Two tests from the archetype file of recent Indian results at home. The second test began with the flying Sehwag start, tons from Dravid, Laxman and Dhoni, and an imposing 7 dec. 631. Then the spinners got to work. Dhoni is self-confident enough to open spinners when he believes they'll take the wickets, and against the West Indies they have been. Ojha 4/64, Ashwin 2/49 and the impressively quick but erratic Yadav 3/23. The West Indies have player capable of making runs however, even if their ability to do so consistently evades and costs them. A Bravo ton and 84 from Samueals got them to 4/401, and the outside possibility of either a draw or testing target. Things fell apart quickly after Bravo's dismissal however, and they needed to content themselves with turning a crushing loss into a merely disappointing one.
The third test ollowed an ever more familiar script of dead pitch reincarnated as raging turner on the last day, once journalists have bemoaned the death of cricket via dull draws. Bravo again anchored the West Indies innings; by game's end he'd produced 404 runs for the series. But they'll regret a number of points in this game, losing 6/72 being the first, Ashwin cementing his place in Australia by taking five. India likewise scored heavily, Tendulkar's non-landmark didn't come, and therefore never went, but his dismissal and Dhoni's shortly after signalled the second key moment. At 6/331 the West Indies ought to have acquired a large lead, the likes of which only Australia and Sri Lanka fail to defend. Instead Ashwin, with Kohli in tow, knocked up a ton, reducing the lead to 108, and seemingly guaranteeing a draw.
Cue the twist, from 2/82 on the fifth morning the West Indies batting was shockingly poor, Ojha being the main destroyer (6/47) with Ashwin in support (4/34). That left 243 runs to be chased in 64 overs. The sort of target that only inept batting could have produced, but thankfully one that promised a tight result. For a third time, the West Indies failed to capitalise on chances, dropping Sehwag three times is near unforgivable, and their ground fielding in the latter stages cost them dear when runouts were on. Nonetheless, their defensive fields, and the tirelessness of Rampaul brought about the closest drawn finish in test history. A fair result, but one the West Indies were unduly pleased with.
A series then, that broadly went the way it was expected to, but one both can be pleased with, in their own ways. India have found a quick with real speed in Yadav, and Ojha and Ashwin's efforts were exemplary, even if they will struggle on the unforgiving decks of Australia. The West Indies have a serious talent in Bravo, and enough potential in Braithwaite, Barath and Edwards to make runs, once (if) they put away the loose shots. Their bowling is well balanced, if not brilliant, but they'll be able to challenge Sri Lanka in the near future, if ther trajectories continue.
Nearly the perfect test match, between two sides that have made a habit of such things in the past two decades. It is unfortunate that so much of the coverage harped on it being the last match in an absorbing series. While true, it would have been the last match come what may, and might have been dead in a three test series. Context in test cricket is very important, longer series between major powers is a self-interested solution that doesn't address the problem.
Better to enjoy the game we did have, particularly one that reached these heights. South Africa looked to be bossing the first day, lit up by a rapid Kallis 50 and a 112 run partnership from Prince and de Villiers. Quick wickets after tea, som inspired fielding from Cummins and poor shots left them at 266. Hughes comes in for a lot of criticism (rightly) but he succeeded for long enough here to put Australia in a dominant position. Once out though, Steyn ripped out the middle order, and it took 38 from Johnson to produce a meagre 30 run lead.
That looked small by stumps on day 3, Amla (105) and de Villiers (73) dominant and only Cummins, a 17 year old with the engine (and body) of someone much older, posing any type of threat. Once again, wickets tumbled together though, and at 7/266 Australia looked to be on top. 41 from Steyn shifted that equation back against them, as did Philander removing both openers inside 3 overs. Thus it fell to Ponting, with a peerless 4th innings record and hopeless form, and Khawaja, yet to make his mark to find something. They did, until Tahir removed Khawaja right before the light failed. The final day produced everything, with all four results possible until nearly the end, when only the draw was removed. As each wicket fell, first Clarke, then Ponting, then Hussey, Australia looked finished. Haddin (55) and Johnson (40*) were unlikely heroes given most wanted them dropped, and when Haddin fell to Philander with the new ball, his fifth wicket, they still looked to have done too little. Cummins might play a decade and never have a larger influence on a match, and in truth, his 13 run cameo was immensely lucky, but that didn't matter when he pulled Tahir through mid-wicket.
Australia are far from back, though they have good reason to believe they ought to have won 2-0, just as South Africa do. South Africa's quest for a victory over Australia at home will wait until they play four tests in a few years. For now, all that can be said is that two sides with great talent and glaring flaws, youth and potential, players on their last legs, and players who oughtn't be in the side combine for enthralling cricket.
Also two tests, but noone outside New Zealand seems to care that cricket's fiercest but most poorly maintained rivalry is again so limited. The expected margin explains this, and New Zealand's poor form make it likely that Australia will continue their 18 year winning streak over their neighbour. The caveat is injuries which plague the Australian side, leaving them with an inexperienced and erratic top order, and an inexperienced and almost unknown bowling attack. New Zealand have the batting to capitalise on the latter, and the fieldsmen to take advantage of mistakes in the former. Whether they have the talent to press home any advantage they are given is unclear.
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 27th November, 2011 20:38:14 [#]