There is a side of the No. 1 new in town. For the first time in their history, New Zealand sits top of the ICC Test ranking table after finishing the draw against West Indies with a back-to-back innings win.
Immediately after their draw there was some confusion over whether New Zealand shared the top spot with Australia. The ICC ranking page shows they are top with 116 points, but last updated on 13 December, a day before they finish their second Test against West Indies at the Basin Reserve in Wellington. If you use the ICC website prediction tool to feed New Zealand’s 2-0 draw against West Indies it puts them two points clear of Australia.
Expect the ICC website to officially announce New Zealand as the No. 1 new at a later date, which will be an achievement for a team who can’t play Test cricket as much as the Top Three do. As Trent Boult said, this is the result of the good work they started in 2013 under captain Brendon McCullum, followed by Kane Williamson’s team perfecting the offensive mechanisms they put in place.
Since December 2013, New Zealand have won 22 Tests at home and lost only three times, their second domination after India. During the same period, they have won draws away in the West Indies and Zimbabwe and in the UAE against Pakistan, and drawn in England, Sri Lanka and in other series against Pakistan in the UAE. That they have toured only 10 times and played only 26 away. Tests during this period showed how unfit they were commercially, and thus had limited opportunities.
Remaining at the top of the rankings may not last if Australia dominate India in the upcoming home series, but New Zealand now has another realistic shot at the Tes crown. Two victories over West Indies saw them reach 300 points from four draws in the current World Test Championship cycle. If they repeat their 2-0 result against Pakistan in the summer they will end their cycle with 420 points from five draws, which will see India needing five wins from their last eight Tests to deny New Zealand a place in the World Test. The championship final to be played at Lord’s in the summer of England 2021.
In a non-pandemic world, New Zealand also has to go and get points in a draw in Bangladesh, but because some series cannot be played, the ICC has to change the qualification criteria from absolute points to percentage points contested. Or, in other words, points per series are played. If New Zealand wins both of their Tests against Pakistan they will end up with 84 points per draw played or 70% points contested.
By the time India – currently with 360 points from four series played – finish with their draw against Australia and England, they will be fighting over six draws or 720 points. They must pass 504 points to beat New Zealand’s score of 84 points per draw or 70% of the points contested. Each remaining Test win will now be worth 30 points, and a draw will earn them 10 points. Five wins or four wins and three draws will put them ahead of New Zealand.
Australia remain favorites to advance to the final with 296 points from just three series contested and a home draw against India following. Their tour of South Africa has yet to be announced, but even if it does continue, Australia will need 125 points from two draws to secure a place in the final. If the South African tour does not resume, two wins in the upcoming home series against India will ensure a place in the Lord’s final for them.