With yet another action-packed 12 months of international cricket ahead of us, we gaze into our crystal ball and predict just how the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test-match rankings may look one year from now.
Despite the cricket world’s attention currently being firmly fixed on the Ashes in England, with much focus also likely to be on the eagerly anticipated return series Down Under later this year, there are still plenty of other mouth-watering contests in store between now and next summer, with each clash likely to have a significant impact on the final rankings.
Present pace-setters South Africa travel to the UAE for a two-Test series with Pakistan in October, before then hosting both India in December, followed by Australia three months later, in two of the most eye-catching match-ups of the next 12 months.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the table, struggling West Indies face three tough-looking Tests in New Zealand in December, Pakistan visit Zimbabwe for two Tests next month, before then hosting sub-continental rivals Sri Lanka, again in their adopted home of the UAE, across three Tests in December.
Then, of course, there is England, currently sitting in third place in the standings, although Alastair Cook’s men will move back above India into second position if they can avoid defeat against Australia in the fifth Test at the Oval starting on Wednesday.
Cook and co. travel Down Under for a return five-match series against Australia in November, while next summer England host the Asian duo of Sri Lanka in May for two Tests, followed by MS Dhoni’s India in July for what should be five cracking Test matches.
And with the ICC rankings placing greater emphasis on a country’s most-recent form, with their past results counting for less, the outcome of these upcoming Test series will be absolutely vital in deciding where each nation sits in the table this time next year.