Domain Test Series v New Zealand
NZ 'no comparison' as Aussies target Test top spot: Ponting
Ricky Ponting says Australia far better than their official ICC ranking of fifth-best Test team, and expects this side could challenge India for top spot
Sam Ferris at the SCG
4 January 2020, 10:39 PM AEST
The official ICC rankings may have Australia ranked as the No.5 Test team but Tim Paine's side should be recognised as the second-best team in the world.
That is the assessment of Test legend Ricky Ponting, who says Australia's impressive performances in the past year have put them behind only India as Test cricket's premier team.
Following the 2-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka last summer, Australia retained the Ashes for the first time in 18 years on English soil with a 2-2 result and have been unstoppable at home this season, sweeping Pakistan 2-0 and have dominated New Zealand to be in a strong position for a 3-0 victory.
As it stands India are the No.1 ranked Test side, followed by New Zealand, South Africa, England and Australia, but after watching Paine's side ruthlessly crush Pakistan and the Black Caps this summer, Ponting says a reshuffle is in order.
"I think Australia, on what they've done over a long period of time, although they're officially ranked fifth they're the second-best team in the world," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"India are still the best team in the world currently, Australia are second, England are struggling.
"England are higher than they should be. They're fourth on the list, they can go down.
"New Zealand can go down a spot on the back on this series because they've just been comprehensively outplayed.
"It's not like they've really even competed to be honest. Perth was very bad (loss by 296 runs), Melbourne was even worse (loss by 247 runs) and Australia bat first here and get 454.
"If you're to compare those two teams, there's no comparison between Australia and New Zealand."
According to Ponting's rankings, India remains at No.1, ahead of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England, with the bottom seven sides unchanged.
New Zealand began their campaign coming off an impressive 1-0 series win over England having won six of their past seven Test series without tasting defeat.
But Ponting was wary of the Black Caps status, not so much their deserved team ranking but of the individual rankings of their batters which have proven to be inflated.
Opener and stand-in skipper for the third Test Tom Latham and ill middle-order batter Henry Nicholls were inside the top 10 batters at the start of the tour.
But after a lean series with the bat, Latham (average 25.5 this series) and Nicholls (15.25) have dropped out of the top 10, with regular captain Kane Williamson in danger of losing his position at No.3 to the in-form Marnus Labuschagne, who has rocketed up to fourth before his double-century.
Australia, on the other hand, have Steve Smith (2nd), Labuschagne (4th) and David Warner (equal 7th) in the top 10 batters, and have three bowlers – Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood – in the top 10 Test bowlers.
It is one of the reasons why Ponting believes Australia are a team on the rise and New Zealand an outfit that has slipped this summer.
"You couldn't begrudge New Zealand's ranking coming here," said Ponting.
"They hadn't lost a series in seven series, so that's a good achievement.
"I was worried about some of their individual player rankings.
"Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls being rated in the top 10 batsmen in the world, they're not, it's as simple as that.
"Latham's overall average is 42 and Nicholls' is 40 and they find themselves in the top 10 in the world – that doesn't make much sense to me.
"That's not good enough to be known as a top 10 batsman in the world.
"I think what Australia have done over the past 12 months they're trending to pretty soon be pushing for the best team in the world again."
Domain Test Series v New Zealand
Australia squad: David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Travis Head, Tim Paine (c, wk), Pat Cummins, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, James Pattinson, Michael Neser, Mitchell Swepson
New Zealand: Todd Astle, Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Matt Henry, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls, Glenn Phillips, Jeet Raval, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, BJ Watling, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson (c)
First Test: Australia won by 296 runs
Second Test: Australia won by 247 runs
Third Test: January 3-7, SCG (Seven, Fox & Kayo)