The result in the test series with Pakistan, 0-1, where the loss was a bollucking but the draw was an even contest, doesn’t seem so different from the series loss to India, 0-1 (one bollucking, two contests), even though India is the top ranked test team while Pakistan is barely ranked higher than us and suffering the in throes of a match fixing scandal. Odd too that the ODI result against India (ranked 2 in ODIs), 0-5, was strikingly similar to the result against Bangladesh (ranked 9), 0-4.
We have taken the opposition out of the equation.
I theorise that we are not fighting against the skills of the opposition; we are simply fighting against our own incompetence.
Average batsman’s score in the Subcontinent in tests in the last 3 years: 39.72
Average outside the Subcontinent: 34.08
You could debate, if you wanted to, who had the better of the first two tests, India or New Zealand. But that would be rather missing the point. The big stories in this series are firstly that New Zealand has not been nearly as bad as everyone expected them to be and secondly the 8th ranked team is giving the first ranked team a run for its money.
In this context, the result of the third test is almost irrelevant. Even if New Zealand loses the last test, a 0-1 result was all we were hoping for. Win or lose next week, we’ve achieved. If India do win, they probably won’t be disappointed with the series result, though their confidence as the top team after the series win against Australia will have been dented.
Going back to the rankings, we can actually put all this in numbers. As you may be aware, the official ICC test rankings are based on points earned by winning tests and test series with half points for draws. The points are then weighted by the relative rankings of the two teams. It’s all very arcane, but the ICC have a webpage that calculates future ratings.
Putting in a 1-0 win to India shows that New Zealand will gain 2 ratings points from the series, whereas India will lose a point. In other words, two draws with India means more to New Zealand than two draws, a test win and a series win means to India. If you want to dream: a 0-0 drawn series will give us a full 5 ratings points, while a 1-0 win will give us a massive 9 points.
As it happens, there is not a lot of competition for the top spot at the moment. India are way out in front and even a 0-1 loss will keep them well clear of South Africa in 2nd place. However, places 6, 7 and 8 are pretty tightly contested. After this series, New Zealand is guaranteed of raising a ranking to 7. However, that could be lost if the Windies’ series against Sri Lanka continues to go well. So we could end up staying at the bottom of the table despite a favourable result, and have to wait until the series against Pakistan in January to make a proper move up the rankings.