Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

Video highlights of Sri Lanka v South Africa

Video highlights of Malinga’s four-in-four and the most exciting match of this year’s World Cup to date. Eat that, ICC.

Click here if you can’t see it above.

Choking Boks battle past Slinger Malinga

Oh the Boks have done it again! 206 for 5 chasing 210…they’re currently 208 for 9! Malinga took four in four balls (spread over two overs) oh, bugger, South Africa have edged it. Robin Peterson has whalloped Malinga for four to win by a single wicket. What remarkable bottling boks they are. Battling boks, I suppose I should say…

Can’t remember who was on comms at the time, but they did a fine job at CI

48.2 Malinga to Peterson, FOUR, Peterson does it for SA with a edge past the slip. Fullish, outside off stump, Peterson drives, gets a outside edge and it runs down to third man boundary. SA have won. They choked at the end but have pulled it off. Peterson jumps in the air, pumps his fist and then smashes the stumps down at the other end. Immediately apologises!

Worth reading the commentary for the last five wickets. What a match.

Lessons to be learned

Another day of tremendous Test cricket in New Zealand went by almost unwatched today, although to be fair, Christchurch’s weather forecast was predicting rain, hail, the doom of the world and the like. As it turned out, the day was fine and the cricket was even better.

New Zealand started the day looking to overtake Sri Lanka’s modest first innings of 154, and made serene progress untill Sri Lanka’s bowlers engineered a collapse, slumping from 2 for 106 to 6 for 113. I sure hope some English players were watching as Daniel Vettori and Stephen Fleming then applied a bandage to the innings and displayed a masterclass of damage control.

Fleming was slow, slow but sure, and put away the rare loose balls that Murali provided, while Vettori was his usual scratchy but inventive self. It of course helped that these two possess some real cricket nous. And they were right up against it because not only was Murali bowling with his usual menace, but Lasith Malinga was bowling with fire and aggression. After the lunch break, he gave Fleming one of the more searching examinations of his technique that I have seen for a while. It was great to watch.

Once Sri Lanka had finally winkled out Fleming, Vettori changed his role to that of a random hitter, and brought up a well deserved half-century.

But New Zealand’s lead was only 52 and that didn’t look like enough as Sri Lanka made steady progress to 44 for 1. Then that man again, Shane Bond, stepped up, and ripped out the Sri Lankan middle order. They lost four wickets for two runs at one stage. As it stands now, Sri Lanka hang by a thread at 8 for 125, with only Kumar Sangakkara holding things together.

Test cricket is so much better to watch when the conditions favour the bowlers rather then the batsmen.

Scorecard

The bowlers have a good day for once.

Bowlers around the world are actually full of the joy of living today.

In Faisalabad, Pakistan’s bowlers have been right on top in the Second ODI, and have bowled out West Indies for 151.

Meanwhile in Christchurch, Mahela Jayawardene showed that making bad decisions is not a monopoly of the English coach, because Sri Lanka batted on a greentop in the First Test, and were skittled for 154. New Zealand had some early alarms with Lasith Malinga, as you do when he’s sending them down at 94 mph, but are 2 for 85 at stumps.

In Ashes news, Shane Watson has been ruled out of the Third Test, with his hamstring injury not recovering in time.  I really feel for the guy. He has had a torrid time with injuries throughout his career.

And Shane Warne has (and you’ll NEVER believe this) still got plenty to say about Adelaide and the Second Test, and the Third…

“At this stage we are not getting carried away with the win,” he said.

“We are just concentrating on playing good cricket. We said all the way along we are just going to play each Test match and just keep our feet on the ground and keep playing good cricket.

“If we keep playing good cricket then hopefully things will go our way for the rest of the series. Tp win a Test that way has given us a bit of momentum going into next week’s match and we are 2-0 up which means they have to win two of the next three Test matches to retain the Ashes.

“Hopefully we can win in Perth and go 3-0 up and win the series.”

Warne admitted that bowling 27 straight overs took its toll on his body and he was looking forward to the week’s rest before the next Test in Perth, beginning on December 14.

“Yeah, the body is pretty sore and I’ve got a bit of a headache,” Warne said after the Australian team celebrated long into the evening.

“So I am glad we have a week until the next Test.”

Indeed. There are, in effect, three Tests in a row once the Perth Test starts, which is a drain on the players, and even the spectators. Blame Cricket Australia for that one.

In other (non-Ashes) news…

There’s more cricket then the Ashes going on. Just to keep everyone up to date….

Sri Lanka play New Zealand in a two-Test series starting this morning NZ time. A thoughtful bit of scheduling, that, to not clash with the Second Test. The good news from a neutral point of view is that Shane Bond is actually still fit despite playing in the Champions Trophy, so his performance will be worth looking out for. Sadly, I don’t think he’ll ever get recognised for what he could have been- the best bowler in the world, when he’s fit and firing.

Sri Lanka have a real fast bowling find of their own in Lasith Malinga, who seems to have come on in leaps and bounds as well. Given that Chaminda Vaas isn’t getting any younger, it’s time for Malinga to stand up, and given the constant problems New Zealand have in their top order, he can really cash in.

****

Pakistan can’t stay out of the news, with the drugs ban on Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif being overturned. With all the Ashes excitement, I do not know enough about the case to comment, but it certainly will be a shot in the arm for Pakistan to have them back in the side. They weren’t needed in the first ODI against the West Indies, but there is four more to come.

And it is past time that West Indies fired up and made a statement and went out and won this series. I’ve seen a lot of West Indies in the past few months, and while they keep promising, they still haven’t actually delivered anything. There seems to be a new spirit in West Indies cricket, but they remain fragile; the onus is on them to prove that they can roll with the punches, otherwise they’ll be bit-players at their own party when the World Cup comes along.