Winning with as few players as possible; Ratings 30th November
Russell Degnan

2nd TestAustraliavSouth Africa
Expected MarginAustralia by 19 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn

Another draw, but let noone suggest it wasn't a great game, in what is becoming a war of attrition. Australia will go to Perth without any of the quicks they started this game with, while South Africa ought to get Philander back, but will be without Duminy, Kallis having recovered (at least partially). Australia's depth will be tested to the limit, and there are good reasons - statistical reasons - to suggest that picking Hastings and Johnson over other contenders - Cutting, every bowler in Tasmania - is a mistake. The official ICC number one ranking is on the line is Perth, although even with home advantage, and a slight advantage in the series to date, the fast bouncy pitch and the age-old rule that the team that fails to take their chances will eventually fall behind would favour the South Africans.

Adelaide was a fascinating game, beginning with Australia's assault on South Africa, and ending with both Siddle and Du Plessis out on their feet, as South Africa scraped the draw. Much has been said about Tahir, but the most extraordinary aspect of Clarke (and Warner's) innings was their dismantling of Morkel. The tall quick bowled very well, but seemed lost for an option at times as both batsmen destroyed him - Warner smashing 48 off 44, Clarke 70 off 56. The fast scoring ought to have earnt Australia the win as they had plenty of time to bowl out South Africa, but Du Plessis (110 off 376), de Villiers (33 off 220) and Kallis (46 off 110) denied them for four sessions. That longevity came back to hurt Australia, as Siddle couldn't recover from the 64 overs he let go, and we don't know the state of Lyon who managed to bowl 94 - more than an entire day. Lyon may or may not be useful in Perth anyway, but don't ever doubt his skills. Anyone who can play well in Australia (and 5/140 in 94 overs is well), will do very well when they travel.

South Africa need support for Steyn and Morkel. If Philander has recovered he might be the difference, as he'll get more help in Perth. Or Steyn will go berserk and destroy Australia. Australia have stuck their hand in the lucky-dip makred Mitchell Johnson. The weather is cool, sometimes overcast, so the pitch won't crack, and may end up being a Brisbane-esque road. We haven't had a result yet in this series, and we might not at all, but as arm-wrestles go, it has definitely been interesting.

2nd TestBangladeshvWest Indies
Expected MarginWest Indies by 126 runs
Actual MarginWest Indies by 10 wickets
Series rating627.3931.9

West Indies didn't make the mistake of batting first this time, and although Bangladesh made plenty of runs, you'll always struggle to not lose if you concede 648. The story from day one was Abul Hasan making a debut 113 from number 10. he went on to take no wickets, which will make for an interesting selection meeting. It is a sign of Bangladesh's willingness to fight at home, and they dragged this game into the last day before Tino Best again wrecked them with 6/40. Bravo (127), Samuels (260) and Chanderpaul (150*) did the damage with the bat, with only Shakib al Hasan making in-roads (4/151). He has now taken 100 wickets and is just short of 2000 runs. He'll be both the youngest and fastest (in matches) to do that double when he does it shortly. A loss though, is a loss, and while Bangladesh are improved, like Sri Lanka and New Zealand before them, they aren't going to win many until they get a bowler who can take wickets in bundles, instead of dribs and drabs.

2nd TestIndiavEngland
Expected MarginEngland by 39 runs
Actual MarginEngland by 10 wickets

In my review of the first test I implied England would need more contributors than just Cook, Swann and half of Prior. It turns out two more was sufficient. Panesar relished the bounce and turn at the Wankhede, taking 11/210, and supported by Swann's 8/113. Cook found his support in Pietersen, whose 186 off 233 balls was typically brutal, while raising the question of how a batsman can alternate from completely clueless against left-arm spin to dominant with such regularity. Apart from Compton, the rest of the English side hardly turned up. That is a problem if India ever remove Cook early, but they have their lengthy set of issues. Ojha was again very good (5/143) and Ashwin again poor, although he scored 68. Aprt from Gambhir's fighting rear-guard in the second innings and Pujara's 135, India's batting didn't produce. Whle a case can be made that on a spinning pitch a score of 327 is close to par, 468 runs for the match will lose many more games that it will win. Their tail is long and irresponsible, and their middle-order (starting with Tendulkar) isn't make the big scores they need.

The ratings have India slipping backwards again, closer to the West Indies than a decent side, and the path back to the top looks long in their present state. For England, they needed that win to maintain their position, but four players can't be expected to win a series. The rest of the batting needs to support Cook, and the pace bowlers need to find their line and length. It will be interesting to see if India continue to produce spinning pitches given they succeeded on a low slow batting track, and failed badly on a bouncing turning one. Dhoni seemed to get what he asked for in the last test. It is up to the team to make use of home conditions.

2nd TestSri LankavNew Zealand
Expected MarginSri Lanka by 140 runs
Actual MarginNew Zealand by 167 runs
Series rating982.4922.1

Quite the surprise result. Because Sri Lanka have slipped down the rankings it doesn't seem so surprising that they might lose to New Zealand, but given New Zealand's recent record, and Sri Lanka's home record drawing the series is a huge victory for the Kiwis. Sri Lanka's recent weakness was the decline in their bowling post-Murali; their current one seems to be the recurring theme of the week, a slipping from the experienced trio Dilshan, Jayawardene and Sangakarra. Mathews and Samaraweera made scores, but two sub-250 scores puts a lot of pressure on Herath. Herath did his best, taking 9/170 in the match, He was matched though by Taylor (142 and 74) who might finally be producing scores in line with his talent, and Wiliamson (135), who put on 262. With the ball, Southee and Boult bowled with pace and purpose, getting good bounce and backed up with catches in the slips: Guptill and Williamson took 9 in the match, a couple, one off Herath in particular, absolute screamers.

A fortnight from now, these two sides will play swaps with the leaders. New Zealand heading to South Africa, which will give a better guage of whether their low ranking is justified. Their last tour there was a disaster, collapsing repeatedly and suffering long days in the field. They seem a better side now, but it is a big test when they haven't won there since 1994. Sri Lanka, arguably, have an even bigger one, travelling to Australia, the graveyard of spinners, where they have never won. Kulasakera is the kind of bowler who might do well in Australia, but he'll need support, and it isn't clear who can provide it. But, like India, Sri Lanka are in the middle of a transition, albeit with fewer obvious replacements for the greats departed or about to go.

Rankings at 30th November 2012
1.South Africa1250.5
5.Sri Lanka1037.8
7.West Indies961.4
8.New Zealand866.9


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 30th November, 2012 14:52:23   [#]