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Who will grab the second spot?

India will enjoy a slight edge against England as the two teams go head-to-head for second place in the LG ICC Test rankings.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 20:07 IST
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India will enjoy a slight edge against England as the two teams go head-to-head for second place in the LG ICC Test rankings when their three-match series startson Wednesdayin Nagpur.

There are just two points between the two sides, who have swapped positions twice in the past three months, but now they are facing each other and a victory for either team will put some daylight between them.

For India, who are at present placed third on the table, any series win will take them back ahead of England, a position they surrendered thanks to their series loss in Pakistan less than a month ago.

A 1-0 or 2-1 success for Rahul Dravid's line-up will take them to 114 rating points and drop England to 111, while a clean sweep by India will lift them to 116 and leave England on 109, just one point ahead of Pakistan.

While England are the side currently in second place and victory by one Test— 1-0 or 2-1— will be enough to take them six rating points clear of the home side.

And if they can overcome their pre-series illness and injury concerns to win all three matches then they will move to 118 points, just 11 short of Australia's mark while at the same time dropping India to fourth in the table, below Pakistan.

So it really is all to play for and a look at the Test Rankings for players indicates that if one side does have the edge then it may well be India thanks to their batting power.

The combination of Rahul Dravid (6th), Virender Sehwag (9th), Sachin Tendulkar (12th) and VVS Laxman (23rd) is enough to give even the best bowlers sleepless nights.

England can boast an impressive seam bowling battery with prospective captain Andrew Flintoff (4th), Matthew Hoggard (10th), Stephen Harmison (14th) and Simon Jones (17th) all capable of match-winning displays.

England, by contrast, have just two players— Marcus Trescothick at 10 and Andrew Strauss at 15— in the top 25 batting places. Trescothick has already returned home for personal reasons.

That means England's batsmen outside that top 25 — the likes of Kevin Pietersen (29th), Flintoff (32nd) and Ian Bell (43rd)— will have to score heavily to ensure England remain competitive.

Flintoff will have his own private duel with Pathan in the LG ICC Test Rankings for all-rounders. The England player is currently second in that list, behind South Africa's Jacques Kallis, while Pathan is fourth and capable of moving up the list with a strong series.

Spin wizard Muttiah Muralidaran has a golden chance to celebrate the landmark by moving back to the top of the Test Rankings for bowlers in this 100th Test as Sri lanka play Bangladesh in first of their two-match series in Chittagong.

He is only eight rating points behind current leader Glenn McGrath and with Australia not in Test action until next month on their tour of South Africa it is difficult to see how Muralidaran, with an excellent track record against Bangladesh, can fail to regain top spot.