But at least one thing is certain: Australia remain the top dogs. They followed their triumph in the Caribbean by humbling Pakistan in the first two Tests of a grudge series inflamed by the bribery allegations between Salim Malik, Tim May and Shane Warne - and they have held on to their top place in the Independent Table of Test Cricket, with the West Indies dropping to third.
There is not much doubt that Australia deserve their top billing. In Shane Warne they have the world's least playable bowler - in the recent series against Pakistan he took 19 wickets in just two Tests, and was man of the series. Their batting is enviably resourceful: Steve Waugh remains the world's No 1 by carrying on from where he left off in the West Indies - his unbeaten century set up Australia's victory in the first Test and set the tone for the whole series. Also, Slater, Taylor and Mark Waugh also figure strongly in anyone's list of top batsmen.
There was much talk in England this summer about the success of the Australian method: the much vaunted Academy of Cricket, which embarrassed Atherton's team a year ago and bowled out the West Indies for 92 last month. It does seem to be the case that cricket is, for the moment at least, an Australian game.
Pakistan have had, by any standards, a rotten year: bribe allegations, walk-outs, official enquiries and a couple of heavy defeats Down Under. But their record in recent years remains good enough to secure second place in the table. The rankings are calculated on a four-year basis, so are not easily swayed by temporary bursts or dips of form. In that period Pakistan have won steadily away from home - the sure route to high points in the statistician's formula (see table). In 1992 Pakistan beat England 2-1, then went to New Zealand and won 1-0. They lost 2-0 in the West Indies (as everybody did back then) but bounced back by winning 2- 0 in Zimbabwe, 2-1 in New Zealand, 2-0 in Sri Lanka and 2-1 in Zimbabwe again. Their recent defeat by Australia was, apart from anything else, no more than revenge for the 1-0 reverse Australia suffered in Pakistan in 1994. Even so, their recovery in the final Test at Sydney, where they beat Australia by 75 runs, was enough to net them 100 points from the series, the same as Australia gained for their two victories.
If the generous premium on away wins helps Pakistan, so too does another feature of our arithmetic, the refusal to vary the award of points according to the strength of the opposition. Pakistan have picked up most of their points against Zimbabwe, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, by no means the heavyweights of international cricket. This obscures some tense cricket politics: it is not an accident that Pakistan have not played host to the stronger nations - it has become an unpopular destination (especially now that South Africa, with its swimming pools, beaches and golf courses, is back in the fold).
South Africa themselves have had an impressive start to their new life in the international cricket circus, good enough to join the top table, which does have a marked two-tier feel. The gaps between the top five countries - Australia, Pakistan, the West Indies and South Africa and India - are quite small, but there is quite a gulf then to England, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Zimbabwe.
One of the other things the table reveals is a sharp difference in the number of games played by the various teams. Brian Lara will not be consoled, in the light of his claims that he is exhausted by too much cricket, by the fact that the West Indies have only played 28 Tests in the past four years, not much more than half the number played by Australia (46) or England (39).
The problem with any ranking of international results is that it is not a level playing field: it is not as if everyone has played everyone else. The table does, however, put the teams in roughly the order one would expect. Australia will, to judge by the strength of their young teams, take quite a bit of knocking off. But it should be noted that none of this is any sort of guide to the forthcoming World Cup. All the recent charts reveal what everyone knows: that one-day cricket is a different game. Indeed it is pretty much an exact reversal of Test match form - India and England come out top. So, roll on February - and may the worst side win.
TABLE OF TEST CRICKET
Home Away Series
Matches P W D L Pts Ave P W D L Pts Ave P W L Bonus Points
Australia 46 24 13 6 5 770 32.08 22 9 8 5 1220 55.40 12 7 3 11.66 99.14
Pakistan 32 12 5 5 2 350 29.17 20 9 4 7 1060 53.00 10 7 3 14.00 96.17
West Indies 28 12 6 3 3 360 30.00 16 6 6 4 840 52.50 9 5 1 11.11 93.61
South Africa 19 10 4 4 2 280 28.00 9 3 4 2 460 51.11 6 3 0 10.00 89.11
India 24 9 5 3 1 310 34.44 15 4 6 4 640 42.60 7 4 2 11.42 88.46
England 39 26 6 8 12 460 17.69 13 4 3 6 520 40.00 9 2 5 4.44 62.13
Sri Lanka 25 11 1 6 4 170 15.45 14 3 6 5 540 38.51 9 3 5 6.66 60.62
New Zealand 29 13 2 4 7 180 13.85 16 2 7 7 480 30.00 11 1 8 1.81 45.66
Zimbabwe 11 8 1 4 3 130 16.25 3 0 1 2 40 13.33 4 0 3 0 29.58
Points are calculated as follows: the table includes all matches over a four-year period dating back to 1 January 1992. Teams get 50 points for a home victory, 20 for a home draw and 0 for a 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 is 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.
Test series results since 1994/95 season
Season Tests Home Away Series Result
1995/96 3 AUSTRALIA PAKISTAN Australia 2-1
1995/96 3 INDIA NEW ZEALAND India 1-0
1995/96 3 PAKISTAN SRI LANKA Sri Lanka 2-1
1995 6 ENGLAND WEST INDIES Drawn 2-2
1994/95 4 WEST INDIES AUSTRALIA Australia 2-1
1994/95 2 NEW ZEALAND SRI LANKA Sri Lanka 1-0
1994/95 2 NEW ZEALAND WEST INDIES West Indies 1-0
1994/95 3 ZIMBABWE PAKISTAN Pakistan 2-1
1994/95 5 AUSTRALIA ENGLAND Australia 3-1
1994/95 3 SOUTH AFRICA NEW ZEALAND South Africa 2-1
1994/95 3 INDIA WEST INDIES Drawn 1-1
1994/95 3 ZIMBABWE SRI LANKA Drawn 0-0
1994/95 3 PAKISTAN AUSTRALIA Pakistan 1-0
1994/95 3 SRI LANKA PAKISTAN Pakistan 2-0Reuse content