'll get second at best. Palmer United walking home on the two-party preferred; although Tasmanians are known for below-the-line voting, so if anywhere can throw a spanner in the works it is here.
Liberals 2, Labor 2, Greens 1, Palmer United 1

Australia Capital Territory
This might not be known until they push the button. The Liberals are under on first preferences, but only by a couple of thousand votes. But with the Greens getting all but a handful of those preferences, they are more likely to fade, than catch up with the extra large below-the-line vote in ACT. But given the lead is projected at 1200 votes, the composition of postals and pre-polls could swing things around yet.
Liberals 1, Labor 1

Northern Territory
Labor missed a full quota, but get past the line with Sex Party votes - if that matters. By that stage Palmer United had forged ahead of the Greens anyway, meaning Nova Peris would get in on Greens preferences, even if the count changed.
Liberals 1, Labor 1

Assuming nothing changes - though WA remains very much up in the air - the Liberals will need to find six votes from either the Greens (10), Labor (25) or a coalition that almost has to include Clive Palmer, plus some combination of the DLP/Family First, Nick Xenophon, the LDP, and what amounts now to a sports lobby. If Palmer can take the final WA seat he'll effectively control the Senate. Even Barnaby Joyce is scared of that. Victorian Secession never looked so good; at least we only elected a motoring club and the Catholics.

Sterner Matters 8th September, 2013 18:31:51   [#] [0 comments]

## The crazies are coming; Senate predictions 2013 Russell Degnan

Polls close soon, so best get on to a now recurring tradition of incorrectly predicting the Senate outcome. Actually, in terms of reading the polls, 2010 was pretty close. Looking back and comparing to the image of what actually happened shows that, unlike in 2007, the problem was under-estimating the swings in WA and Queensland, underestimating the increase in minor party support in Victoria and NSW and over-estimating the swing in NSW and Tasmania. South Australia was practically perfect.

Translating that into seats worked, for the most part, but not always for the right reasons, and the DLP victory in Victoria came somewhat out of left field given the incumbent was Family First - though both sailed in on preference deals, not merit.

Unfortunately, that scenario, where a party rides a preference wave is becoming increasingly likely. That makes calling the Senate a mugs game, because although you an make reasonable predictions about the major parties, the rest depend on the fluttering of butterfly wings. Most importantly, with the minor party vote now consuming more than two quotas in many states, Labor and Liberal become king-makers for whoever is left over.

Anatomy of a Preference Deal

Antony Green has already said everything that needs to be said about the proliferation of metre long Senate ballots and the perverse nature of deals creating Senators from tiny votes. But it is worth dwelling for a second on why this works.

If you are a minor party your aim is to stay in the count; that means harvesting preferences from parties smaller than you, to get bigger than parties bigger than you, then doing the same to them. There is never any value in trading with the Greens (inevitably nearly a full quote and one of the last removed from the count) and only late in the count with Labor or Liberal. The aim early on, promise, and effectively combine your vote with someone else. Thus, if two parties have 0.5% of the vote, and deal with each other, they effectively become one party with 1.0% of the vote. Do that ten times and then target the mid-size parties - the Palmers, Katters, Family Firsts, DLPs and Liberal Democrats (if they sit left of Labor/Liberal on the ballot). With the major party vote dipping below half a spare quota, a combined vote of 7% means any late preference deal with them can propel a party to a seat.

In a few cases in this election, the right party, in the right place, at the right time, can get up with less than one percent of the vote. With luck, leakage from below the line voting will prevent this, but how much leakage can occur when voters are filling in 100+ boxes? It isn't even clear to me where my vote might eventually end up, because it depends on subtle sliding-doors points in the count.

For this reason, take what follows with a grain of salt. Minor parties can definitely claim seats (for good or ill, some variation doesn't really hurt), but predicting it is nearly impossible, even with the sort of monte-carlo simulations Truth Seeker is using. What I'll highlight here is where certain scenarios become more likely, and why, if you are following the count late into the evening.

2013 - Historically Significant

Track back over the minor party shifts in the last 30 years and one thing becomes clear. They are capturing a lot more of the vote. In the mid-80s Labor and Liberal were taking 6 quotas by themselves Now they are struggling to put together five. There is a magic line at 72.85% combined first preferences for Labor and Liberal that takes us into the unknown. Above that, and the Greens will generally get one spot, and the minor parties elect the stronger of the two others (normally the Liberals). Below it and there is enough of a quote remaining for the minor parties to pull a quota without the Liberals help, leaving the stranded in the count.

The shift to this territory is new. There is no guarantee the shift will happen either, as the strength of minor party votes are unpredictable, even after polling. But the historical trend, and the polls says it probably is happening. In the last few elections the first-preference major party vote in the Senate has been 4-7% below the house of representatives. Combine that with the latest polling: welcome to Crazy Town.

Let's see what we have. Primary votes aren't mentioned often enough. Obviously two-party preferred matters for the house but the Senate tracks nearly perfectly along first preferences, with an adjustment for minor party losses. And what losses! Newspoll predicts a 4% increase in minor party votes over 2010; the BludgerTrack is, if anything, even stronger. Given they were already historically low numbers this takes at least three states into unprecedented sub-70% mark.

South Australia
Nick Xenophon is back to reverse the strong shift back to the major parties in the last election. Even if he fails to meet a quota he is helped by the Palmer United party and the Nationals. The Greens, by contrast, might be struggling if Labor fails to get far enough over a second quota to push them over the line. This ought to be straight-forward Liberal 2, Labor 2, Xenophon and Green. The No Carbon Tax Climate Sceptics have a ridiculously good preference run, winning often from almost impossibly low positions. Watch that combined Labor-Green vote.
Liberals 2, Labor 2, Xenophon 1, Greens 1(0) NCT 0(1)

Western Australia
Western Australia is pretty much seceding at this point. Their vote went strongly to the minor parties in the last election, but that looks less robust this time, with a slight shift to the Liberals. As in SA the Greens need to get very close to a quota AND hope Labor passes a second quota, neither of which are certain. If not Palmer United (especially given recent polling), the Liberal Democrats (with a good ballot position) or who knows are all in with a shout.
Liberals 3, Labor 2, Greens 1(0) Palmer Utd 0(1)

Queensland
As in WA, I am not convinced the minor party will increase by a lot, but it was already running 10% better than in the HoR, so increasing to around 30% is possible. From that position, anything can happen. Labor is not preferencing the Greens first, AND has very little over a quota which could lift Katter or the Stop CSG into a senate seat. That's if they get a second quota, which they might not, given how close to the line they are. Palmer United look well placed to stay in the count and win a seat, but their vote is not that strong, and this could go any number of ways.
Liberals 2(3), Labor 2, Greens 1(0) Palmer Utd 1(0) Someone Random 0(1)

Victoria
If you thought the above was bad wait until neither Labor nor Liberal have close to a half quota and drop out before the important bits. Labor's late vote collapse - if polls are accurate - has probably rescued the Liberal's third candidate from being overtaken by the right-wing party, or someone random. But this presumes a fairly substantial swing to Labor and no substantial swing to the minor parties. A drop straight down will throw up any number of odd scenarios; though fortunately a number of parties lack the competency to hand in a group-ticket form, which cut down the number of random results markedly.
Liberals 3(2), Labor 2, Greens 1, Family First 0(1)

New South Wales
This should be fairly straight forward, as the Liberals are close to three quotas, and Labor will push the Greens over the line. The major party has held up fairly well in NSW in recent elections though, making it somewhat higher than elsewhere. If the voters come out with baseball bats for Labor then their remainder might not elect the Greens and with the mega-ballot-paper anything can happen (see Queensland).
Liberals 3, Labor 2, Greens 1

Tasmania
Let me quote from three years ago "who knows what is going on here". Lack of polls doesn't help. Are we really looking at a 12 per cent swing? And if so, is it to the Liberals or to others? Tasmania has a strong tradition of voting below the line, which is good, because a couple of parties (the Independents) have phenomenal harvesting runs. The Greens should pass their first quota easily, but as above, that last seat could go anywhere as the major party vote dips below 70%.
Liberals 2(3), Labor 2, Greens 1, Family First 1(0) Someone Random 0(1)

Australia Capital Territory
Always the easiest count, but with a really high below the line vote, and personal connections to candidates there is always the chance that the Greens will finally tip the Liberals below the 33% quota and them in. It seems unlikely in an election favouring the Liberals, but some think it is possible.
Liberals 1(0), Labor 1, Greens 0(1)

Northern Territory
Normally a ridiculously straight forward vote, the complete collapse of Labor support has both significantly increased the minor party vote and made them vulnerable to minor party challenges. I've no way of verifying if Labor will drop below 33%, but this is at least interesting for once, as explained here.
Liberals 1, Labor 1(0), Greens 0, First Nation 0(1)

By the numbers:
Liberals 17(17), Labor 14(13), Greens 6(5) Others 3(5)

Continuing:
Liberals 16, Labor 13, Greens 6, Others 1

In total:
Liberals 33, Labor 27, Greens 12, Others 4

If the Liberals have a very good election they might just avoid having to negotiate with the Greens or Labor, in favour of a collective mostly right-leaning group. But that seems unlikely, and the balance is sure to lie with the opposition. Which, incidentally, with over 30% of the vote going to minor parties, even if not to just that minor party, might be how it ought to be.

Sterner Matters 7th September, 2013 18:43:22   [#] [0 comments]

## Monday Melbourne: CCLXXXIV, September 2013 Russell Degnan

Conservatory. Fitzroy Gardens. Taken August 2013

Melbourne Town 2nd September, 2013 20:43:19   [#] [0 comments]

5th TestEnglandvAustralia
Pre-rating1218.91097.8
Form+1.1-19.6
Expected MarginEngland by 111 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn
Post-rating1217.21099.8
Series rating1246.91072.9

Contrived and controversial finish in unusual circumstances. The end to this game was a microcosm of the series itself. England on top, but barely, and through a combination of good fortune and doing enough when required, rather than by the amount the three-nil margin suggests. The series rating shows that both sides played very much as predicted. England's home advantage, greater experience, and higher ability told, but they only burst away in the one match, at Lord's. Their contributions were few, but decisive, and the series was in large part, half a team defeating a team of half-players.

One notable story-line in the latter half the series was England's lack of intent. Over rates continue to be abysmal, on both sides. At some level I don't care, because I'm happy with 6 hours of play, and the continual extensions are more annoying. But the constant drinks breaks and chit-chat are unnecessary, and the umpires need to be empowered to enforce strict time limits between events - 30s between deliveries, 1min between overs, with run or dismissal penalties for multiple abuses.

But England's slowness is mitigated by a number of factors. Firstly, Australia's good bowling was to blame for much of the slow scoring, even if no particular effort was made to upset that balance. Secondly, they played smart; they knew Australia would collapse, and that victory was assured when they did (and in all three losses, they did), so they played to stay in the game and waited. Thirdly, when they needed to be in the game, they did what they had to do, notably in Durham. Australia might curse the weather that ruined their best two positions, but you sense that they might have found a way to lose regardless. Finally, England had to be cautious because Harris and company put them behind in almost every innings with the new ball, and in four of five tests, on first innings. The umpires and referees let them get away with stifling the game, but England played poorly for long periods as well, and needed to scrap. That they scrapped to a dominant victory is one of the incongruities of the series.

In this test, Clarke's reputation for aggressive declarations worked against him. Far from needing to move the game along, England benefited from knowing that they'd get a chase regardless, and the more time spent batting on the last day, the smaller the chance they could lose playing for the draw, and the better the chance of a quick slog for victory. They got one, and the bad light was perhaps justice, even if the ICC continues to accept farce as a suitable end to matches.

Bell, and to a lesser extent Pietersen, was the reason for the win. Without him this series is turned around. In the past, I've not unfairly put him in the place of Pierre Bezukhov, easily led into poor shots and prone to irrational and ill-thought actions - even as recently as in India and New Zealand - and of only making runs when least required. But in a low scoring series he was head and shoulders above the next best batsman, and moreover, his runs, so effortless, came in the most important moments.

Australia had moments of brilliance surrounded by vast swathes of mediocrity. Even their bowling, brilliant as Harris was, never managed to roll England for less than 300, allowing them insufficient time to force a result. The batting order was never settled upon, and notwithstanding some better performances, is still a great concern. Watson and Smith scoring runs offers some hope that the return leg might be better, but on flatter pitches it hard to see England scoring as few runs in the top-order as here, and Australia's propensity for collapse will likely result in the same pattern: draws when the batting does well, losses when it doesn't.

England's ascendancy doesn't seem likely to last for long though, as in Anderson, Swann and Pietersen, the core of the side is at an age where injuries and form will start to slip. The inadequacy of Bairstow and the troubles of Root point to closer contests, if not in 2015, then thereafter. Australia, for their many faults, can at least point to a glut of youth, that need only mature. And ultimately, while the results didn't go their way, for long periods the matches did, which is some comfort.

Pre-rating136.5199.6
Form-14.1-18.3
Post-rating147.9182.4

A second consecutive I-Cup match from Canada that turned around their recent decline. Unlike the last match too, no rain was on hand to prevent them from completing the victory. The Netherlands have never competed well in the four day game, and they didn't here either, collapsing for 164 on day 1 to Gordon and Raza-ur-Rehman, before conceding a massive lead thanks to Gunasakera's 150 and contributions down the order. Aggressive knocks from Szwarczynski and Seelaar held off the inevitable for a time, but Gordon and Baidwan worked their way through the order. The 68 runs required was knocked off in 7.1 overs thanks to Gunasakera, again, who is finally applying his talents to making big scores.

Already a dead rubber in tournament terms, the match was mostly a warmup for the WCL matches that follow, which the Netherlands needed to win - eventually winning one and drawing on, but not without controversy. Canada's victory pushes them off the bottom of the table, leaving Netherlands with the wooden spoon. There would have been a good case for making relegation from this competition dependent on performance, and not the world cup qualifiers, if only to add some spice to this match, and those of Kenya and the UAE to follow.

2 TestsZimbabwevPakistan
Pre-rating546.01120.9
Form-4.9-2.9
Expected MarginPakistan by 237 runs

The ratings point to a thrashing, but so few tests do Zimbabwe play that it is probably not a reliable indicator. So few tests do Pakistan play that even their rating tends to be a bit random; but such is life for the two pariah nations of the test circuit. If there was money in it they'd benefit, and probably be willing, to engage more with the associate world, but there is no money in it, and both are financially strapped at best, and possibly near bankrupt.

On the pitch it is hard to see Zimbabwe scoring enough runs to get a result. Their bowling is capable - although as usual, their best players continue to look for green and pleasant lands - but only Taylor poses a significant threat of a high score, and his record is of classy one-day innings, not monumental tons. With the weather likely to be perfect, anything other than a big Pakistan victory will be a surprise; but hopefully we see some fight from the Africans.

Rankings at 2nd September 2013
1.South Africa1324.6
2.England1217.2
3.Pakistan1120.9
4.Australia1099.8
5.India1096.3
6.Sri Lanka997.9
7.West Indies963.8
8.New Zealand877.4
12.Zimbabwe546.0

10.Afghanistan575.7
11.Ireland558.9
13.Scotland430.3
14.Namibia405.9
15.Kenya287.0
16.U.A.E.235.0
17.Netherlands182.4