A classic, only lacking a more fitting context than a two-test money-spinner at the start of the season. India, by and large, looked the better side, but can count themselves fortunate to have escaped with a win, having collapsed poorly in their chase of a moderate target. Australia were both gritty, as you'd expect, and fragile, as has been seen too often. Watson and Paine's efforts in the first innings were exemplary, and Ponting continues to work hard at the start of series, even if his best days are clearly behind him. Zaheer Khan was a deserved man of the match, carrying an often listless attack (and suffering from a distinct lack of effort in the field) to keep India in front, at least until Johnson's late hitting got Australia to a decent first innings score.
Sehwag was his enigmatic self, but India will be disappointed they didn't score more runs in reply. North, operating instead of a woefully ineffective Hauritz, prompted a mini-collapse after picking up Tendulkar. This gave Australia a chance of winning a game that was tending towards either a draw or an Indian win up that point, as well as marking the end of what had been excellent umpiring for the first three days.
The Australian collapse, losing 10/105 in 42 overs arrived as scheduled, as regular and frequent as a Japanese train. Poor shot-making, a couple of woeful (albeit balanced) decisions and whatever the hell Clarke was doing set up an intriguing chase, but it should never have been enough runs.
That it was, almost, was due to some poor Indian shot-selection, some canny bowling from Hilfenhaus and Bollinger, and some bizarre decisions from all involved. What Raina was doing out there running is beyond me, a tense chase is not the place for a player in his second series, even if he is fit and fast. Why Ponting persists with defensive fields to superior batsmen is also unknown. Not only does it gift easy singles to the partnership (the life-blood of a tail-ender who is easily bogged down), it essentially allowed Laxman to play aggressively as there was little chance of being caught. The glut of runs proved Australia's undoing, as the runs required fritted away quickly, only slowing as the finish-line neared, and the intensity rose. Laxman was serene through-out proving once again that he thrives when most keenly challenged, and that ability to perform in the clutch was ultimately all that separated the two sides.
The ratings remain stagnant, as you'd expect in such a close contest. Australia really struggled to match India in this match however, and I expect the home side to run away with the next game.
A comprehensive victory for Afghanistan who continue their fine record in the longer form of the game on the strength of their bowling. Hamid Hassan was the dominant figure again, taking 11 wickets, albeit a little expensively. An entertaining game though, with here over 1150 runs were scored and 36 wickets fell in the first three days. Nawroz Mangal anchored Afghanistan's first innings with 168, while only Seren Waters, fresh from a county stint showed any life in Kenya's disappointing reply of 160. Otieno completed a fine game for him, taking 4 wickets in each innings to provide a target of 512 for Kenya, but while several players got starts, noone went on and they fell well short; the tail collapsing to Hassan's burst early on the last day. Afghanistan continue their climb up the rankings, with the opportunity to surpass Scotland when they play in the final in late November.
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 9th October, 2010 10:44:54 [#]