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Adelaide Days Two and Three: Mighty have fallen

Submitted by rickeyre on December 7, 2009 - 12:12pm

Following their 2-0 series win against Sri Lanka, secured with an innings and 24 run victory at Brabourne Stadium on Sunday, India is now ranked by the ICC as the best Test team in the world. This isn't stats porn, it's the result of a universally-accepted and meticulous rankings formula and, based upon their recent Test form, fully deserved.

India will retain its number one record by paying a token two-Test visit to Bangladesh in January, after which they will doggedly defend their ranking by playing as little Test cricket as possible.

But what of the former permanent, lifetime, forever-and-ever holders of the title "best Test team in the whole universe", known to you and me as Australia? Following the 2-1 loss to England (and the loss - again - of the Ashes), Australia was bumped to fourth position. They're back to third now, with Sri Lanka having just slumped one point beneath them.

The File Transfer Protocol Future Tours Program is against Australia returning to the top for a while, and it will take even longer if they struggle against the eighth-ranked team as they are doing against the West Indies at present.

There's no honour in any Test team conceding 450 runs in an innings. The West Indians pushed on to 451 in their first innings, with some admirable work at the end by Brendan Nash (92) and Ravi Rampaul (40*). The feeling in recent years is that anything the visiting team could do, Australia can do better and in spades. At day two stumps on Saturday, Australia was 174 without loss. I was one of those prepared to make the reluctant call that Australia would win by an innings.

Back to reality. Shane Watson, 96 not out overnight, was unable to go that last furlong and was out with no addition to the score on the second ball of the day. Katich followed soon after for 80, and they were the best of it. Brad Haddin ran out of partners on 55 when all four members of the Australian tail behaved like tailenders in the same innings. Batting strength in the tail has been one of Australia's remarkable positives over the past decade and a half. In this game, Ravi Rampaul turned the tables, and with Australia all out for 439, one could look at that as being the difference thus far.

Suleiman Benn bowled 53 overs for a career-best 5/155. A tall left-arm finger-spinner recalling memories of Roger Harper but without the aeronautical runup, Benn was sorely in need of a spin partner.

A less crazy prediction from me this time, and that is that this Adelaide Test will end without a result. For the eighth-ranked West Indies, a quarter of a century after their days of invincibility, that is result enough. For Australia, who have not won a Test series since their last meeting with the West Indies in mid-2008, they might have to be content with relishing Sri Lanka's ranking slump.