India, England go head-to-head for 2nd place

Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Dubai:A chance to grab the second spot in the LG ICC Test Championship table will be at stake when India and England go head-to-head in the three-match series starting tomorrow in Nagpur.

There are just two points between the two sides, who have swapped positions twice in the past three months, and a victory for either team will put some daylight between them.

For India, on the other hand, any series win will take them back ahead of England, a position they surrendered thanks to their series loss in Pakistan less than a month ago, according to an ICC release.

A 1-0 or 2-1 success for the home side will take them to 114 rating points and drop England to 111, while a clean sweep by India will lift them to 116 and leave England on 109, just one point ahead of Pakistan.

England are the side currently in second place and victory by a margin of one Test (1-0 or 2-1) will be enough to take them six rating points clear of Rahul Dravid's line-up.

And if they can overcome their pre-series illness and injury concerns to win all three matches then they will move to 118 points, just 11 short of Australia's mark while at the same time dropping India to fourth in the table, below Pakistan.

So it really is all to play for and a look at the LG ICC Test Rankings for players only serves to whet the appetite even more as, between them, the two sides have seven players in the top 25 positions in the bowling list and five players in the batting table.

If one side does have the edge then it may well be India thanks to their batting power. The combination of Rahul Dravid (6th), Virender Sehwag (9th), Sachin Tendulkar (12th) and VVS Laxman (23rd) is enough to give even the best bowlers sleepless nights.

England, by contrast, have just two players in the top 25 batting places in the Test Rankings - Marcus Trescothick at 10 and Andrew Strauss at 15 - and Trescothick has already returned home for personal reasons.

However, England can boast an impressive seam bowling battery with prospective captain Andrew Flintoff (4th), Matthew Hoggard (10th), Stephen Harmison (14th) and Simon Jones (17th) all capable of match-winning displays.

But India also have impressive bowling talent available with Anil Kumble (11th), Irfan Pathan (12th) and Harbhajan Singh (18th) all equally well-credentialed.

That means England's batsmen outside that top 25 - the likes of Kevin Pietersen (29th), Flintoff (32nd) and Ian Bell (43rd) - will have to score heavily to ensure England remain competitive.

Flintoff will have his own private duel with Pathan in the Test Rankings for all-rounders. The England player is currently second in that list, behind South Africa's Jacques Kallis, while Pathan is fourth and capable of moving up the list with a strong series.

A day before India and England start their series, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka began their two-match clash with the first Test in Chittagong. The match marks the 100th Test for spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan and he has a golden chance to celebrate the landmark by moving back to the top of the Test Rankings for bowlers.

He is only eight rating points behind current leader Glenn McGrath and with Australia not in Test action until next month on their tour of South Africa it is difficult to see how Muralitharan, with an excellent track record against Bangladesh, can fail to regain the top spot.

His long-term bowling partner Chaminda Vaas, who is rested from the series, lies in seventh position, while Bangladesh's leading bowler in the list is left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique, in 32nd place.

Sri Lanka have a clear edge with the bat with acting captain Mahela Jayawardene - in charge in place of the resting Marvan Atapattu - 13th in the Test Rankings for batsmen while Kumar Sangakkara, the top run-scorer in the recent ODI series between the two teams, is 20th.

Bangladesh's top batsman in the list is captain Habibul Bahsar in 39th place while Mohammad Ashraful is 70th. The batting list is headed by Australia captain Ricky Ponting, whose side is currently 16 points clear at the top of the Test Championship table.

Sri Lanka cannot move up that table, even with wins in both Tests, but they can pick up one rating point which would move them up to 97, just two points behind sixth-placed South Africa.

Bangladesh, too, cannot improve on their current placing in the table, but a series win would go some way towards closing the gap to ninth-placed Zimbabwe.

ICC Test teams table (Top 10):

1.Australia 129 2.England 113 3.India 111 4.Pakistan 108 5.New Zealand 100 6.South Africa 99 7.Sri Lanka 96 8.West Indies 73 9.Zimbabwe 27 10.Bangladesh 5

ICC Test batsmen rankings:

1.Ricky Ponting (AUS), 2.Jacques Kallis (SA), 3.Brian Lara (WI), 4.Matthew Hayden (AUS), 5.Inzamam-ul Haq (PAK), 6.Rahul Dravid (IND), 7.Younis Khan (PAK), 8.Mohammad Yousuf (PAK), 9.Virender Sehwag (IND), 10.Marcus Trescothick (ENG)

ICC Test bowler rankings:

1.Glenn McGrath (AUS), 2.Muttiah Muralitharan (SL), 3.Shane Warne (AUS), 4.Andrew Flintoff (ENG), 5.Makhaya Ntini (SA), 6.Chaminda Vaas (SL), 7.Shoaib Akhtar (PAK), 8.Andre Nel (SA), 9.Shaun Pollock (SA), 10.Matthew Hoggard (ENG)

ICC Test all-rounder rankings: 1.Jacques Kallis (SA), 2.Andrew Flintoff (ENG), 3.Shaun Pollock (SA), 4.Irfan Pathan (IND), 5.Daniel Vettori (NZ)

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