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How strong is Australia's grasp on the top spot?

Michael Clarke's willingness to switch things up in attack has Australia on top. (AFP PHOTO/William WEST)
Roar Guru
27th June, 2014
9

While the ICC have their official International Test Rankings, it takes a deeper look at the game to really see where the game and Test nations are.

After losing a controversial Ashes series in England, the Aussies went to India low on confidence and with a number of players yet to cement their positions in the batting order.

A 0-4 whitewash had them being howled down as one of the worst Australian teams to tour the subcontinent.

After demolishing the English in Australia, followed by a tremendous and gutsy series against the South Africans, many were quick to say, “what a difference a year makes.”

The undeniable stand out difference between Australia’s all conquering 2013/14 season is the absence of spin-friendly wickets compared to the season prior. Australia’s record in the English Ashes loss doesn’t do justice to how close the teams were, with woeful umpiring decisions and the weather playing its part to give England a far better result.

The Australian home Ashes series and the tour of South Africa was dominated by fast bowling, and high quality fast bowling at that. It was something memorable for the slinging machines in an era dominated by batsmen and covered drop-in pitches.

I still can’t fathom how Nathan Lyon’s figures fared so well last summer after poor performances prior. All last summer, I sat in disbelief at Lyon’s success. Don’t get me wrong, he bowled very well and accurately, but almost every time a Lyon ball saw the umpire raise his finger, I was asking myself, “how did he get out to that delivery?”

The Aussies travelled to South Africa brimming with confidence on the back of a full summer where almost every part of the Australian team fired at one point or another, usually at just the right time. On the back of brilliant captaincy, Australia hold a very strong claim to being the best Test nation on pace-friendly wickets.

If only the next stop on the calendar was a tour back to the sub continent to take on the Indians and or the Sri Lankans on spin-friendly wickets. Beating such teams in Australia would provide no gauge on Australia’s dominance. Only by winning on the subcontinent could we begin to hold confidence in being world beaters like we were in the Waugh-Ponting era.

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Not touring so early gives Australian cricket a fantastic opportunity to develop spin stocks. Stephen O’Keefe, Ashton Agar, Steve Smith and even David Warner lead a list of state cricketers with crucial time to work on their tweaking before a very bright spotlight gets shone on Australia’s ability to perform on dusty, turning wickets.

Encouraging a few state groundsman to prepare spin friendly wickets for state matches wouldn’t hurt either.

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