1-0 to the In-dia. The magnitude of victory in the final test allowed them to sneak past Australia to claim the number one spot (by about 19 runs, which made it interesting for me, if noone else) but this wasn't the resounding series win expected. Nevertheless, India should always play to their strengths, and that is their batting. Having finally rolled New Zealand for a sub-par total, Dravid anchored an onslaught from which they couldn't possibly lose, leaving Harbajan, Sharma and Ojha to do the rest. New Zealand can point to injuries to key players and a punishing schedule for their batting malaise, but they'll still be disappointed to go down by such a large margin having secured draws in the first two games. They slip back below the West Indies in the rankings as a consequence. For India, the real test of their summer lies on the other side of the Indian Ocean.
No sporting contest has a lead-up like the Ashes. No Ashes has had a lead-up like this one. Four years ago there was an over-riding sense that England had gone backwards, through injuries, and Australia consolidated. Absent home advantage and the luck they rode to victory in 2005 they were always likely to struggle, though their final capitulation was a shock.
This series is different, England have moved forward from 2009; Australia stagnated, if not regressed. England are well prepared, coached and drilled, and have a young deep squad with enormous potential; Australia are ageing, inconsistent, prone to collapse and regularly failing to close out games.
That said, in the rankings Australia retain second spot, albeit by narrow margins all-round. They put in a good performance against India, only just failing to draw the series, and retain the ability to play well and win. England are steadily improving, but not yet world beaters. They can win, but winning away from home is no easy task.
Those looking for a parallel needn't look far though: in 1954-55, Australia (1256.84) was coming off a high, having lost the Ashes in 1953; England (1183.23) was moving into their best ever period. Hutton's side won 3-1, but were annihilated in Brisbane by an innings and 154 runs. Forget the talk of auguries: this series won't be won in the first game, on the opening morning or after the first ball, Australia do play better in Brisbane than anywhere else in Australia - a fact that was also true in 2006-07 where if not for Giles dropping Ponting Adelaide may have been a different proposition. England are also accustomed to starting poorly and winning, having done so in 2005 and 2009.
My instincts tell me this series will end a 2-2 draw, but as with any close series, the team that plays better when it matters will be the one to win. England will be very confident if they can escape Brisbane with a draw - a possibility heightened by the persistent chance of rain. If they win, Australia will consume themselves with recriminations over selection, and the need for change.
Thus, Brisbane matters, but it matters much more for Australia; the selectors have put their faith in a side that has persistently under-performed with the bat, and lost a lot more than it has won against the top few sides in world cricket. In 2006-07 backing essentially the same side that had lost the Ashes in England was a resounding success. I don't see it working near as well this time around.
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 25th November, 2010 08:59:11 [#]