Thursday, June 12, 2003

Cricketing things that have been happening in my absence

After the end of the Australian tour of the West Indies, I commented that the West Indies looked to be improving, particularly in one day cricket. There was a caveat to that, however. The West Indies' wins had come at the end of the test series and at the end of the one day series, once these series were decided. In fact, they had won every 'dead rubber' in both series, but had lost every match when each series was still alive.

Over the last week, the West Indies have been playing Sri Lanka in the one day leg of the Sri Lankan tour of the West Indies. (Why the West Indies played a dull and seemingly endless seven match series with Australia rather than a potentially much more entertaining triangular series including the Sri Lankans, I don't know). This tour is about half the length of the Australian tour, with three one day games, and two test matches. The one day series is now over. So what happened?

Well, in the first game the West Indian bowlers kept Sri Lanka to a fairly poor 201, but then collapsed for 146 themselves, to lose by 55 runs. In the second game, the West Indies appeared to be in an almost unbeatable position when 116 from Lara and 94 from Gayle took them to 4/312 off 50 overs. However, 'almost' was the key word, and Sri Lanka got the runs with three balls to spare, after most of the batsmen chipped in.

So, the West Indies had lost all the important matches again. Not very impressive, to be honest. True to form, they yesterday easily won the match that didn't matter. Sri Lanka were bowled out for 191, and the West Indians met the revised Duckworth/Lewis target with the greatest of ease.

So far, in their home series, the West Indies have lost 6 one day internationals and won 4. This looks at least slightly respectable, but all four wins have been matches after the series was lost. They have lost 3 and won 1 test, and that 1 test was after the series was lost. They have two tests to play against Sri Lanka. The nature of a two test series means that it is not possible for there to be a dead rubber. To keep up this slightly peculiar streak of losing all matches that count, the West Indies have to lose both matches. I doubt they will, but who knows. As streaks go, this is a deeply unimpressive one. It indicates a side that can't take pressure. Lara as captain has work in front of him.

In other cricket, the second England v Zimbabwe match was a carbon copy of the first. England again won by an innings in three days. If England have anything to worry about, it was the relative failure of their top order batsmen. England were at one point 5-156 in their first innings, but thanks to Stewart, McGrath, and Giles, the middle and lower order managed to push the score to an adequate 416, which was still not hugely impressive against the Zimbabwean bowling. However, the Zimbabweans were then bowled out for 94 and 253, with Richard Johnson taking six wickets on debut in the first innings. A fairly blah result.

Lots of one day internationals now before the more interesting test series between England and South Africa. England's batting will need to improve a little for that series, but I think it probably will. I am forecasting a comfortable win for England in that series, because England are playing okay, and South Africa are in complete disarray.

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