A competitive series ended with a match that looked tighter on the scoreboard than it felt at the finish. The West Indies were set 308 runs on the final day, and were on track time-wise to make it. But despite getting to 254, an earlier collapse to 7/144, primarily to Southee (3/28), meant that they were always unlikely, and the new ball did for Taylor to end the contest.
Although 20 players got past 20 in the match, only one went on to make a score: Williamson's 161 being the major difference between the sides, With the ball Roach's 8/116 was the best of any bowler, but like the runs, the wickets were largely shared, and New Zealand's strength in depth allowed them to maintain pressure throughout the match. New Zealand's recent record is very good, but the series rating indicates both how close this series was, and that the gap to the top remains to be bridged. They have a capable side though, and enough youth - particularly in Williamson whose potential exceeds any - to maintain an upward trajectory.
A test that in many ways resembled Sydney 2008, whether from the grandstand finish, the persistent sledging from the winning side, or the failure to capitalise on a dominant position from the eventual losers. The umpiring was (fortunately) generally better, and the acrimony (fortunately) not long lasting. The turning point came from Mathews, beginning with his 4/44 in England's innings, and hitting a high-point in his 160 that took the match away from England. Mathews is a captain who, six months ago, basically gave away a test from negativity, so he'd have appreciated similarly generous field placings from Cook, that allowed him to aggressively hit through the ball without fear of being caught, while keeping the score ticking over.
For England, the positives were the performance of their young batsmen, with both Robson and Moeen Ali scoring tons; the latter a masterclass of concentration and resistance that deserved to secure the draw. Plunkett, and to a lesser extent Jordan both bowled well, but Cook's failure trust his young players, and tendency to look to Broad and Anderson cost them. Anderson had a very good series, but he is better as a stike-bowler than a work-horse, and will be lucky to last the summer, with seven tests in such quick succession.
Sri Lanka achieved a famous victory, and their pace bowlers belied their reputation and averages (albeit averages mostly achieved in unfavourable conditions) to out-bowl the home side. But their batting looked terribly dependent on Sangakarra, and they need bigger scores from the rest of their top-6 to challenge sides who remember how to win matches.
A series for the present regime, with five tests in seven weeks between cricket's biggest money-earners, if not their most in-form sides. India had a better tour of South Africa than is recognised, and might have won with better captaincy, or some more consistent performances from their pace attack. England, are a mess. Their youth looks promising, but is being let down by their senior players, and either a lack of belief, or captaincy that leads one to believe they can't win.
At home, against a still inexperienced Indian batting lineup, and a still weak Indian pace attack, England ought to win. The ratings don't indicate one side or another, but India have not won away of late, and that will matter. Much may depend on whether their secondary bowling can cover for the inevitable slumps that so much cricket in such a short period will bring. If it comes to that, England probably can find adequate replacements, whereas India almost certainly cannot. But runs matter too, and if India can adjust to conditions (or as is apparent at Trent Bridge, find them to their liking), they have the talent to score heavily. With both sides rebuilding, and neither with any great confidence it should be an interesting, if occasionally poorly played series.
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 10th July, 2014 01:07:13 [#]