England’s impressive Test series victory against South Africa will move them above New Zealand to fifth in the ICC Test rankings, regardless of the outcome of the fourth and final match at Centurion.
Just how far Alastair Cook’s emerging side can go remains to be seen, but beating the top-ranked Proteas on their own patch, allied with last summer’s Ashes triumph and a feelgood factor around the team, means further progress in 2016 looks a distinct possibility.
Here ecb.co.uk assesses some of the challenges in store over the coming year in Test cricket.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) January 19, 2016
A three-Test series kicks off at Headingley, before taking in Emirates Durham ICG and Lord’s.
Any early-season green pitches are likely to fire up England’s leading Test wicket-taker James Anderson and new-ball partner Stuart Broad, while Steven Finn and Mark Wood will hope to overcome their respective injuries to feature at their home grounds as part of an increasingly feared pace attack.
England will be out for revenge after Sri Lanka won their first Test series on these shores in 2014, a triumph sealed at Headingley when Anderson was dismissed from the penultimate ball, leaving Moeen Ali stranded on 108.
The best way to climb the Test rankings is to beat the sides ahead of you, and with Pakistan currently in fourth – one place above England – the hosts will be eager to get the better of a four-Test series.
Lord’s, Emirates Old Trafford, Edgbaston and the Kia Oval will all hosts Tests against Misbah-ul-Haq’s men, and Cook’s side will be keen to atone for a 2-0 defeat in the United Arab Emirates last year.
Cook aside, England’s batsmen found the going tough in the Middle East, but the likes of Joe Root, James Taylor and Ben Stokes will be keen to cash in with plenty of runs in more favourable conditions.
October – Bangladesh
England have never lost a Test against Bangladesh, and Moeen and Adil Rashid can enjoy a productive two-match tour in what should be spin-friendly conditions.
Off-spinner Graeme Swann showed his class in England’s comprehensive 2-0 win over the Tigers in their own backyard in 2010, taking 16 wickets in four innings, while Cook struck two centuries as he led from the front when deputising as skipper.
November – India
England have probably saved their toughest challenge for last.
While the tourists were successful in India in 2012, for the first time in 28 years, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side are poised to replace South Africa as the world’s number-one side at the end of England’s current series against the Proteas.
England’s spinners can again expect to bowl plenty of overs, while Jonny Bairstow – who recently completed England’s first Test stumping since 2012 – will need to be razor sharp with the gloves.