Australia's miserable second day collapse leaves the extent of the big-3 flexing a matter of conjecture for now, but India made up for any shortfalls with a dominant display in Antigua. West Indies were in it at 4/236 with Kohli and Ashwin at the crease, and not much below, but they were effectively gone when the former was dismissed for an even double ton 164 runs later. Ashwin faced almost as many balls as his captain making 87 fewer runs, but he ground down the home team, effectively asking them to bat for three days to save the Test.
They lasted less than two, firstly falling to Shami and Yadav's probing line outside off stump with a series of frankly abject prods to balls they ought to be either getting behind or leaving. Following on was little better. Ashwin's 7/83 the highlight as they fell to a series of classical off-spinning dismissals. With Holder and Braithwaite at 8 and 9, the West Indies have plenty of batting width but no depth to speak of. It is telling that only Bravo and the Braithwaites have (marginally) higher averages than Ashwin with the bat, and you'd not be surprised if that group is only Bravo by series end. Three more Tests like this could be a couple too long.
Pakistan began this Test in second place on the rankings and in the series lead. They end it in fourth place, the series tied, and their confidence dented after suffering a significant defeat. It would be easy to point to Cook and Root's 500 odd runs for two dismissals and say that was the difference, but the larger problem for Pakistan was their collapse to Woakes (4/67) in the first innings and to Anderson (3/41) in the second. They'll not beat England with 432 runs for the match, and they are effectively playing with two batsmen (Misbah and Shafiq) given the limited contributions of Younis Khan and Hafeez.
Pakistan's bowling was significantly worse than at Lord's, especially as Yasir Shah failed to provide either control or danger. But that aspect of their game has the ability to challenge England, and Root won't score a double ton in every innings. Their batting doesn't look capable of doing the same, and even at Lord's it limped to a defendable total rather than doing so with any confidence.
It seems hard to believe that it has been four years since the last New Zealand tour to Zimbabwe, as the hosts have played so few matches in between times. That will go down as a forgotten classic, as Brandan Taylor and Taibu got Zimbabwe to within striking distance, only to collapse to Bracewell's new-ball spell and a 34 run defeat. Since then Zimbabwe have lost both those players and many more besides, putting out progressively weaker sides, though their ranking is yet to reflect it, for lack of data. New Zealand, by contrast, are 200 ranking points improved, and roaring favourites. Their bowling is stronger, their batting more mature - especially Williamson - though the recent loss of McCullum is yet to be felt. They should win this series comfortably, though the disparity in matches played means that it will be Zimbabwe's rating that moves (or doesn't). Nominally, they are trying to move ahead of Afghanistan and Ireland.
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 28th July, 2016 00:23:42 [#]