The ICC World Test Championship has begun with The Ashes on 1st August. Each team will play three home series and three away series. The final between the top two teams will take place at The Lord’s in 2021. The winner will share the title if the final ends in a draw.
Test cricket is into an interesting phase in the last couple of years. Wickets have never fallen so often in this century as it did in the past 24 months. Once again like the good old days, bowlers are having an upper hand on the batsmen. There are no more flat pitches; it is either a fast and bouncy green top or a dry rank turner. The number of dull draws has decreased and the idea of four-day Test matches seems plausible. The batters have to grind harder now, perhaps only the skilled and resilient will shine out.
Steve Smith took the world by a storm with his herculean effort in the three Ashes innings and quickly moved to the second spot. At the moment Virat Kohli sits at top of the ICC rankings, but for how long for Smith to topple him? Sri Lanka’s Karunaratne and New Zealand’s Henry Nicholls are making big strides in Test cricket as well.
In the latest ICC Test rankings for the batsmen, Steve Smith has jumped to the second spot ahead of Williamson. Indian captain Virat Kohli is just 9 points ahead of Smith. The ICC rankings take account of variable factors; ratings of opposition bowling, runs scored compared to the team score, out or not out and whether if the innings came in a win or a loss.
Here we rank players based on their current form and irrespective of ICC rankings
10. Ross Taylor
Ross Taylor of New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
Ross Taylor has been under shadowed by McCullum first, then by Guptill and Williamson; like most of the middle-order players are by the top order. Taylor made his debut in 2007 and has scored over 6000 runs at an average of 46, which by all means is above average. He was a tad inconsistent at the start of his career but has been New Zealand’s mainstay from 2012.
Taylor averaged 54 and 72 in 2012 and 2013, respectively. He scored 6 hundreds and 6 fifties in that period. Taylor had an eye operation and his form dipped in 2015. But his return in 2016 saw a new and even an advanced version of him; Taylor 2.0. In 2016 he averaged 60. The next year he achieved greater heights, as he scored 408 in 5 matches at an astronomical average of 81!
The 35-year-old continues his rich vein of form in 2019. He scored his career’s third double century against Bangladesh earlier in the year. Taylor is into the last stages of his international cricket, and it would be a massive gap to fill for the Blackcaps.
9. Quinton de Kock
Quinton de Kock. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Initially considered just a white-ball player, de Kock’s Test match acquisition have been impressive. QDK made his test debut in 2014 but faltered in his first few series. However, he pulled his straps soon and from 2016 de Kock had been South Africa’s first choice wicket-keeper batsman across formats.
The left-hander averaged 63 in 2016 with 2 centuries and 5 half-centuries. He had a magnificent tour to Australia in 2016. His scores of 84, 64 and 104 in the first two matches helped the Protea win the series. On bowling friendly pitches in South Africa, de Kock has maintained his consistency and has been chipping in with short cameos throughout the last couple of years.
The glowy eyed kid is still in his mid-twenties and he has resemblance with Aussie legend Adam Gilchrist; both come in the lower middle batsman and are exceptional gloveman. After a sub-par 2018, de Kock has had a promising start to 2019. He scored a century against Pakistan and then three scores in excess of fifty against Sri Lanka albeit the team lost the series.
8. Henry Nicholls
New-Zealand-batsman-Henry-Nicholls. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
Henry Nicholls is a young and gifted Kiwi batsman who has had an assuring start to his Test career. Nicholls scored a half-century in his debut test match against Australia in 2016. He was consistently scoring runs but the three-figure mark eluded him. Until a year after his debut, he notched up his maiden test century against South Africa at Basin Reserve. Thereafter, Nicholls had kept on piling runs.
The left-hander has scored five hundreds and five fifties in his last 14 test matches. He had an outstanding 2018. He averaged 73 with 3 hundreds and 3 fifties in 7 matches last year. Nicholls was the key batsman for New Zealand in their memorable victory over Pakistan in UAE. In 3 matches, with the help of a hundred and two half-centuries, he scored 287 runs at an average of 57. He ended up as the third-highest scorer of the series behind Williamson and Azhar Ali.
His displayed his pressure handling appetite in the World Cup final in July. He replaced Colin Munro as an opener and scored a brilliant half-century against the likes of Archer, Woakes and Plunkett. The 27-year-old has a lot to offer to test cricket. With his talent, ability, and form, he will produce many more outstanding innings.
7. Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis of South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Francois du Plessis is known for his composure in trying situation. Faf remained under the shadow of his school mate AB De Villiers but the Pretoria born has carved his way as a formidable batsman in international cricket. Faf exhibited his character in his debut Test match. His drudgery knock of 110 in 376 balls in Adelaide against Australia saved the test match for the Proteas.
The 35-year-old is in good form in recent times. He has notched up 3 centuries and 6 half-centuries in his last 15 tests. Considering the challenging pitches in South Africa, these numbers are of large value to an AB de less middle order. He is the kingpin of the South African team.
Faf hit his purple patch in 2016 and 2017 where he scored at an average of 56 and 54, respectively. His solid technique has made him a nemesis for the Aussie bowlers. He has 3 hundreds and 4 fifties and scores at an average of 46. In Australia, the South African skipper averages a gigantic 83!
6. Asad Shafiq
Asad Shafiq of Pakistan. (Photo Source: Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Asad Shafiq made his Test debut way back in 2010 and had a very promising start. He made two half-centuries in his first two test innings. A century against Bangladesh showcased his class at the highest level. Since then he has been regular in the test team.
Shafiq has played several memorable innings for Pakistan in the whites. His grinding hundred in Cape Town, a match-winning century at Galle or his beautiful knock of 109 at Kennington Oval; all have been very special and full of sheer class. Most of all, his gallant innings of 137 at The Gabba almost won the match for Pakistan and again was a testament of his temperament.
The 33-year-old is in sublime touch in the past few years. He has been scoring runs consistently for Pakistan in difficult conditions. On dry tracks in the UAE, Shafiq has scored over 2000 runs, averaging 45 to go with 5 centuries and 11 fifties. Earlier in the year, Pakistan lost 2-0 in South Africa, but Shafiq returned with two half-centuries.
5. Dimuth Karunaratne
Dimuth Karunaratne. (Photo by Tharaka Basnayaka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Dimuth Karunaratne has given a new lease to Sri Lankan cricket and its fans. A year ago Sri Lanka was down and out in all formats against all opposition. After multiple axing of captains, Karunaratne was given the armband. Not only Karunaratne was impressive with his batting performance, but he also led the Lankans to an improbable Test series victory in South Africa earlier in 2019.
Karunaratne himself has been infertile form with the bat. In Sri Lanka’s first game of the Test championship against New Zealand, he scored a sturdy second innings century to guide his team to a Test match victory. The left-hander averaged 46 last year scoring 743 runs with 7 half-centuries and a century.
Although Sri Lanka had a dismal World Cup, his captaincy at crucial junctures proved to be imperative in their famous victory against England. The 31-year-old opener has pulled out Sri Lankan cricket from turmoil. He now has the responsibility of taking it to the height where the former greats left it.
4. Cheteshwar Pujara
Cheteshwar Pujara. (Photo Source: Twitter)
Cheteshwar Pujara made huge noises as a kid by scoring a triple century at U14 level and then a double hundred at U19 level. Pujara also has two triple centuries in the Ranji trophy. On the back of his colossal performances in domestic cricket, he got a test cap in 2010. In his first 16 Test matches, Pujara scored two double hundreds and four hundreds, making him the mainstay of the middle order after the departure of the big three.
Pujara is touted as ‘The New Wall’ because of his similar characteristics with the original wall. Grit, determination, and perseverance have been their key to success against the best of the bowlers. Pujara has been in tremendous form of late. In the tour to Australia, the right-hander scored 521 runs at 74 including 3 magnificent tons. He was the man of the series as India beat Australia for the first time in their own backyard.
He scored over 1000 runs at an average of 67 in 2017, with 4 centuries and 5 half-centuries. In the upcoming ICC World Test Championship, Indian fans would be hopeful of more such batting shows from the Gujarat-born talisman. The 31-year-old demonstrates immense patience while he is at the crease. In other words, he is the spine of the Indian test team.
3. Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Virat Kohli is the greatest superstar of the decade. Undoubtedly, he is the best all-format player of this generation. But his flaws as a batsman are not hidden from opposition captain and bowlers. He still seems vulnerable in the channel outside off-stump and against the short stuff. And that’s why we have put Kohli at three.
Nonetheless, Virat Kohli’s hunger for runs is in second to none. The 30-year-old has already scored 6000 runs in Test cricket at an average of 53. Like his predecessor, Kohli too has a liking for the Aussie bowlers. In Australia, Virat has scored 1274 runs at 55, including 3 hundreds at Adelaide Oval in as many matches.
His career’s lowest point was the England tour in 2014 where he averaged merely 13 in 5 Test matches. But he was able to turn the tables in the 2018 tour. Kohli’s greatest achievement in test cricket should be his tour to England last year. He amassed 593 runs at 59 including two centuries and three half-centuries. As a captain, Virat is the beacon in the field and is tumbling and creating batting records with his every three-figure mark.
2. Kane Williamson
Kane Williamson. (Photo Source: GettyImages)
From his U19 days, Kane Williamson was interpreted as New Zealand’s future star. He led his team to the U19 World Cup semi-final in 2008. Two years later he got the national call-up for both ODI and Test team. On his debut against India in 2010, Williamson notched up a century in Ahmedabad. Along with handling the pacers with ease, over the years Williamson has become a potent player of spin as well.
He continued scoring runs throughout his career and he hit his purple patch in 2015. 2015 was Williamson’s year. The right-hander scored 1172 runs at a mammoth average of 90 and placed himself perfectly in the fab four. Williamson averaged 62 and 59 in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
Williamson is an astute mind as a captain. He led the Kiwis to a historic test series victory in UAE last year. His average of 64 in 6 matches in the UAE proves his mettle as a brilliant batsman in dry conditions. In recent years, the Kiwi skipper has become a complete test match batsman. Williamson is known for his class as a batsman and as a human being too.
1. Steve Smith
Steve Smith. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
With all the fidgets, trigger movements and a degree of unorthodoxy in his stance, Steve Smith’s batting totally differs from the manual. Returning after 16 months to Test cricket, he has become even more cosmic than he ever seemed to be. Twin centuries at Edgbaston and a gritty 92 at Lord’s has forced people to believe that he is the best Test batsman of this generation and to an extent the nearest to Bradman.
Started as a leg-spinner who can bat a bit, his batting has shot up through the ranks since Ashes 2013. Excluding 2018 where he was banned, in the last 6 years, Smith’s average has never dropped below 70! Talking about Ashes, Smith averages 61 against England with 10 hundreds and 7 fifties in 25 matches. Against the number 1 Test team, India, he does even better. He has a staggering average of 81 in 10 matches comprising 7 centuries and 3 half-centuries.
Growing up on fast and bouncy pitches in Australia, Smith has a top-class record in away Tests as well. He averages 60 on the turning tracks of India, and 53 in swinging conditions in England. If an all-time Test XI is made, not picking Smith would account for nothing less than blasphemy. Steven Peter Devereux Smith is regarded as the greatest, since the greatest.
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