A match that exploded into life after looking dead for the first four days, and even as Sri Lanka tried (and failed) to kill it for good. With the umpires sensibly telling them to play on - even more sensibly threatening them with a run penalty - and Pakistan thrillingly chasing down 195 runs in 34 overs after tea, it became a tense and exciting match.
While the first three days were played out slowly, with 90s from Mathews and Perara matched by 147 by Ahmed Shezhad, no observer of the last day and a half could come away with any other impression than that Sri Lanka conspired to lose a match that a little aggression might have made their own. Their run-rate of just 2.1 when they ought to have been setting a target, and slow motion collapse to Saeed Ajmal and abdur Rehman opened the door to Pakistan chasing and levelling the series. Yet even then, a target of 302 was steep, even insurmountable in the time remaining; and the opportunity to take wickets and force a result was their for Mathews. Instead, with the field spread to all corners, and first Sarfraz Ahmed (48 off 46) then Azhar Ali (103 off 137) and Misbah ul Haq (68* off 72), controlled and ultimately coasted home in the gloom.
A drawn series then, but one the Sri Lankans had the better of, and ought to have won. That is a good sign for them, after a long period of poor cricket, but they'll not win many games if they can't take their chances, and this was pretty ugly to watch.
Bangladesh have gradually improved in recent years, with just enough batting to make a draw a reasonable prospect at home, where the pitches are flat and slow. Whether to prove something, or because of their ability to play local conditions, Sri Lanka have had a habit of smashing their nearest Asian rival; they did so again. An innings and 248 runs victory; with a declaration at 6 down, three centuries - Jayawardene's a double; Bangladesh making only three fifties and lasting only 116 overs. There isn't much else to be said about this game.
Bangladesh's game rating of 315 and high run-rate reflects a team still failing to adapt to test cricket. The ICC's reform/takeover process briefly raised the possibility they'd play more matches against teams they cold beat, and therefore learn the art of when to attack and when to defend. The rush of their board to defend their priviliges over improving competition at test level will hinder them in the long-term; and we'll continue to see results like this.
An intriguing series. New Zealand normally manages to close the gap with India at home, where seaming wickets and low scoring can overcome Indian batting and an absence of quality pace bowling. On paper, New Zealand's seam attack, middle order, and recent good form ought to do the same. But India are not without some ability, as they showed in South Africa. Kohli and Pujara, in particular, are capable of scoring enough runs for their bowling to prevail. The ratings back India, but a drawn series - whether form split games, rain, high scores, or a combination - is probably more likely.
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 4th February, 2014 16:47:56 [#]