England's hopes of top Test spot grow

August 1, 2016

Cricket fans enjoying corporate hospitality at the Kia Oval for England's final Test against Pakistan could be there to witness a piece of history, as both sides are involved of a thrilling four-team battle for Test cricket's number one ranking.

England are currently fourth in the rankings with 108 points, behind Pakistan with 111, India on 112 and top side Australia with 118. Victory in the current series over Pakistan will ensure England overtake them, but it is the tantalising possibilities of two other Test series that could lead to a more dramatic shift in the pecking order.

To relinquish top spot, Australia would have to lose the current Test series in Sri Lanka - a team deep in transition after the retirements of several star players. The islanders began the series last week having only ever won a single Test against the Aussies. However, despite being bowled out for a mere 117 on the first day of the series at Pallekelle, the home side fought back, led by a superb 176 by Kusal Mendis in the second innings, and two fine spin bowling performances by veteran Rangana Herath and debutant Lakshan Sandakan. The tourists were dismissed for 161 on the last day to lose by 106 runs and reignite doubts about the Australians' ability to deal with subcontinental conditions.

With the second Test at spin-friendly Galle, there is now a real chance that Sri Lanka will secure an upset. A 1-0 or 2-1 series loss would cut Australia's points tally to 111, while a 2-0 defeat would trim it to 110 points and 3-0 whitewash to 108.

England, currently tied 1-1 with Pakistan, could increase their points tally to 110 with a 2-1 series win, while victory at both Edgbaston and the Kia Oval would raise it to 112. Winning the current Test series 2-1 would raise Pakistan's points total to 115, and 3-1 would take it to 117. A 1-1 or 2-2 draw would take them to 111, which might also be enough.

Just to complicate matters further, however, India are currently playing a four-match test series in the Caribbean. A win by 2-0 or 3-1 would take them to 110 points, and a 3-0 victory to 112.

If the points are tied, matters get even more interesting. The numbers are rounded up, so when two sides appear tied, decimal places come into play.  In the scenarios outlined above, 110 points for England would therefore be fractionally better than 110 for Australia or India. On the other hand, India would be slightly ahead if both they and England were rounded up to 112.

India have certainly kept up their challenge, winning the first Test in Antigua by an innings and taking a big lead after two days of the second Test. However, even if they went 3-0 up with one Test to go, there would still be a chance that a defeat in the final match could scupper their chances.

The final day of the Kia Oval Test is scheduled for August 15th, a week before the end of the series in the West Indies and just two days before the denouement of Australia's tour.

By Alex Brundell 

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