The most interesting game of the series, at least in part because Australia chose to play a batsman short, play completely irresponsibly, and bat last on a turning pitch. The last would have bee perfectly forgivable if they'd not the first two - it would have raised the chance of a result in their favour - but in a four day match it was reckless.
Sri Lanka played better. Herath finally took some wickets, or rather, his team-mates finally took some catches. Thirimanne (91), Karunaratne (85) and Chandimal (62*) gave some hope that there is life after the old guard move on. It isn't clear when Sri Lanka will return to Australia and at least half their side won't be back. At least for tests. They've been over three years running for ODIs. But they still lost, and although they beat the margin by taking the fifth wicket, and could certainly have won had they batted less recklessly themselves or prevented Wade from adding 151 with the tail. But they didn't, and as the series rating shows, they lost every match by a wide margin.
Australia ought not be too pleased by the result. Wade made runs, very good and important runs, but struggled again with the gloves, standing too far back, and up too early. Lyon's own problems are probably over-stated - the list of successful off-spinners in Australia in the past 30 years is pretty short and doesn't include any Englishmen - but he is not helped by Wade's fumbles. Warner and Hughes batted very well, as did Clarke, but the dismissals were awful. Whether this was mere laziness or something else is a good question. Against better opposition the top three needs more runs, and none give the impression they'll score big, or play spin or seam well.
Starc and Johnson still come and go with their economy, but they took good wickets. Bird was again the standout though, taking 7/117 for the match. If Australia can get Cummins and Pattinson onto the field with Bird and Siddle then the bowling will be very capable. In the short term though, the most pressing concern is a replacement for Hussey, who guided the chase home in his typically efficient way. That attribute is most likely found in Khawaja or Doolan, though I suspect the selectors will want to keep Watson around, regardless of his weak average and discarded bowling, or bring in Maxwell whose spin will be useful, if very part-time. A very interesting twelve months in the offing.
A quite close result, if being compared to the expected margin, as South Africa beat it by a mere 24 runs, and only then thanks to a late New Zealand collapse. Something not quite like a close result on the scoreboard however. South Africa found themselves so far ahead b stumps on day one (some 207 runs and 7 wickets) that they seemed to sit in cruise for the remaining day and a half. New Zealand bowled reasonably well to restrict South Africa to 8/347 but four players passed 60 without going past 106, so it might have been many more. Similarly, Brownlie's debut century was a counter-attack of some class, but he was dropped multiple times early on. A ruthless South Africa would have won by many more.
Let that not imply that South Africa will beat their margin in the next match however. Even New Zealand can't be expected to repeat the disaster that was their first innings. Philander, who blessedly for them is also now injured, found just the right amount of movement, and just the batsmen to use it on, taking 5/7 off 6 overs, before Morkel stepped in to finish the job. It is not entirely clear what point - beyond obligations - this next test will serve though. The series is effectively decided as New Zealand have little to no chance of winning, and it stands for nothing other than the odd rating point. Mismatches aren't so bad, amongst other things it is a good reminder why the best teams are the best. But it would be better for New Zealand cricket if there was mor riding on this result than just pride.
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 11th January, 2013 00:07:28 [#]