New Zealand should look carefully at this game. It was eminently winnable, and in the end they were beaten easily; by Kemar Roachs bat no less, in the game's most crucial moment. They squandered first use of the pitch, failing again to score a ton, although Guptill and Taylor made 50s and the tail wagged. The contrast with the West Indies innings, where only Marlon Samuels got past 15 in the top-7 but took full toll, making 123.
In the second innings, Deonarine, Best and Narine took regular wickets at important times - two in particular, just prior to stumps on day 2 were crucial, wth New Zealand's lead was up to 106 with 10 wickets in hand. From that moment on New Zealand capitulated, for 154 in the second innings. Despite taking four second innings wickets late on day 3, being, effectively, only the removal of Chanderpaul away from a lengthy tail and with 70 runs to play with, the West Indies never looked like losing. Roach and Chanderpaul put on 70 for the fifth wicket and an abject tour for the Black Caps came to an none-too-soon end.
The West Indies home performances have improved over the last few years, so we shouldn;t be truly shocked that they defeated a weaker rival. Nonetheless, while there are plenty of weaknesses, they dominated a series that they ought to have been tested in; even where - as here - they conceded the advantage. Their ranking creeps closer to 1000, New Zealand's drifts downwards.
A tale of two P(i)etersen innings, and their teams' differing approaches. Alviro's 182 over almost 9 hours was never fluent, but still a master-class in self-denial, driving almost nothing, and waiting on the English bowlers. He set up a South African score that while not huge, with rain was nearly impregnible, allowing them to take the game to England on the final day and set a target. This is a relatively new phenomenon, to see Smith looking for wins, even risking an English assault to give his bowlers time to make an impact. It failed to produce a result, but they enter the last test requiring only a draw to take the official top ranking.
Pietersen's 149 was, by contrast, a sparkling counter-attack in a team that seems baffled by South Africa's refusal to roll-over and gift wickets and runs, as so many others do. By the end of the third day the propsect of an English victory, hitherto unforeseen, became more distinct. His second ball dismissal and the subsequent rapid collapse on the fourth morning dented any hope of that, although Prior's 68 pushed England to a small lead. But Pietersen demonstrated the on-field qualities he brings as surely as subsequent events demonstrated that his off-field demeanour is not well liked in the English establishment.
Now dropped, for, of all things, texting the opposition, much has been written about the importance of team ethic, and the need for individuals to subject themselves to it. In this, Flower and Strauss run a typically modern English sports setup; successful where none had been before, by pursuing marginal gains and maximum efficiency at the expense of flair. Pietersen is framed as an egotist, but it strikes me as unfair. He is certainly not typical of someone who knows his value and demands his respect. He comes across as self-confident but insecure, honest and hard-working but hopelessly naive, and no doubt poorly advised.
It is quite obvious that Strauss, and a number of his team-mates can't stand him; Flower, probably, too, not least because of the fall-out over Pietersen's short-live captaincy; and by several people in the ECB. He is isolated, a senior player with a junior role; passed over by (of all people) Stuart Broad for even a minor captaincy position; relentlessly criticised for even minor indiscretions while his team-mates are free to insult him in print and interviews, and (allegedly) through proxy. This inconsistency, and the too infrequently mentioned debilitating effect too much control can have on those temperamentally incompatible with the regime, raises serious questions over the handling of a valuable player. Pietersen's performances are, by and large, beyond reproach, which is not true of the English leadership. England go into a final, important test, missing their best batsman to date, and playing two rookies.
South Africa can hardly have hoped for more; though don't be surprised if the result swings either way. Cricket remains a game of small margins. It is the narrowest of those margins that makes the statement that England can afford to drop Pietersen so much nonsense.
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 15th August, 2012 02:39:21 [#]