Australia Could Return To Test Top Spot

Australia has a chance to reclaim the top spot in the Reliance ICC Test Team Rankings when it faces host Pakistan in the two-Test series in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which starts on Wednesday in the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.  A two-nil series win over Pakistan will lift Michael Clarke’s charges to the top of the summit – one point clear of South Africa, which currently holds top spot.  A one-nil series victory will move Australia to join South Africa level on 124 points, but the Proteas will continue to hold the slenderest of 0.24 of an advantage.

In contrast, a one-nil victory for sixth-place Pakistan, which currently lies level on points with India, will move it up two ratings places to fourth, while a 2-0 win will push them even further up the ladder into third place, 12 points behind Australia, which will lose further ground on South Africa.  Even a 1-1 draw will see Pakistan edge clear of India, while Australia will slip three points behind the leaders.

Australia was most recently the number-one ranked Test side between May and July 2014, before South Africa overtook them.  Before then, Australia last held top spot since the new rankings system was introduced in 2002 until August 2009.  In the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen, Australia will be looking to the fit-again Clarke (seventh) and its top-ranked batsman David Warner (fifth) to lay the platform in its innings.

Pakistan’s Misbah-ul-Haq is sitting in 10th position and Younus Khan is 11th with both batsmen separate by just three ratings points and aiming to maintain an upward trajectory.  In the ICC Players Rankings for Test Bowlers, Australia currently has three bowlers well-positioned to improve their ratings.  In the absence of number-two ranked Ryan Harris, left-arm paceman Mitchell Johnson, who is currently ranked in fourth place, has Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath in his sights as he aims to shave the seven-point deficit.

Johnson is joined in the top 20 by team-mates Peter Siddle (12th) and off-spinner Nathan Lyon (18th).  Meanwhile, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe will be aiming to gain vital rankings points in their series, which starts on 25 October.  Bangladesh is aiming to reduce a 20-point deficit on Zimbabwe and know that a series victory can boost its standing.

A 3-0 series win will see Bangladesh leapfrog its rivals and claim a 14-point advantage, while a 2-0 series win will result in a nine-point lead for the host.  A 2-1 victory will give Mushfiqur Rahim’s side a two-point advantage.  With similar scenarios at play, a 3-0 win for Zimbabwe will open up a 35-point lead on Bangladesh, 2-0 series result will increase Zimbabwe’s lead to 28 points, while a one-nil win will ensure a 23 points lead for Brendan Taylor’s men over the Asian side.

If the series ends in a 1-1 draw, Bangladesh will stay grounded, however, the deficit will reduce from 20 to 10 points.   Taylor is the highest-ranked Zimbabwe batsman in joint-18th place, 17 points adrift of Australia’s Chris Rogers, while Bangladesh’s hopes will rely strongly on the reliable Shakib Al Hasan (in 32nd place).  Shakib (19th) will also have a keen interest in improving his bowling ranking and, depending on performances elsewhere in the UAE, he can move ahead of Australia’s Lyon.

Right-arm fast medium bowler Tendai Chatara is the leading bowler in the African nation’s side in 43rd place.  Potentially, three players from the top five of the ICC Player Rankings for Test All-rounders can each make positive strides in their attempt to claim the number-one spot.  Bangladesh’s Al Hasan is currently best placed in second position to reduce India’s Ravichandran Ashwin seven-point advantage at the summit.