Cricket: West Indies remain on top of the world: In June The Independent launched a table of Test cricket. Here Rob Steen presents the updated version after the Ashes series

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The Independent Online
(Table omitted)

The Independent table of test cricket

Results of completed Test series since table first appeared on 2 June: Sri Lanka 0 India 1 (1 drawn, one void due to rain); England 1 Australia 4 (1 drawn); correction to original table: South Africa drew three times not four with India, hence one less home draw

Points are calculated as follows: The table includes all matches over a four-year period dating back to 1 January 1990. Teams get 50 points for a home victory, 20 for a home draw and 0 for a home defeat. From the home points total a home average is calculated. Teams get 100 points for an away victory, 40 for an away draw and 0 for an away defeat. From the away points total an away average is calculated. Bonus points (BP) are awarded for series victories. The number of series victories are divided by the number of series played and the total multiplied by 20. The total consists of the home average plus the away average plus the bonus points.

Series must consist of at least two games. Drawn matches in which more than a third of the playing hours are washed out (10 or more hours or five or more sessions) are not counted.

Position in the last table are in brackets after the team.

THE response to our blueprint for The Independent Table of Test Cricket (2 June) was most encouraging. The computer boffins who calculate the Coopers & Lybrand Ratings even proposed a merger.

Paul Cartwright, of Emsworth, Hants, devised his own table and decided, not unreasonably, to omit Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and South Africa 'until they have played everybody, home and away'. The only problem there is that England seem unlikely to be seen in Pakistan this side of the millenium after next.

Dan Jellinek offered some welcome levity, putting forward further criteria such as 'sartorial originality' and 'weakness of the peptic lining in environments of special culinary hostility'. In time, Dan, in time.

The more seriously minded Mark Ellison, from Bath, and Rifaquet Ali, from Birmingham, advocated a weighting system as a means of evaluating results in terms of the quality of the opposition. Besides being complicated and subjective, the principal argument against this is that it makes no allowances for fluctuations in form. What was that T-shirt slogan worn by Viv Richards and Ian Botham? 'Class is permanent, form is temporary'.

In the Nineties, England, for instance, have a marginally better Test record (won 2, lost 4) against the West Indies than do Pakistan (won 1 lost 3). Does this render England worthier opponents than Pakistan? Similarly, New Zealand have a 2-1 record against Australia, but a 0-3 mark against England, which implies Border and Co are considerably inferior to the same Ashes rivals against whom they have won 11 and lost one of their last 17 meetings.

Injuries and retirements are other variables that conspire against any form of standard ranking. The West Indies, to take the most obvious example, have lost Richards, Gordon Greenidge, Jeff Dujon and Malcolm Marshall over the past two years, not to mention having Ian Bishop laid up for much of that time. Better, surely, to steer clear of imponderables. A final argument against a weighting system is that it in many ways begs the question of the purpose of the table which, obviously, is to determine the relative strength of teams. A calculation which involved weighting would pre-judge the final shape of the table.

More constructive has been the recommendation, by Graham Goldwater, an Ealing neighbour of Ted Dexter's, that account be taken of the fact that some countries play more series than others, something already applying to individual Tests. Under the previous calculation, for instance, the West Indies and Australia had the same number of bonus points though their records were rather different: the Australians had won five and lost two, whereas the West Indies had won four and lost none.

To rectify this bonus points will be calculated by dividing the number of series wins by the number of series played, multiplying the answer by 20. Australia, for example, have won five of their eight series, giving them 12.5 bonus points, whereas the superior West Indies series record is reflected in their 13.3 bonus points.

The pounding England took in the Ashes series brings about the only significant change from the last table, with England moving down a place from fifth to sixth, and New Zealand moving up one without having bowled a ball.

That Australia stay in second place seems only fair. The overall win-loss records - West Indies 12-6, Australia 16-8 - are very similar in essence, as are the wins-to-Tests ratios (West Indies 12:26, Australia 16:35). The difference between the top pair boils down to series results. Significantly, West Indies have won the two series between the teams this decade.

Anyway, we can't very well let Merv and his entourage have everything their way, can we?