The latest instalment in the Ashes rivalry between England and Australia starts in Cardiff on Wednesday as the two sides bid to hold possession of the prestigious Urn in what is expected to be a keenly-contested and hard-fought five-Test series. England is currently sitting in fifth place on 97 ratings points, trailing India and ahead of Pakistan by a fraction of a point, while Australia is in second spot on 111 ratings points. This means England has an opportunity to move to as high as second if it wins the series by 3-0 or better, but will drop to as low as seventh if Australia wins all five Tests.
In contrast, Australia will jump to 118 points to reduce the gap with number-one ranked South Africa to 12 points but will drop to fourth if England wins all the five Tests and irrespective of how the Pallekele Test ends. In fact, a 3-0 or 4-1 result in the favour of England will mean Australia will drop behind England in third position.
The following are the permutations for the forthcoming Ashes series:
England (97 pts) v Australia (111 pts)
* If Eng wins 5-0, then Aus 99 pts, Eng 108 pts
* If Eng wins 4-1, then Aus 102 pts, Eng 105 pts
* If Eng wins 3-2, then Aus 106 pts, Eng 102 pts
* If Aus wins 5-0, then Eng 91 pts, Aus 118 pts
* If Aus wins 4-1, then Eng 94 pts, Aus 115 pts
* If Aus wins 3-2, then Eng 97 pts, Aus 112 pts
* If the series is drawn 2-2, then Eng 100 pts, Aus 109 pts
The clash in the Welsh capital will be the 321st Test which dates back to 1882. Australia has won 128 matches compared to England’s 103, with 89 draws to date. Though Australia secured a five-nil clean sweep last time out, recent form would indicate that triumph favours the home side as England has won four of the last six Ashes, including the last three consecutive home series (in 2005, 2009 and 2013).
Australia last won on English soil back in 2001 (4-1). Meanwhile, Australia vice-captain Steven Smith will defend his number-one ranking in the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen as he holds a five-point advantage over South Africa’s AB De Villiers. Smith had leapfrogged De Villiers following the Jamaica Test against the West Indies but his failure to produce another strong performance in Cardiff will potentially see the South African return to the top of the charts.
Smith is joined in the top 10 by ninth-placed David Warner, who holds a two-point lead over India captain Virat Kohli. Joe Root is England’s highest-ranked batsman in sixth place and his next innings will be his 50th in Test cricket. The Yorkshireman has played in 27 Tests to date and has accumulated 2,273 runs at an average of 54.11.
Michael Clarke, in 13th place, has featured in 30 Ashes Tests to date since making his debut in the 2005 series, incidentally the most on either side, and his tally of 2 109 runs includes seven centuries and seven half-centuries. Clarke is three places ahead of his opposite number Alastair Cook who will be looking to reduce the New South Wales man’s 11-point advantage in the rankings. The next highest-ranked batsmen from either side, who are likely to feature in the series, are: Chris Rogers (23rd), Gary Ballance (32nd), Ian Bell (34th), Shane Watson (43rd), Ben Stokes (44th) and Jos Buttler (50th).
In the ICC Player Rankings for Test Bowlers, second-ranked James Anderson is the highest wicket-taker in English history (403 to date) and the leading bowler heading into the series on 824 points. Anderson is 10 points clear of New Zealand’s Trent Boult, but will have some work to do to reduce Dale Steyn’s commanding lead. Following Ryan Harris’ retirement, fifth-placed Mitchell Johnson is Australia’s leading bowler on 803 points, 21 points ahead of Stuart Broad who is sitting in sixth position.
Australia duo of Peter Siddle (15th) and Nathan Lyon (17th) are the other bowlers inside the top 20. The next highest-ranked bowlers in the series on either side are Mitchell Starc (21st), Josh Hazlewood (28th) and Shane Watson and Moeen Ali, who are tied for 38th position. Johnson, in fourth spot, is the leading all-rounder on either side in the ICC Player Rankings for Test All-rounders heading into the five-match series and he goes into the series with a 16-point advantage over Broad, who is fifth.
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