One of a string of outstanding games that Sri Lanka has played of late, this time coming down on the wrong side of a draw, having had South Africa against it for the final three days. Hashim Amla was the hero, batting for an incredible 541 deliveries, merely 164 runs, and one dismissal. It would nevertheless have been for nought had the tail not fought through 17 overs with as many as all 9 players around the bat, and the spinners working away. Herath and Perera performed their own herculean feats, the former bowling 90 overs in the match, taking 9/111, the latter 85.5 overs, taking 8/129.
The scoring rates show clearly both how difficult were South Africa finding it to make runs, and how comparatively easily the Sri Lankans scored of Imran Tahir (3/197 off 51). Sri Lanka batted a mere 175 overs, making 650 runs, while South Africa survived, and not much else, scoring 441 off 246 overs. Mathews declaration leaving 369 runs was, in retrospect, excessive, but with 107 scheduled overs to play, he could not depend on either rain or South Africa shutting shop.
Ultimately, he tourists took the series, and the mace, for which they must be commended. They retained number one spot on these rankings too, which seemed in doubt had they lost; their next fixture against Zimbabwe requires a monumental victory, but it would surprise if they failed to provide one. After flirting with passing England, Sri Lanka will need to beat Pakistan and hope India regain some form to climb into fifth.
After flirting with playing well enough to win, then ultimately failing all summer, England finally got the luck it needed in one fell swoop. This was a thorough smashing in the end, having declared twice for the loss of only 11 wickets, and wrapping up the match early on day 5, when even the optimists were predicting a day of hard slog. Anderson got his lines and more importantly, his lengths right, taking 7 wickets, and Moeen Ali took 8 in a performance that can only lead to future disappointment.
But the important thing was runs, loads of them, from Cook (dropped early), Bell (lucky to survive an lbw on nought), Ballance (who looks genuinely classy) and as they accelerated, Buttler (lucky, but with a license). That gave the bowlers some added rest before they got to work, and the time later to have a breather before setting into India again. By contrast, India were listless after a grinding first day that only saw two wickets, and positively generous while batting. The way England climbed all over them when they were behind was reminiscent of 2011.
Another series predicted to be very close. Sri Lanka have a lesser home advantage against Pakistan, who can draw on the talents of Saeed Ajmal, and are accustomed to pitches of a similar nature. In their last match, Sri Lanka's negativity threw away a safe position, but Mathews seems to have learnt (a little) from this, and it will be a tighter tactical battle. If a turner, such as the one found for South Africa, is procured, both sides are capable of winning from a favourable toss. One a slightly quicker deck, Pakistan probably have a slight edge, if they can keep Sangakarra quiet.
A victory by more than an innings is predicted for this match, and given Zimbabwe's struggles against Afghanistan, it would be a surprise if it wasn't provided. Zimbabwe could surprise, and did so a year ago against Pakistan (who beat South Africa in their subsequent test), but turmoil seems to have enveloped their setup again, as finances are strained, and the players are unlikely to be anywhere near prepared enough to face the South African attack. Getting their southern neighbours to bat twice will be an achievement.
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 August, 2014 22:54:28 [#]