(Australian Associated Press)
AUSTRALIA’S RIDE BACK TO TEST CRICKET’S NO.1 RANKING
By Scott Bailey
Australia’s journey from No.1 in 2009 to top spot when the ICC year officially ends on April 1 has been a compelling ride of ups and downs in the season-end standings.
2003-2009 – 1st
From the time rankings were introduced in 2003 and until mid-2008, Australia won 18 series, drew one and lost just the 2005 Ashes series. Then the rut began. A 2-0 loss in India, followed by their first home-series loss in 16 years against South Africa saw the gap at the top of the rankings decrease.
2010 – 3rd
After a significant decline throughout 2009, Australia’s 2-1 away Ashes loss saw them drop from top spot for the first time since 2003. While they would go on to beat the West Indies and New Zealand at home, the writing was on the wall for a difficult five years ahead.
2011 – 5th
There have been few worse 12-month periods for Australian cricket. A drawn series with Pakistan in England and a flogging in India led to the worst home Ashes defeat ever, which ended with a ranking of fifth – the lowest in Australia’s history.
2012 – 3rd
Australia didn’t drop a series but it couldn’t save coach Tim Nielsen. Michael Clarke assumed the captaincy while David Warner and Nathan Lyon entered Test cricket as Australia beat India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, but drew with New Zealand and South Africa.
2013 – 4th
Australia had the chance to go No.1 but lost 1-0 to South Africa at home, before the homework-gate saga punctuated Mickey Arthur’s tenancy as coach and the undercurrent of struggles Australia had endured throughout his term.
2014 – 1st
New coach Darren Lehmann saw Australia drop a third consecutive Ashes series in England, before Mitchell Johnson breathed fire to inspire the Aussies to a whitewash against the Poms on home wickets. Ryan Harris’ last-minute heroics in South Africa then helped Australia enjoy a short-lived return to No.1 for the first time in four years.
2015 – 2nd
Typically, Australia struggled away and were dominant at home. A two-Test flogging by Pakistan in the UAE saw the team relegated from top spot, before Steve Smith whacked India in four Tests at home.
2016 – 1st
Captain Clarke and Shane Watson were among a number of high-profile players to retire following a 3-2 Ashes loss in 2015, but under Steve Smith a new-look side triumphed over New Zealand and the West Indies twice. The absence of Test cricket between now and April mean Australia will stay No.1 and collect a $1 million cheque as a reward.