Kohli back at No. 1 in Tests; big jumps for Warner, Labuschagne

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Virat Kohli

The baton of No. 1 Test batsman in the world has changed hands between Virat Kohli and Steven Smith again, with Kohli surpassing Smith following a century in his team’s inaugural day-night Test, against Bangladesh in Kolkata. While Kohli led the Indian batting effort, Smith failed to go past 36 in Australia’s home Tests against Pakistan, resulting in the swap at the top.

The good news for Australia, though, is that David Warner and Marnus Labuschagne, who were in red-hot form against Pakistan, moved up to No. 5 and No. 8 respectively.

Warner compiled the second highest individual score for Australia in Test cricket, going past the 334-run mark of Donald Bradman and Mark Taylor in Adelaide, finishing on 335 not out as Australia declared their only innings.

Only fellow opener Matthew Hayden has a higher mark for Australia: 380, against Zimbabwe in 2003. Warner’s mammoth innings followed a knock of 154 in the first Test of the series, in Brisbane, resulting in him jumping 12 places up the rankings overall.

Labuschagne, meanwhile, was ranked as low as 110 at the start of 2019. His year took a dramatic turn when he became Test cricket’s first concussion sub during the Lord’s Test of the Ashes series, slotting into the game in place of Smith – who had taken a blow to the helmet from Jofra Archer – and going on to score a match-saving, last-day 59. That won him a place in the XI even when Smith returned, and he produced scores of 74, 80, 67, 11, 48 and 14 through the rest of the Ashes. His best was yet to come, though. In the home Tests against Pakistan, both innings victories, Labuschagne scored 185 and 162, completing a sensational charge into Test cricket’s top ten batsmen.

The Smith v Kohli race to No. 1 has been in overdrive ever since the former returned from his ball-tampering ban in mid-2019 and went on to have a stunning Ashes campaign. Smith had toppled Kohli during that series, in September, before Kohli scored a double-hundred against South Africa to return to within one rating point of Smith. Now, as things stand, Kohli is five rating points clear of Smith. Smith will have the chance to overtake him once again when Australia take on New Zealand at home from December 12. India do not play Test cricket again till they tour New Zealand early next year.

Among others to gain in the latest updates were Babar Azam, the Pakistan batsman who hit 97 in the first innings of the Adelaide Test to move up two places to No. 13, while England captain Joe Root returned to the top ten after a week outside it following his innings of 226. That helped him move up from No. 11 to No. 7. (ESPNCricinfo)