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HomeCricketWho should be considered the no.1 Test team?

Who should be considered the no.1 Test team?

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Last Updated on 6 years by Charbel Coorey

Following World No. 1 India’s series defining loss in the 2nd Test to South Africa, it got me thinking – which team should be considered the world’s number one Test team?

India’s numbers away from home, which I’ll go through in more detail in this article, are hardly numbers that should be associated with a number one team, even though the rankings have India at the top.

However, India are not the only team to struggle away from home. Since 2012, pretty much all teams have found the going difficult in away conditions, and the purpose of this article is to have a look at performances over the last five or so years, and make a verdict as to who is truly deserving of the “number one” title.

Since 2012, 267 Test matches have been played. In this time, only on 67 occasions has a team won a Test away from home (25% of the time). In terms of Test series wins, only 26% of the time has an away team won a Test series (27 series wins in 101 Test series).

What I’ll do is exclude series in West Indies and Zimbabwe as I believe they are the bottom two sides in Test cricket. However, I won’t exclude Bangladesh as winning in Bangladesh is now a really good effort, considering how challenging the conditions are over there and how much they have improved as a team at home. England and Australia will tell you just that, as they’ve both lost a Test there recently.
When excluding series in West Indies and Zimbabwe, the figures change significantly. Away Test victories drop from 67 to 48, and series wins away from home drops from 27 to 18. Interestingly, India and Australia have been beneficiaries of tours to the West Indies – Australia have won there twice, and India once.

These figures suggest that there is no absolute standout team in Test cricket at the moment, as the best Test team should be able to perform well in all conditions. However, for the purpose of considering who the current no. 1 Test team in the rankings should be, I’ll compare the top five sides and how they’ve performed in series against each other, as well as series that were played in conditions foreign to their home conditions, even if they are against lower ranked opponents.

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Which team should be number one? A look at the current top five:

England

One of England’s finest moments in their history was victory in India in 2012, as well as a series win in South Africa in 2016. However, England have been inconsistent at times over the last five years, and have struggled to lock down a partner for Alastair Cook at the top of the order, as well as a number three since Andrew Strauss and Jonathan Trott both retired. 

In 80 Tests since 2012, England have won 29, with a win percentage of 36.25%. 22 of these wins have come at home (out of 41 Tests), and their record against the remaining top five (India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) is pretty impressive, winning 15 out of 26 Tests against these teams at home.

However, in the remaining 39 Tests away from home, England have won just seven, with two coming against West Indies and Bangladesh. In matches against the top five away from home, England have won four times out of 26 Tests, including a winless run of 10 Tests in Australia. In Asia (including UAE), where the quality of non-Asian teams are questioned, England have won just four out of 19 Tests.

These figures show that England have struggled to develop a winning formula for overseas Tests.

New Zealand


New Zealand have continued to punch above their weight. The rise of Kane Williamson in particular has been something special, as well as the consistency of the likes of Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Trent Boult and Tim Southee.
Since 2012, New Zealand have played 56 Tests, and have won 21 times, giving them a win percentage of 37.50%. At home, they’ve played 26 Tests, winning 14. However, 11 have come against Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. Against the current top five, they’ve won just one out of 13 Tests.
Away from home, New Zealand have won seven out of 30 Tests. Excluding West Indies and Zimbabwe, this drops to just four. Against the current top five teams away from home, New Zealand have won just one out of 16 Tests. In Asia, New Zealand still struggle, winning just two of 12 Tests.
New Zealand, since 2012, have won just two Tests against the current top five home and away. It’s clear to see that New Zealand need to flex their muscle more against the better teams.
Australia


Australia have been absolutely phenomenal at home since 2012, but their away record, especially in Asia, has me questioning whether they are deserving of the no. 1 spot in Tests. In 2017, they dropped as low as sixth in the rankings, despite their excellent home record.
Since 2012, Australia have played 70 Tests, and have won 37 of them (winning percentage 52.86%). At home, they have been superb. Led by Steve Smith’s incredible rise, Australia won 25 of 35 Tests, and lost just three during this period. What’s even more impressive is their record against the other current top five teams at home – 17 wins out of 26 Tests. Their only nemesis at home has been South Africa, who won both series in Australia during this time.
Away from home, Australia have fared a lot better than England and New Zealand, winning 12 of 35 Tests (34.29% win percentage). Against the current top five teams, they’ve won seven out of 23 Tests, which drops to a 30% win percentage. However, this figure has been boosted by Australia’s excellent success in New Zealand and South Africa. 
In conditions that have varied significantly from Australia, namely England and Asia, Australia have struggled. In England, Australia have won two of 10 Tests, including some very heavy defeats. In Asia, despite signs of improvement in 2017, Australia have won just two of 15 Tests since 2012, including whitewashes in India (2013) and Sri Lanka (2016). Success in alien conditions is Australia’s nemesis at the moment.

South Africa


The Proteas have been consistently at the top end of the rankings since 2012.

During this period, South Africa have played 58 Tests, winning 31 of them (53.45% winning percentage). At home, South Africa have won 20 of 28 Tests , which is exactly the same as Australia’s win percentage of 71.43%. Against the other top five teams at home, they have won 8 of 15 Tests, which isn’t as strong as Australia, thanks to defeats to Australia and England during this period.

However, South Africa were strongest away from home, out of the top five, during this period. In 30 Tests away, South Africa won 11 Tests (36.67% win percentage), including two series wins in Australia, where they were the only team to beat Australia away from home during this period. Against the top five sides away, South Africa won 8 of 23 Tests, which also includes a series win in England, which is the best winning percentage out of any of the top five sides. In Asia, South Africa played 10 Tests and won two, including a drawn series in the UAE, and win in Sri Lanka. In these 10 Tests, South Africa lost four times (40% loss percentage), which is better than England, New Zealand and Australia, who have losing percentages of 63.16%, 58.33% and 80% respectively.

Currently, however, South Africa’s batting looks a little thin in my opinion, and will be need to keep strengthening their batting, with their pace attack looking so good and Keshav Maharaj bursting onto the scene.

India


The current World No. 1 team and the reason I’ve put together this article. India have again failed away from home against a current top four side, going down 2-0 in the current series vs South Africa, where their batsmen in particular have struggled.
Since 2012, India, have a superb record at home, which everyone is very familiar with. This has contributed to their good overall record during this time, winning 31 out of 54 Tests (57.41% winning percentage). At home, they have won 23 of 33 Tests, and in Asia, 25 of 37 Tests. Their bowlers, namely Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have been excellent at home, and their batsmen are excellent players of spin bowling. Only England have won a series in India since 2012, and since then, England have come back to India and lost 4-0. Against the other top five sides, India won 19 out 26 Tests at home. They are a formidable unit in India.
However, away from Asia is India’s biggest concern, and their mindset isn’t right. To refuse any warm up matches before the South Africa series is unbelievable and is a big reason why they’ve struggled in the current series. Since 2012, India have won three of 22 Tests away from Asia. However, two wins came against the West Indies. If you only take into consideration matches against the other top five teams, India have won just one Test out of 18, which was in England in 2014, in a series they lost 3-1. Out of these 18 Tests, they have lost 12 times.
This series against South Africa suggests they haven’t made strides playing overseas. This needs to change if India are to really be taken seriously as a no.1 Test team.

My verdict:

For me, England and New Zealand shouldn’t be included in the conversation for world’s best Test team. England’s recent form has been too bumpy, and they lack the resources to win overseas. New Zealand’s record against the top sides is poor.
For Australia, the next two years will tell me more. How they go in South Africa this time, as well as future Asia and England tours will tell us how good they really are. A big home series win against England is something they’ve done in the past, and then failed miserably in conditions different to those in Australia.
For India, their record away to the top five is atrocious. The consensus among many cricket fans is that India are top because of the sheer amount of cricket they play at home and in Asia, which suits their style. Yes, other teams have found it tough away from home, but as the number one team, the most attention is going to be drawn to India.
I believe South Africa are most deserving of the title of no.1 Test team. The reason I say this is because over the last five years or so, they’ve performed the best across different conditions, also keeping in mind they resisted at times in extreme conditions in their 2015 India tour. Also, while their batting perhaps looks a touch short, I believe they have the best ingredients to win anywhere, especially with the addition of the very talented Keshav Maharaj. AB De Villiers still looks in super form, Dean Elgar was nearly top run scorer in 2017, Aiden Markram looks a super talent and Faf Du Plessis continues to be in the runs. South Africa need Hashim Amla and Quinton De Kock to find form to complement their superb pace attack that not much needs to be said about.
However, the team that has the best potential to change my mind is India. They now possess a group of talented fast bowlers that can help them win overseas, and while Ravi Ashwin could have performed a little better on a turning pitch in Centurion, he will sure improve away from home. In saying this, India’s mindset must change in the lead up to big away series, and it will be interesting to see how they go in England and Australia later this year. For them to win away, they must prepare much better than what they’ve done in the past, as well as in the current South Africa tour.
For now, South Africa should be top. 

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Charbel Coorey
Charbel Cooreyhttps://cricblog.net
Charbel is the owner & founder of cricblog.net, based in Sydney, Australia. He started the website to fulfill his love for the game of cricket. Charbel has also been featured on other publications including OP India, Times of India, and The Roar, among others. For any story tips or questions, you can contact Charbel at charbelcoorey@cricblog.net.

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