It is weird to think that a team with a 72 run first innings lead looked a unikely winner, but such was the predicament of England, batting last, and ever uncomfortable. Pakistan may not be technically at home, but their series rating is almost exactly what it would be if they were, and they play with the confidence of a team that knows it is superior.
Part of the problem for England was that their early lead was built on the back of Anderson and Broad, taking 6/30 off 28 overs in the first innings. The lack of spin support,and the need for rest allowed Pakistan a total of 234, and they couldn`t repeat in the second innings, where Hafeez (151) and Azhar Ali retook the lead without loss, and a little tail wag built a defendable total.
A lack of big totals also hampered the English - also a sign that they were never comfortable batting against Yasir Shah and Shoaib Malik who took 14 wickets in the match. Five scores over 40 and no hundreds meant they only just passed 300 when they ought to have built an insurmountable lead. Cook`s 63 showed what a fine batsman he is in Asia where patience is required, but the rest of the top order made 30 between them. You`ll not win many games doing that.
Aggressive declarations meant the margin in this match was somewhat short of what it might have been. New Zealand hardly looked like taking a wicket, and only Southee kept the run-scoring down to any degree. Boult, whose natural line ought to trouble the left-handers was punished when he dropped short, and didn`t find enough movement to cause problems when full.
Australia is an excellent front-running team these days, and although New Zealand made them grind, and the Starc-Johnson combination continues to feel unbalanced, Lyon did enough to make it work, and Williamson`s batting aside, New Zealand had too many overs to bat (almost three days, in total, excluding rain) to get the draw. McCullum might have raised the fleeting possibility of an unlikely chase, but the overs either side of the new ball ended both innings. The "home margin" on the ratings is beginning to look a little under-powered.
Speaking of under-powered home advantages. India have often been on the wrong side of this, while South Africa`s away record is exemplary. But with Steyn injured in this match, and the BCCI not averse to beginning matches on a third day pitch - low, uneven, dusty, but still only needing to last into the "fifth" day - they`ll be hard-pressed to come back in this series.
I rather like spinning pitches, and the sight of batsmen falling to looping, turning spin (even if in the first innings it was from Dean Elgar) is great entertainment. The batsmen showing their skills were a little light-on, only Vijay and Pujara performing for India, and Amla and de Villiers for South Africa. After both of them fell early in the chase, South Africa never looked a chance of making the target. An impression magnified by their confusion on when to play or leave, with several straight balls clattering into their stumps. Such are the tests of interesting wickets, and cricket is better for it, even if the broadcasters might wonder what happened to the schedule.
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 13th November, 2015 20:50:58 [#]