Don't write it off, but a disastrous Test tour of Bangladesh could see Australia's ranking plummet

Australia risks an embarrassing slide down the Test rankings if it is unable to conquer Bangladesh in the upcoming two-match series.Steve Smith's side landed in India earlier this year with a chance of reclaiming top spot on the International Cricket Council's charts.Now it will tumble to number six if Bangladesh wins both games during the two-Test series that starts on August 27.The prospect of sitting above only Sri Lanka, West Indies, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe would hardly instil confidence ahead of this summer's Ashes.Such a fall from grace is unlikely but far from impossible.
Bangladesh, which defeated England at home in 2016, is no longer the hapless group of easy-beats that Jason Gillespie memorably mauled during his unbeaten double century in Chittagong some 11 years ago. "Not so much because of the pay dispute, it'll be hard because the conditions there are difficult and in the last 12-18 months Bangladesh have really improved. Australia could slip to sixth in Test rankings if they lose series 2-0 to Bangladesh.

Ashes 2017 - Wood's fitness key to England hopes

We are told time and again that, to win in Australia, a visiting team must possess express pace.The Kookaburra ball on hard pitches offers less assistance to fast bowlers than a Dukes ball on moist English surfaces, so velocity and intimidation become invaluable weapons. Remember Mitchell Johnson?
Pure speed is not the only way to succeed down under, mind.Australia's Glenn McGrath pummelled batsmen into submission with his relentless accuracy, James Anderson got the ball to reverse swing in 2010-11, and Chris Tremlett found awkward, steepling bounce in the same series.Still, it's hard to imagine England winning in Australia without Wood, their paciest option, playing at least some part. England, though, have to keep him fit.
"England must ask what is the best option to take 20 wickets. They need an attack that is well-rounded."

Ashes 2017 - Bat first or bust?

England are in danger of becoming a one-dimensional team, of only being able to win when they bat first.Under Bayliss, England have lost nine and won only three of their matches when batting second, a win-loss ratio that has them sixth best of the 10 teams to have played Test cricket in that period.It is a problem that is once again rooted in runs. When England bat first, they average 38 runs per wicket, the third best in the world. Batting second, that drops to 25, seventh on the list.
It is an issue that needs addressing quickly. When England won in Australia in 2010-11, their three Test victories came when batting second."If you have only two or three of your top six contributing, you won't win many games batting second because pitches get harder to bat on," said Swann."In Australia, all of your top six have to have great tours. Most of ours scored truckloads when we won there in 2010-11."England aren't far off being a very good team, but you can't rely on two or three players to score all your runs every week."

Can England defend the Ashes without 32-year-old Cook, or another batsman, going big?

"Cook is still a very good player, but is no longer in that halcyon period," said former England off-spinner Graeme Swann. "There isn't a problem with his batting; his stats are just starting to wane,
which is natural when you grow old."The bigger picture is what goes on around him. England can't always look to Cook, because he's been doing it for more than a decade now."The likes of Joe Root and Ben Stokes are coming to the party, but not all of the top order are grabbing their chances."

Ashes 2017 - Can Cook still be the daddy?

Cook, now relieved of the captaincy, remains a reassuring model of consistency and reliability at the top of the England order.There is, however, something missing: hundreds.Since the summer of 2013, Cook averages 40 and has passed 50 on 31 occasions.
Only five times has he converted those into a hundred.With 30 centuries, Cook is England's most prolific centurion in history. It's just that the tons are becoming less frequent.England's only triumph in Australia in the past 25 years - in 2010-11 - was based on Cook's 'daddy' hundreds - scores of 235 not out, 148 and 189.

Ashes 2017 - A big winter for Bayliss

Indeed, it took victory in the final match against South Africa to even out Bayliss' win-loss record to 13 apiece.For all England's progress in the limited-overs game, nothing piques the excitement, interest and passion of their fans like an Ashes series.Therefore, for Bayliss, leading England in his homeland makes this winter more important for him than almost everyone else connected with the team.
Nothing prompts a period of English introspection quicker than a defeat in Australia.
"It strikes me that he was brought in specifically for white-ball cricket," said Boycott. "He hasn't played Test cricket and that comes across in some of the things he says."I'm not sure how much he has to offer in Test cricket. Maybe he gives them confidence to be positive, but sometimes you need more common sense than positivity."I don't think England have improved under Bayliss."

Ashes 2017 - Selectors in a muddle?

An extension of questioning why England cannot fill the vacancies in their batting line-up is to examine the selection policy in the Bayliss era.Consider this. In Bayliss' 30 Tests in charge, 12 players have been given England Test debuts. None of those 12 has established himself at Test level, although it is too early to judge Westley, Malan and seamer Toby Roland-Jones.In the worst examples of team selection, left-arm spinner Liam Dawson was given two Tests against South Africa - picked in part because of his good character - while white-ball specialist and back-up wicketkeeper Jos Buttler was seemingly recalled as a specialist batsman on last winter's tour of India just because there were no other options.
In comparison, in the 31 Tests before Bayliss arrived - a neat period because it goes back to when Cook took over as captain - England handed out 14 new caps, unearthing Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes (admittedly, the latter has established himself under Bayliss).