Future cricket historians will inquire whether the pitch was left uncovered for a luncheon shower on the fourth day as 10 wickets fell in the following two sessions, when just 16 had fallen in the previous ten. If not for a missed runout early on day five (not to mention numerous chances on the first day), New Zealand may well have celebrated a famous victory, but ultimately, India's resilience under pressure (particularly Laxman's) shone through again.
There was some criticism of Dhoni for not setting New Zealand a target. In a three test series with no external context, playing out the draw and counting on their ability to win one or both of the next two games was the sensible option. Their rating (both here and the ICC) will suffer a little, but not near as much as a loss. Of greater concern is the way New Zealand showed up the weaknesses apparent in the games against Australia, both with the ball, and in their dramatic collapse.
New Zealand, meanwhile, come out of this with much to be proud of. Their batting, for some time a serious weakness, looks to have a reasonable spine in Taylor, Ryder and Williamson. Without a more incisive bowling attack - notwithstanding Martin's extraordinary performance on the fourth day - they'll struggle to defeat the top few teams. A more stable batting lineup should at least arrest their alarming ratings decline since the retirement of Fleming et al.
The season goes into full swing now, with only a single day without scheduled test cricket between now and December 8th. The Sri Lankan-West Indies series is probably the most low-key of those going on, neither side having a large media presence, and the Sri Lankan preparations interrupted by their own pointless one-day tour of Australia. Despite ongoing contractual conflicts over the ICC's reluctance to recognise that domestic T20 tournaments are more in demand (and therefore pay better) than regimented whirl-wind tours, the West Indies will be at full strength under their new captain Darren Sammy.
Whether that will translate into a credible performance in one of the hardest places to tour in world cricket is an unknown. Their batting remains weak, their bowling weaker. In the long-term Sri Lanka need to find wickets from somewhere without Murali to turn to, but on recent form, they'll be largely gifted them by the West Indies batsmen, while the Sri Lankan batsmen are sure to bury the West indies under an avalanche of runs.
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 11th November, 2010 11:47:51 [#]