Australia’s decline as a Test power may have been disguised by last summer’s romps against the West Indies and Pakistan but there is no hiding from the latest official rankings. Australia could drop as low as No.5 this month after the annual reassessment of all nine Test teams and the completion of two current series. That would leave Ricky Ponting’s men only ahead of Pakistan and minnows, the West Indies, New Zealand and Bangladesh. And insult could be added to injury with England set to leapfrog Australia on the eve of the Ashes campaign.
However, there is some consolation with Australia increasing their lead on the one-day table and they will enter next year’s World Cup as favourites to secure the trophy for the fourth consecutive time.
Australia have dropped to 113 points on the International Cricket Council’s complicated Test rating scale. England are just below them on 111 and will move ahead with a 3-0 or 4-0 result in their current series against Pakistan. They surged to a 1-0 series lead after dismissing Pakistan for a pitiful 80 yesterday at Trent Bridge.
England’s 354-run victory was built on some fine swing bowling from James Anderson, whose second-innings haul of 6-17 gave him superb match figures of 11 for 71. A win to Sri Lanka in the third Test against India, starting tomorrow, would see them jump to second place and force Australia to their lowest-ever ranking of fourth place. A Sri Lankan win this week, and an English domination of Pakistan would send Australia down to fifth on the rankings table.
The new rankings started yesterday when all results from the year before August 2007 were discarded. That mathematical device was always going to harm Australia’s ranking because the 2006-07 period contained just the Ashes series, won 5-0 by the home team.
Australia lost three points when the 2006-07 results were discarded because their record of nine wins from 12 matches in the past year – the best of any Test nation – was inferior to that perfect effort four years ago.
Australia lost just two matches in the latest ranking period – the fifth Ashes Test at The Oval when Ponting oversaw the loss of the trophy for the second time and their most recent outing against Pakistan in Leeds.
They beat the West Indies 2-0 at home last summer, followed it with a 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan and accounted for New Zealand 2-0.
India were the biggest beneficiary of the ranking review, gaining six points to go 11 clear of second-placed South Africa.
Test rankings: 1. India 130 points. 2. South Africa (119) 3. Australia (113) 4. England (111) 5. Sri Lanka (111) 6. Pakistan (84). 7. West Indies (79) 8. New Zealand (78) 9. Bangladesh (7).