Ratings - September 2006
Sri Lanka v South Africa
Opening Ratings: Sri: 1086.68 SAf: 1101.97
1st Test: Sri Lanka by an innings and 153 runs
2nd Test: Sri Lanka by 1 wicket
Closing Ratings: Sri: 1113 SAf: 1075.57
There must have been a point in first test, when the South Africans, trailing by 450 runs, having acquired just two wickets, and with almost three days to play, were thinking that winning the series may be beyond them. To their credit, a robust second innings effort almost saved the first test, and only the brilliance of Jayawardene stopped them from winning the second. Sangakarra's contribution notwithstanding, Sri Lanka are very reliant on a few players -- particularly Muralitharan -- but deserved the win. The South African's can take some positives from the result, but at least some of their batsman need to press on and make big hundreds. Ten fifties and no hundreds in the two tests is the main reason they lost.
England v Pakistan
Opening Ratings: Eng: 1180.93 Pak: 1183.32
1st Test: Drawn
2nd Test: England by an innings and 120 runs
3rd Test: England by 167 runs
4th Test: England by forfeit
Closing Ratings: Eng: 1223.68 Pak: 1119.07
A strange series, and not just because of the fourth, forfeited test, on which much has been written, little of it good. Perhaps it is a pity that the finale over-shadowed the events that preceded it. Perhaps not.
It is a series centred on poor bowling. A weakened English bowling line-up was sufficiently strong to blow through the dregs of the Pakistani batting, and set up two big wins. Conversely, although Harmison had his day, and Panesar came into his own, the three central pillars of the Pakistani batting pulverised the English attack. Mohammed Yousuf's three centuries in seven knocks demonstrated a serious issue for the English that cannot be entirely hidden by the performance of their batsmen.
And what a performance. The decimated Pakistan bowling only showed any teeth in the final test with the return of Mohammed Asif. Otherwise, despite a lack of very big centuries (the highest after Collingwood's 186 was just 135), the English batting piled on the runs, topping 450 three times, and well on their way to a fourth. Ian Bell, all at sea against Warne last summer, topped the averages, but it was a team effort. Kaneria was turned into a stock bowler, and England won by weight of runs alone.
Like it or not, in the last year, attention has been firmly fixed on the Ashes rematch in the coming summer. However, like Australia's victories over South Africa, this was a series that asked more questions than it answered. The wait for November begins in earnest.
Nothing but onedayers until the Ashes start. A season review next month.
Australia (1st) 1379.29
India (3rd) 1123.44
New Zealand (7th) 1028.9
West Indies (8th) 832.00
Zimbabwe (9th) 672.64
Bangladesh (10th) 598.51
4th September, 2006 23:16:53