England continue impressioning the girl with a lock in her forehead. Their only small loss in the past 3 years was by 4 wickets to Pakistan; at Dubai they were again thrashed, saving themselves from an innings defeat only thanks to Swann and Anderson's late hitting. At some level we oughtn't be surprised. In the warm-up they lost wickets to loose shots, including several leg-side nicks. Against a better batting lineup than the associates their accurate bowling kept them in the game for longer than most teams might have, but on a pitch with few dramas, no team can win with only 352 runs on the board across two innings.
Their nemesis, Saeed Ajmal (10/97) continues his excellent form from last year. There wasn't serious spin on offer but his flight and England's rubbish shot selection were sufficient. With the bat, Pakistan were patient, as expected, with Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar providing an under-rated stable opening partnership; and Adnan Akmal (61) shepherding the tail brilliantly to turn a strong position into a dominant one. His keeping was also top quality, taking four catches in the second innings. A big improvement on his brother.
England have made a habit of bouncing back from losses, and they aren't rated as highly as they are for nothing. The best Pakistani sides have always married grit to their natural flair, and for all the criticisms of Misbah ul Haq's conservatism, this one is no different. In conditions that favour them, it will take a performance England has shown no sign of producing on tour to date to turn win the final two games of the series.
Another series with two teams whose ratings are probably inaccurate given their circumstances. Zimbabwe's long lay-off means their rating is provisional, although their few tests back are indicative that they are not too far wrong. New Zealand's win in Australia was a big boost for a side that had been going backwards for most of the past two years, and their youthful side might be due a resurgence. Conversely, the first leg between these two sides produced a minor classic, so the 211 run expected margin looks generous.
At home, New Zealand ought to win comfortably. Their batting will need to adjust after several months of T20, but there are no terrors in the Zimbabwe bowling lineup, and few obstacles in their batting. In the sort of test that would be very interesting in a championship, but is a fairly meaningless run-out with none, any sort of contest will be welcome.
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 22nd January, 2012 09:41:00 [#]