Hard to believe from the final result that half-way through day 2 India were four down and in front of England. That they collapse so spectacularly with bat and ball is a sign of both English resilience and India's lack of depth. Injuries are largely at fault for the latter, and this would be a different series with a fit opening pair, and more especially, a fit opening bowler.
Injuries are also a fact of life in modern cricket, and the performances by India's second string batting lineup bordered on embarassing. How Raina (in particular), Mukund and Yuvraj have survived as long as they have with their short-ball techniques is a mystery. The English bowlers deserve credit for the pace and accuracy of their short bowling, but there is a difference between uncomfortable batting on a difficult pitch and looking incompetent, and Raina, in particular, fit the latter description
Dhoni too seemed to lose it part way through the test. His batting was distracted, his keeping increasingly sloppy, and his captaincy largely passive as one by one his bowlers failed him. For a time Kumar and Sreesanth held things together, but once they tired England's lower order took the attack to pieces.
It is worth keeping those factors in mind, as the series takes a short break before moving to Edgbaston. At least some of India's experienced players will return, though by all accounts they've now lost Harbajan (or at least his presence) and Yuvraj. England should either feel confident that they dominated without any output from their top three, or be wary that on another day they might (and in fact ought to) have been defending less than 300 in the last innings.
For now though, their performances are reflecting something the ratings suggested six months ago. They are a very fine side, well organised, resilient, and capable of smashing teams off their game. They are not dominant - it takes 4-8 years for a side to become dominant after broaching number one spot - but they have the players and attitude to become so. India, by contrast, increasingly look like a transition champion.
An evenly contested match until the U.A.E. reached 3/31 late on day 2, after which their experienced middle order took over and completely batted Kenya out of the match. Like India, Kenya took the abomination that is first innings points and yet somehow lost by 266 runs. That battle was impressive in itself, as they needed 45 runs at the fall of the eighth wicket, but that success merely glossed over the failure of their top order, and in a big fourth innings chase, they were never in it. For U.A.E. Khurram Khan followed 85 in the first innings with 113 in the second, the latter on the back of Saqib Ali's 153 and Ahmed Javed's even 100. Varaiya and the young Oluoch took wickets for Kenya, but they'll need better support if they are to win games in this competition.
Canada face a stiff test in the opening match of their I-Cup campaign. Partly because well before a poor world cup they began a renewal process that has seen some youthful faces getting their chance in the side, but meant they have stuggled, particularly in the top-order. But mostly because their opponents, reigning champions Afghanistan, seem to improve with every game. Home advantage and a short preparation by the tourists may make a difference, but the ratings - lacking in hard data as they are - indicate an easy victory for the Afghan side.
Canada's cause has been further hurt by the absence of world cup captain, best batsman and keeper Bagai and much depends on whether Jimmy Hansra can jold things together or inspire his kids to perform. The Canadian bowling is solid, but Afghanistan chased a near first-class record against Canada in their last fixture, so expect them to score enough runs to let Hamid Hassan and company do their job.
This may be the first series that Bangladesh has actually gone in as favourite for, and it is a good one, because the game weights mean, regardless of result, their ranking wil not change too much. Zimbabwe, back for their first test in several years could be anywhere from shocking to not bad. Their performance in the world cup and the lead up game would indicate that this should be a close contest, with the hosts perhaps slightly favoured. I hope, for both their sakes, but also expect, because both have much to prove, that it is an excellent match, though it won't be telecast anywhere, as far as I can tell. A sign, if anything, that the gap between the I-Cup and the bottom of the test ladder is much smaller than the gap to the financial epicentre. If nothing else, it is a rarity amongst lower-ranked clashes: one where both teams have something to prove.
Update: myp2p comes through with coverage.
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 4th August, 2011 01:48:59 [#]
Ratings - 4th August 2011
Ratings - 4th August 2011