England's rating slips a little further, on a pitch offering little to the bowlers, but which nevertheless offered both sides ample opportunities to press for victory. That they didn't came down to the last wicket partnerships between Kumar and Shami, that lifted India from 9/346 to 457; and between Root and Anderson, that took England from 9/298 to 496. Anderson's heroics with the bat came on the back of 38 overs in he first innings, and 59 in the match, which probably explains why England failed to Jadeja, Binny and Kumar when at 6/184 the game promised one final twist.
Bowling short and in the channel instead of full at the stumps didn't help either. On a pitch with no bounce, little pace, and sapped by the workload - there remain another four tests, lest we forget - bowling in the low-80s left the batsmen (and the bowlers masquerading as such) with far too much time. With Lord's promising to be flat, and neither captain likely to be take undue risks, we are in line for an attritional series marked by the odd inexplicable match-losing collapse. In this, England's squad bowling and batting depth probably tilt things in their favour. India's decision to play five batsmen could haunt them at some point, but if they win the toss and bat, they could have England in the field six days in nine. For a team already looking jaded, that's a worrying prospect.
The ratings now predict an English victory by a single run. Attritional cricket might lack a certain sexiness, but it still brings interesting narratives. And the longer the stays in the balance, the more interesting they become.
South Africa enter this test as favourites, but their form, and the loss of both their captain and most solid batsman in the last year means they are probably not at quite that level. Sri Lanka's win in England showed a resilience they have often lacked while travelling. If they can couple that with the natural advantages playing on turning tracks at home gives them, then this could be a close contest.
The key for South Africa will be Imran Tahir. Leg spinners - or at least Warne - enjoyed Sri Lankan conditions, when the pitch wasn't completely dead. If he can contribute in ways he hasn't always on seaming, bouncing southern hemisphere pitches, then the South African seamers will be sufficiently strong to cover for any batting frailties. If not, South Africa's attack looks thin, and the tourists could be a middle order failure from Amla, du Plessis and AB de Villiers from an undefendable total.
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 16th July, 2014 22:15:14 [#]