South Africa rediscovered their ability to grind out a decent total on the first two days, putting together five fifties in the top-order, on their way to 481. A brief less-than-impressive interlude for South Africa to set a target aside, the remaining three days were a statement from Steyn; 8/99 in the match, keeping New Zealand to 214 and 195, but more importantly taking wickets early, and when required. Some had more than a sniff of luck to them, but when bowling with intent at pace that is what tends to happen.
The win keeps South Africa closer to the top-4 than to New Zealand, whose upwards trajectory seems to have stalled. Their respective series against Australia and India will be fascinating, both for their effect on the top place, and to measure where each side has found itself after an up-and-down year. New Zealand's main concern will be the openers and the long tail, with no easy fixes for either. South Africa remain in transition, and runs from Duminy will mean a stay on being dropped despite his average. As long as they have Steyn and Philander they can challenge sides though, even if their best is behind them.
In many ways both sides got what they wanted out of this match. Ireland, the 20 points, a win and a successful finish to an otherwise bleak summer; Hong Kong, a strong performance that points to better days ahead and ways to improve.
At various points Hong Kong looked capable of winning the match, despite the absence of Chapman and Atkinson, who would almost certainly have closed the gap closer. Nadeem Ahmed wasn't do much with the ball, but it was sufficient to bring about the dismissals of the Irish batsmen in the first innings, and only Wilson's 95 rescued them from a really poor total. The downside for Hong Kong was the opportunities offered for easy runs, as in both innings Ireland moved along above 3.5 runs per over. With the bat, Nizakat Khan scored heavily in both innings (69 and 123), but except for Rath and Babar Hayat the remaining batting is thin on the ground.
The upshot is that Hong Kong beat their expected margin and move closer to the teams above them; their form indicating that they could be as high as Namibia. Ireland meanwhile, hover just above Afghanistan and Bangladesh, with perhaps the sense that their ability to win is on show more than their ability to play better cricket.
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 15th September, 2016 00:55:47 [#]