Cricket: Virtuoso Warne spins his way into the record books: Australia, consistent and talented, end the year as the premier international side in The Independent Test Table

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IT seems only fitting, given that one of their greatest players was the first to propose such a venture, that Australia have ended the inaugural four-year cycle for The Independent Table of Test Cricket at the summit and can thus be hailed as the Test cricket champions of 1993. Ian Chappell might not agree with every last facet of our format but he is unlikely to quibble with the result.

Our table is calculated on a rolling four-year basis so that the finished one for 1993 (below) includes all matches in all completed series in the years 1990 to 1993. (The table for 1994 will jettison all the 1990 results and build to a full four-year table in 12 months' time.)

Fate certainly favoured Australia in the critical closing furlongs of 1993. New Zealand were deprived of Martin Crowe, their captain and leading batsman, for the last two Tests of the trans-Tasman series, and lost both by an innings, enabling their rivals to leapfrog the West Indies. The latter, therefore, can feel doubly aggrieved at the poor pitch preparation that rendered their one-off inaugural Test in Sri Lanka void, since a victory would have extended their lead.

Having beaten Australia in both series played by the pair this decade, they may feel they have further cause for grievance. On the other hand, Allan Border's sides, crucially, boast the Nineties' best away record, plus the most comprehensive series wins - 3-0 against England in 1990-91, 4-0 against India the following winter and 4-1 in last summer's Ashes series. After beginning the year with one victory in half a dozen Tests, they also won six of their last nine engagements, four by an innings. Compare this with England's pitiful record: won one, drawn one, lost eight.

Australia owed a huge debt to Shane Warne, whose masterly exposition of the leg-spinner's art saw him take 71 wickets in 15 Tests, a record for a slow bowler in a calendar year. Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, had their moments, but there was no disputing Warne's status as the outstanding performer of 1993.

Australia's surge also had its roots in some heady runmaking. No fewer than seven of their batsmen have gathered at least two centuries over the past 12 months, David Boon exceeding 1,200 runs to confirm himself as the most consistent batsman of the Nineties. Yet even he would concede that his side were on the wrong end of the innings of the year back in January - Brian Lara's match-saving 277 in Sydney, the fourth-highest score ever made for the West Indies.

The single most devastating bowling display was also of Caribbean origin, Curtly Ambrose's 7 for 1 spell in Perth putting Richie Richardson's troops en route to a series- clinching win well inside three days. Australia, mind, had been ripe for the plucking after Courtney Walsh's dismissal of Craig McDermott had engineered a one-run win in Adelaide six days earlier, the closest margin in Test history. Australia went to the opposite extreme in Hobart earlier this month, defeating New Zealand by an innings and 222 runs, the Kiwis' heaviest drubbing in 222 Tests since 1946.

Despite extending their sequence of undefeated series into a 14th year, the West Indies have yet to win more than two Tests in any rubber this decade. Their six completed Tests in 1993 yielded four wins and two draws against Australia and Pakistan. More significantly, in six attempts, they have only twice won the last Test of a series despite almost always being the superior side. One of the prime objects of The Independent Table of Test Cricket is to reward the participants who conduct each match as if it were a one-off.

The fastest risers in the table are South Africa, whose series win in Sri Lanka promoted them from eighth to third. It is a distorted position - one that two series against Australia over the coming months should put into perspective - since Kepler Wessels' men have played eight Tests over the period to the 38 of England and Australia.

By the same token, it seems appropriate to reiterate another of the table's tenets, minimising the disadvantages that stem from lack of opportunity, hence the use of averages.

Zimbabwe could have escaped the basement but, as ever, the figures disguise much, exaggerating, if anything, the margin between success and failure. Against Pakistan, after all, had the newest members of the Test club been wiser to the ways of the five-day game they might well have saved the first Test and taken advantage of a matchwinning position on the final day of the second to glean an extra 140 points.

As it was, Waqar and, in the latter instance, Wasim sentenced them to defeat on both occasions, ensuring the hosts prolonged an unbeaten run in home series stretching back to 1980-81. An even more impregnable fortress will have to be stormed if England are to lift themselves into the top half of the table. When the West Indies last lost a rubber in their own backyard, nine, ten, jack in the home batting order were all spinners. Their Australian conquerors, moreover, were led by Ian Chappell.

----------------------------------------------------------------- TEST MATCH RESULTS IN 1993 ----------------------------------------------------------------- AUSTRALIA ----------------------------------------------------------------- v West Indies Sydney - drawn Adelaide - lost by 1 run Perth - lost by inns and 25 v New Zealand Christchurch - won by inns and 60 Wellington - drawn Auckland - lost by 5 wickets ----------------------------------------------------------------- v England Old Trafford - won by 179 runs Lord's - won by inns and 22 Trent Bridge - Drawn Headingley - won by inns and 148 Edgbaston - won by 8 wickets The Oval - lost by 161 runs ----------------------------------------------------------------- v New Zealand Perth - drawn Hobart - won by inns and 222 Brisbane - won by inns and 96 v South Africa Melbourne - drawn* -----------------------------------------------------------------

ZIMBABWE ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Pakistan Karachi - lost by 131 runs Rawalpindi - lost by 52 runs Lahore - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- ENGLAND v India Calcutta - lost by 8 wickets Madras - lost by inns and 22 Bombay - lost by inns and 15 ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Sri Lanka Colombo - lost by 5 wickets ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Australia Old Trafford - lost by 179 runs Lord's - lost by inns and 22 Trent Bridge - drawn Headingley - lost by inns and 148 Edgbaston - lost by 8 wickets The Oval - won by 161 runs

----------------------------------------------------------------- SRI LANKA ----------------------------------------------------------------- v England Colombo - won by 5 wickets v South Africa Moratuwa - Drawn Colombo - lost by inns and 208 Colombo - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- v W Indies Colombo - drawn* ----------------------------------------------------------------- v India Kandy - drawn* Colombo - lost by 235 runs Colombo - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- WEST INDIES ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Australia Sydney - drawn Adelaide - won by 1 run Perth - won by inns and 25 ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Pakistan Port of Spain - won by 204 runs Bridgetown - won by 10 wickets St John's - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Sri Lanka Colombo - drawn* ----------------------------------------------------------------- NEW ZEALAND ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Pakistan Hamilton - lost by 33 runs ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Australia Christchurch - lost by inns and 60 Wellington - drawn Auckland - won by 5 wickets ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Australia Perth - drawn Hobart - lost by inns and 222 Brisbane - lost by inns and 96 ----------------------------------------------------------------- INDIA ----------------------------------------------------------------- v South Africa ----------------------------------------------------------------- Cape Town - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- v England Calcutta - won by 8 wickets Madras - won by inns and 22 Bombay - won by Inns and 15 ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Sri Lanka Kandy - drawn* Colombo - won by 235 runs Colombo - drawn

----------------------------------------------------------------- PAKISTAN ----------------------------------------------------------------- v New Zealand Hamilton - won by 33 runs ----------------------------------------------------------------- v W Indies Port of Spain - lost by 204 runs Bridgetown - lost by 10 wickets St John's - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Zimbabwe Karachi - won by 131 runs Rawalpindi - won by 52 runs Lahore - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- SOUTH AFRICA ----------------------------------------------------------------- v India Cape Town - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Sri Lanka Moratuwa - drawn Colombo - won by inns and 208 Colombo - drawn ----------------------------------------------------------------- v Australia Melbourne - drawn* (* void because of rain) -----------------------------------------------------------------

(Photograph and table omitted)