Apparently test cricket is still a thing. England will be desperate to return to its longer certainties after a long winter hiatus from the form that amounted to nothing. When they last took the field they made a mess of India - which is still reflected in their form - but their rating still puts them as a middling side. Favourites, but with the potential to lose if the West Indies hit their straps.
For their part, and perhaps for the first time in a decade, the West Indies are fielding something approaching a proper pace bowling unit. In Roach, Taylor and the impressive young Holder there is the possibility of regularly taking 20 wickets. Unfortunately, a weak batting lineup further gutted by the IPL, and as dependent on the ageless Chanderpaul as ever, wont regularly produce defendable targets. An upset win is a possibility, but it won't be just the new ECB chairman looking askance if England don't win.
Maybe a little delayed, but there wasn't much to say about any of these post-new year tests. India, with Kohli in supreme form (and newly appointed captain) continued their pre-new year form to thwart Australia, but never at any point in the series looked like taking enough wickets. The only possible chance at victory came in Adelaide when they were given a declaration target. The rest of their summer was spent watching Steve Smith bat, and leaving the Australian selectors the somewhat difficult choice of form batsmen to leave out when (and if) Clarke returns.
Australia's bowling wasn't as strong as they might have liked, and they showed particular weakness as the innings progressed and the lack of turn or reverse swing left them with a lot of work. There will be, again, calls to drop Lyon on the back of performances at home, but they should be resisted. Australia is a spinner's graveyard and he is the best option for the Ashes.
South Africa came nowhere near their expected margin in this match, which perhaps is the most interesting element of an otherwise routine victory. Steyn ad de Villiers provided the bulk of the wickets and runs, and in Harmer they've found another South African spinner batsmen and fans alike will invariably under-estimate and dislike.
For a brief moment in the third innings, with Samuels and Chanderpaul at the crease, and a lead of 100, the West Indies were capable of putting South Africa under pressure. But a rash shot from Samuels after a prolonged period of accurate bowling, then a fairly abject collapse of 7/33 in 15 overs ended any chance of a contest. South Africa aren't the team they were even a year ago. But the West Indies remain a brittle and easily beaten unit.
New Zealand ended the year on a run of form that has almost lifted them back over 1000 rating points for the first time since Shane Bond could be relied on. Like then, having an attack (or a bowler) capable of taking wickets makes all the difference; unlike then, in Williamson they have a batsman of genuine class who could raise them to heights not visited in 30 years.
Sri Lanka made them work in this match, with Lakmal and Pradeep taking seven between them, and only Williamson's 69 preventing an embarrassment as they lost 8 wickets between lunch and tea. Sri Lanka's reply of 356 looks rather better than it was purely because of Sangakarra, whose late career form continues to defy belief, and whose coming absence will be felt more than normal when a great retires.
New Zealand were four down and yet to pass Sri Lanka when Watling joined Williamson in the second innings, but 402 runs later, the match was effectively safe. It took until tea on day five to turn it into another comprehensive victory, but New Zealand are playing as well as anyone right now, and they'll offer an interesting test to England (and to the English psyche) when they travel there at the start of summer.
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 April, 2015 01:57:20 [#]