Sport Cricket Why Australia’s No.1 Test ranking is just an illusion

Why Australia’s No.1 Test ranking is just an illusion

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Is there a more meaningless bauble in sport than the International Cricket Council’s Test Championship mace?

The ICC awards the mace to the country on top of its Test rankings.

For reasons unknown, it wasn’t on hand to be given to Steve Smith’s side in Christchurch on Wednesday as they wrapped up a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in the second Test.

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But the Aussies still celebrated in the knowledge that their 2-0 series win saw them depose India on top of the pile.

What does it actually mean, though?

All out for 60: One of Australia's worst days wasn't that long ago. Photo: Getty
All out for 60: One of Australia’s worst days wasn’t that long ago. Photo: Getty

Only seven months ago, Australia handed back the Ashes to England in calamitous fashion at Trent Bridge.

They’ve also been thrashed on their most recent away tours against Pakistan (2-0) and India (4-0).

This summer, they monstered New Zealand and the West Indies on pitches about as threatening as a pensioner on a gopher.

Sure, their win over New Zealand has merit, particularly given that it came on the road, but is it enough to warrant being crowned top dogs?

The injury-enforced absence of Ross Taylor – who made a truly superb 290 against Australia at the WACA in November – saw New Zealand’s middle order exposed.

And the injury cloud that hampered seamer Tim Southee’s build-up to the Test series saw him far from his best.

The Black Caps are a side that need everyone fit – and things to be going their way – to beat Australia.

Too much pressure was heaped on star batsman Kane Williamson and speedster Trent Boult – and neither impressed.

Much of the pre-series talk surrounded how Australia was going to handle the swinging ball, and plenty of gloomy predictions followed.

But Australia scored over 500 in the first innings of both Tests, feasting on what can only be described as pedestrian bowling.

Burns was named man-of-the-match for his Christchurch performance. Photo: Getty
Burns was named man-of-the-match for his Christchurch performance. Photo: Getty

Of the top six, four (Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith and Adam Voges) hit centuries, allowing the tourists to set up comfortable victories.

That New Zealand took the second Test to a fifth day was almost solely down to an impressive batting rearguard from wicketkeeper BJ Watling and bowler Matt Henry.

But make no mistake – Australia won both Tests easy.

So, what about the India team they usurped for the No.1 ranking?

Well, apart from series wins in the West Indies (who may be as close to a grade side as a Test team has ever been), the last time India won a Test series away from the subcontinent was in 2008-09 against New Zealand, who were no good at the time.

The creation of the ICC’s Test Championship in 2003 was designed to reward teams for sustained excellence, home and away.

Australia certainly dominated in the first few years after its introduction, ruling the roost from June 2003 until August 2009. 

South Africa recently spent 18 months at the top of the tree, only to be superseded by India in January.

But India’s reign lasted just one month – the shortest ever – and should the No.1 ranking become a revolving door, crowning sides for beating up on weak opposition at home, it will soon be on the road to obscurity. 


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