A match that was surprisingly, given the venue, shortened by rain, hindering Sri Lanka's of a result as they got on top for the only time in the series. Sangakarra was again the catalyst for Sri Lanka, making 144 and taking his series tally to 516 runs. This time he got some small support, from the captain, and a little support from the bowlers, Welegedara taking 5/87 to get a 73 run lead. It wasn't enough to force the play however, as the ever patient Younis Khan and Misbah ul Haq kept Pakistan in the game. Sri Lanka did declare in the end, setting a tempting 255 run target off 57 overs that Pakistan declined to chase, but they drifted towards that declaration, held up by Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul. The series ended, therefore, in the hosts favour, but by a narrow margin. A series expected to be close, marked by a lot of draws on a flat pitch, met every expectation. Pakistan have moved ahead of Sri Lanka in the ratings, but the difference is marginal; what they will be pleased about is the quality of their cricket, after a tumultuous few years of below par performances.
A match not expected to be terribly close, was, for a time, looking like a major upset, before class prevailed. The West Indies, by and large batted very poorly in this game. Except for Braithwaite's patient (some might say slow) 63 and Chanderpaul's brilliant 118 and 42, the only other contribution of note in the game was 42 slogged runs by the captain to help set a more difficult target. India's batting in their first innings however was awful, ranging from lazy strokes to plain sloppy. It was a team effort from the West Indies, led by the captain who had their tails up, but one they couldn't sustain. India's spinners, first Ojha (6/72) then Ashwin (6/47) opened the second innings, such was their hold over the batsmen on a pitch taking turn, restricting the chase to 276.
Though never entirely comfortable, the West Indies lacked the bowlers to exploit conditions and while they bowled with discipline, restricting the scoring and preying on mistakes, they were too few, and the target too small. The latter issue led to some shameless non-cricket in an attempt to guide Tendulkar to a pointless record, one he again failed to attain. His innings, and composure, was the determining factor in the win, and needed no cap on it. His dismissal however, ironically, led to India again missing their expected margin, and another significant ratings drop. They need a more commanding performance to move back up.
As strange a match as you'll ever likely encounter, marked by a day of normal cricket, a session and a half of insanity, and then another day of normality. Much has been, and will continue to be written about the insane part, and rightly so. On a helpful wicket, but no worse, and one that hardly changed from day to day, both sides looked completely inept, Australia adding reckless to the mix. For a brief period test cricket sped up to something approaching baseball, 6 innings worth of batters coming and for 7 hits, 10 of them not even facing enough deliveries to make a full count. South Africa had the better of the interlude, but ought to have been dead and buried after Watson and Harris conjured an 188 run lead, but Philander, Morkel and Steyn were devastating in reply.
And yet, in some ways, that isn't really where Australia lost the game. When all is said and done, they both lost almost an entire innings for 47 runs. Where Australia lost was the rest of the game. Clarke's 151 was brilliant (and the passage of play where he faced Steyn a highlight of year) but, Marsh (now injured) and Siddle (who looked remarkably untroubled all things considered) aside, the rest were appalling. Amla had some chances, and Smith may be the ugliest batsman in world cricket, but the non-collapso scorecard read: Australia 10/284, South Africa 3/236. Things that have been apparent for some time continue to haunt Australia: Johnson is a liability that can't be carried by such limited support, Siddle a work-horse but no more, Haddin completely reckless, Ponting apparently done, and Hughes not worth keeping when better batsmen are available (and there are). New selectors arrived this week. If they are looking for an opportunity to bring forward change, this match provided plenty of justification, and even the captain seems unwilling to gainsay it.
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 12th November, 2011 19:21:06 [#]