That more or less sums up India's opening day effort, losing four wickets for eight runs, all caught behind with poor footwork and hard hands. Anderson had the ball on a string, though it was Broad who took the bulk of the wickets, ending with 6/25. Dhoni's counter-attacking 71 was ugly, but somewhat effective, and only a partnership with Ashwin - almost certainly in India's best six batsmen, if not their best six bowlers - kept the scoreboard from being embarrassing.
India bowled quite well, for the most part. But they lost either side of the new ball, when Root and Buttler turned a handy lead into an impregnable one. They are also, somewhat inexplicably, unable to play Moeen Ali, whose bowling is handy, accurate, but not something to repeatedly collapse to, though the damage at the top was done by Anderson again. As hinted after the last test, India under Dhoni, when the game is drifting, don't fight very hard.
There is little else to add. History suggests India will again fail to turn up at the Oval, although they are not incapable of winning, nor England of losing, as was shown at Lord's. England's confidence is up now though, including, most importantly, that of Cook in his young bowlers, which both lessens the load on Anderson and Broad (if he plays), and prevents the sort of crises of confidence that afflicted Kerrigan and Borthwick. If India do lose at the Oval, it will be a sad end to a series that promised much, but ended as a mauling.
Revenge for Sri Lanka, after Pakistan's heist earlier in the year, and in nearly identical circumstances. Younis Khan's magnificent 177 provided the guts of a competitive 451, but he was matched by the insatiable Sangakarra's 221 and Mathews 91. The 82 run lead gave Sri Lanka just enough to press for victory after a productive first session on the final day. Herath, naturally, provided the pressure, bowling taking 6/48 from 30.2 overs. They were held up late by Sarfraz Ahmed, whose 52 not out almost gave Pakistan enough time and runs to survive until the rain came. It did, almost literally as Sri Lanka walked off, having chased 99 in 17 overs.
The win doesn't change the rankings, but tightens the group of sub-continental rivals and England, with another two test matches to potentially shake things up. A series win for Sri Lanka would round out an impressive sequence of results in the past three months. And the impressive career of Jayawardene. His home record has always vastly exceeded that away from Sri Lanka, making it harder for his batting to be appreciated by anything beyond the raw numbers filtered through the scorecard. It is a record that speaks to a vulnerability to bounce, and to bowlers who could provide it; but that is a minor quibble against almost 12 thousand runs. Few players have ever dominated attacks when conditions were in his favour more than Jayawardene, and few have ever made it look as easy either.
Even the dodgy internet streams couldn't get me coverage of this match, but the general consensus is of a game where Zimbabwe fought hard, without actually ever looking like doing anything but losing by a significant margin. Taylor remains their only batsman of class, although Mutumbami made useful contributions, and they'll be pleased with the wickets of Nyumbu and the discipline of Chatara. Zimbabwe have so many structural problems it is hard to know where to start: an inability to keep players; a lack of funds to run domestic cricket, pay players and train consistently; on-going governance issues and debt so deep they are almost insolvent.
This could have been much worse, but South Africa came to do the job, and did it, nothing more. What they didn't do is achieve the margin, which slips them closer to Australia in second place, with relative form likely to drag them closer still when each next plays.
There are no ratings for women's test matches, but it is worth discussing such a rare event. The format has been almost exclusively played by Australia and England for the past eight years, and the BCCI ought to be commended for getting their players to play the format. What will happen is less clear, as with little test cricket form to digest from either side, the only known factor is that India has struggled in recent tournaments, while England have defeated Australia in two Ashes contests, even if they've failed to win major trophies.
Not that finding out what is happening will be easy. The ECB has put money into professional contracts, but failed to invest in even basic streaming to help supporters follow the game. The BCCI haven't even done the former, and the game stagnates there, as does so much Indian women's sport. South-east Asian women's sides on a shoe-string are more likely to challenge the anglo-hegemony in a decade or two, as they have the willingness to push the sport to their female population. But with the other test nations investing and growing women's cricket, it may take several more decades to restore a sense of parity. This contest might be rarer still in another eight years.
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 14th August, 2014 00:34:44 [#]