How do you preview a series with no matches since their last meeting? Barely had the previous series ended than the marketing for the next kicked into gear; the bowlers licked their wounds, some of whom are now fit; and both sides rejigged for the different conditions prevailing in Australia. England with tall quicks; Australia by choosing players based on their form in an otherwise meaningless slogfest in India.
The latter is a bad sign. In theory, home advantage indicates this will be a very tight series, and the English edition was that, despite the 3-0 scoreline. But the last Ashes in Australia indicated that England were better prepared than Australia for batting endlessly on flat bouncy pitches, and bowling in the channel searching for mistakes. England ground out their home victory by scoring just enough and taking advantage of Australia's inability to consistently do the same. Australia's bowling was strong, but lacked the killer edge and was blunted by Bell in particular. Their batting lurched from feeble to competent and back again from session to session. Despite this, the same side, more or less, will line up in Brisbane. Partly for lack of options, mostly for lack of reliable data to indicate who might succeed (if any) where others have not.
With Brisbane likely to rain, and Adelaide likely to play dead, we might enter the back half of the series before any advantage is gained. Australia's selection of Warner and Johnson indicates they are willing to take risks to try and force an unlikely win. The smart money though is on them having little impact when it matters and England to continue the pattern of the last 5 years: play to stay in the game, and take advantage of collapses. Australia are sure to offer them ample opportunity.
A short end to a short and unmemorable series. Designed as a virtual exhibition, the West Inds played their secondary part a little too enthusiastically, neither particularly invested nor seemingly interested in the end result. Chanderpaul deserved better in his 150th test, but apart from Shillingford, there wasn't much to illuminate the match at his end. Tendulkar briefly rolled back the clock before giving way to Pujara, Kohli and Sharma. Ojha and Ashwin took the wickets, and India ran up another huge win at home.
For mine, I said almost everything I had to say about Tendulkar in my piece on Ponting. He combined all the qualities of good batsmanship without being peerless in any of them, being neither as strong a technician as Dravid, nor as flamboyant as Lara, nor as intense as Ponting. His bowling was under-rated; his longevity and influence best marked by a single closing note. If you check Tendulkar's record, Cricinfo has no figure for his strike-rate, almost unique amongst modern batsmen. This is because the balls are missing from this test vs Sri Lanka, in Chandigarh in 1990. Such was the span of his career, that he first played for India in the days when Doordarshan would tape over old matches and scorecards could be lost; and left with a 24-7 media cycle trying to record his every movement and gesture noting everything for posterity. A career so long its end isn't even era-defining, because it crossed so many; encompassing a period both as a prodigy and the old-man of cricket; a superstar and a player whose best years were limited by injury; and as both the lone hand on which everything depended and as one part of a quadrumvirate. It is a singularly incredible and inscrutable career arc; and as it has been throughout, its meaning is sure to be interpreted and re-interpreted for a long time to come.
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 19th November, 2013 23:47:00 [#]