Australia in danger to slip to fourth in Test rankings

Australia stand to lose substantially more than their aura over the next month.

An Ashes series defeat would precipitate a stunning fall from grace by relegating Ricky Ponting’s men to fourth place on the ICC Test ladder behind South Africa, Sri Lanka and India.

A drawn series will place them second after Graeme Smith’s men. Either rain or England could seal Australia’s demise in the coming weeks.

The tourists require victory at both Headingley and The Oval to retain their No 1 Test ranking, but a bleak weather forecast for Yorkshire could greatly reduce their chances of forcing a result in the fourth Test.

Not since 2003, when South Africa held the ICC Test mace for a four-month period, have Australia occupied a place anywhere other than the pinnacle of Test cricket.

South Africa made clear their intentions to recapture the No 1 ranking when they defeated Australia in a Test series for the first time in 16 years last summer, but Australia’s stirring riposte on South African soil provided them with a degree of breathing room.

Australia have won just five of their past 14 Tests, three of which were against the South Africans, and their inability to register a victory in the first three Tests of the Ashes series has drawn Smith’s side to within two points of the top ranking.

Like Andrew Strauss, South African coach Arthur feels the Australians have lost their aura, but warned England against underestimating them in the final two Tests of the Ashes series.

‘I do agree with Andrew in that the Australians have looked susceptible when placed under pressure,’ Arthur said.

‘With Australian sides of old, you could try and place all the pressure in the world on them and they would come through it unscathed more often than not. This younger side has shown the odd crack in those situations, and we saw that when we won many of the big moments when we played them in Australia. The aura has gone a little bit.

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