No 1 is in a downward spin spiral
Following England's sudden demise, after losing their last six wickets for 41 at Fortress Galle, there is now plenty of airwave chatter regarding who will be No 1 in the rankings after the next test in Colombo.
At the conclusion of Mahela Jayawardene's first innings heroic performance, with my knowledge of pitch behaviour in Galle on board, I asked our resident statistician, Keith Lane, to investigate the various permutations. I expected England to go down for the fourth time in a row in tests and therefore subsequently anticipated speculation.
After punching the numbers he reverted with the following: England currently have 118 points and South Africa 116. If England lose the series 0-2 they will drop to 113 points. If England lose 0-1 they will revert to 114 points. Should the series be drawn then both England and South Africa will be locked on 116 points and will be separated by a decimal point difference to be calculated.
There is obviously a real chance that, prior to the commencement of the eagerly-awaited upcoming mid-year test series in the United Kingdom, South Africa will be holding down pole position. Either way is good enough for me. It will definitely be a shoot-out for the crown, as numbers one and two go head to head.
England will be pleased that the final test is at the Paikiasothy Saravanamuttu Stadium in Colombo and not the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, as that pitch can easily be prepared to resemble a road to ensure a drawn test and, in turn, a home series win.
What will be of great concern to the visitors is their ineptitude in playing spin. During their recently concluded series against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates they succumbed to spin 80% of the time. The trend has continued in Sri Lanka. Rangana Herath's extraordinary test match return has further sustained the left-arm spin domination against England. His first ten-wicket haul will further erode confidence. This is now the eighth occasion since May 2008 that a left-arm spinner has claimed a five-wicket-plus decimation in an innings against England.
No matter what happens in the next test, one thing is certain: to be ranked No 1 you need to win away from home with some consistency.
England are currently in a downward spin spiral in more ways than one.