Ratings - January 2008
Blah blah, late again, but I wasn't home for much of December.
Sri Lanka v England
Opening Ratings: Sri: 1095.58 Eng: 1136.24
1st Test: Sri Lanka by 88 runs
2nd Test: Drawn
3rd Test: Drawn
Closing Ratings: Sri: 1105.82 Eng: 1129.08
Having been comprehensively thrashed by Australia, Sri Lanka will probably feel it a blessing to pop home over Christmas to beat England and get their eye in. They more than beat England though. The scoreline might have been one-nil, but that had as much to do with rain as any merit on England's part. If anything, England was closest in the test they lost, taking a hundred run lead into the second innings before the joint might of Sangakarra and Jayawardene took the game away from them. Even then, Bell and company deserved better than they got, as they fought out the loss. There can be no excuses for the third test though. Bowled out for just 81 - a mere 132 less than Jayawardene scored - and saved by two days of rain and a Cook century. The bowling throughout was ineffective, particularly Panesar who should do better on these pitches, and while Cook, Bell and Prior (since dropped for his keeping woes) showed some skill, the rest were poor. For Sri Lanka, the same names keep cropping up: Jaywardene, Sangakarra, Muralitharan (19 wickets) and Vaas. Vandort also scored a ton, but the rest of the side may as well have carried the drinks. A problem if they want to realistically challenge for second, let alone first.
India v Pakistan
Opening Ratings: Ind: 1158.23 Pak: 1080.98
1st Test: India by 6 wickets
2nd Test: Drawn
3rd Test: Drawn
Closing Ratings: Ind: 1155.78 Pak: 1083.60
A series with some monumental totals, was decided by in an opening test with barely a decent score in four innings. Led by Kumble, India constrained Pakistan, with only Misbah ul Haq showing any form. Shoaib Akhtar's had little support from a struggling Kaneria, and (despite having no great innings of their own) the Indian batting carried the day. The second and third tests both followed the same pattern. India, led by Ganguly and Jaffer, ran up 600+ scores in the first innings, effectively ensuring the draw as Misbah ul Haq continued his fine form. An earlier declaration from Kumble in the third test may have given them a second victory, but with the series win to consider, there was no need offer a sniff to their northern neighbours. Commentators who disagree may note that a different decision might have arisen with a longer series.
Australia (1447.38) v India (1155.78)- 4 Tests
Nothing makes you look more prescient than commenting after two games. While India have improved over the past year, neither the ratings nor Australia's recent form suggests they stand a chance Question marks remain over India's batting line up, as age slowly takes its toll, though Autralia's bowling may still be brittle, and much depends on the continuing good form of Brett Lee. Nevertheless, as Sri Lanka found out, by sheer weight of runs Australia can play sides out of games. In form, India can draw games, but winning them could be another matter entirely.
South Africa (1139.37) v West Indies (833.77) - 3 Tests
Everything says this will be a mismatch: the ratings, West Indies recent (and even not so recent) form, and the home advantage of a South African side that just annihilated New Zealand. How then to explain the results to date? As mentioned for much of the past three years, the talent is there, particularly in the batting. Perhaps Gayle, a player who personifies the inconsistent calypso cricket of the past decade, is the man to lead the West Indies from its deep mire. Perhaps too, South African losses at home to India and Pakistan should not be discounted. Bottom line: apart from Australia, none of the current sides are much good, and the West Indies (should be) nowhere near as bad as their rating suggests.
New Zealand (1034.17) v Bangladesh (597.99) - 2 Tests
Even New Zealand, starved of test cricket, can be bothered playing Bangladesh. A side with much promise, but one still going nowhere. For New Zealand, a side with little promise either, the opportunity to milk poor attacks and utilise local conditions to dominate young and inexperienced players will be welcome respite from playing their southern cousins. This is all merely preparation for England however.
Zimbabwe (9th) 672.64
8th January, 2008 19:35:14