Australia face Pakistan in a two Test series in the United Arab Emirates starting today. If the Australians can win both Tests they will overcome South Africa and return to the top of the ICC World rankings. However, it will be tough for the in-form Aussies.
Dubai, the venue for the first Test match, will not be an easy pitch to force victory on. First impressions of the pitch are that it is old and tired, so with very little pace Australia will need to focus on a hard earned victory during which their spinners must make an impression and reverse swing could also prove decisive for their fast bowlers.
Australia also have spinners, particularly Steve O'Keefe, who are unproven at Test level. This could be the series where they play a starring role although I am sure most spinners would prefer to have help from a pitch with more bounce and pace.
Australia will start the first Test with Nathan Lyon and O'Keefe bowling in tandem, with part-time Michael Clarke, David Warner and Steve Smith providing the back-up. Without a world-class spinner, such as a Shane Warne, will this be enough to force a victory?
To become World number one Australia know they need to win in all types of conditions
against any opposition so victory in the UAE will be very important for them and a huge step on the ladder to domination.
Australia's all-conquering Test side of the nineties knew that in order to be viewed as a
great Australian side they had to be victorious in India, a feat they finally achieved. For this current Australian side victory in Pakistan is a similar challenge.
One blessing for Australia is that Pakistan do not have a very good record in the UAE since they were forced to play their 'home' games there.
Australia had been previously crowned number one in May this year but South Africa wrestled back the title with a 1-0 series victory in Sri Lanka in July.
This current Australia team, despite potentially becoming number one, are still some
way from previous great Australian teams. However, they do have time on their side.
Can Australia adapt to the alien conditions facing them in the UAE and become the World's best Test side once again?
ICC current Test rankings
1. South Africa 124
2. Australia 123
3. England 104
4. Sri Lanka 101
5. India 96
6. Pakistan 96
7. New Zealand 93
8. West Indies 75
9. Zimbabwe 39
10. Bangladesh 19.