We are in strange times, where it feels like the batting lineups of all the test teams are vulnerable. The best side in the world can't play spin on the subcontinent, the South African's are prone to collapses and the Indian legends have been decimated over 8 tests and have now lost Dravid.
So which side currently has the best top 7?
England: Prior is the best number 7 in the world, all others players bar the number 6 are proven at test level, with Trott and Pietersen the closest to being top tier batsman. All in all a very solid lineup (outside the subcontinent), maybe lacking that touch of real class.
India: Dravid is a massive loss. They have the big names on paper still, Tendulkar, Sehwag and Laxman, with Gambhir supporting. Kohli looks like he's got his career started and Dhoni is still a solid player if unspectacular. The issue here is the age of the lineup as well as the woeful current form.
New Zealand; Very weak lineup, made even weaker with the absence of Ryder. Still haven't got 2 test class openers. Taylor is a decent bat, but the rest are either average, poor or unproven. No star players and plenty of spots up for grabs. The main positive is Williamson, who has a lot of work to do, but made an impressive century against SA.
Sri Lanka: Openers are a problem; Dilshan has been out of form for a while and the 2nd spot needs fixing. Numbers 3,4 and 5 are excellent, and Mathews has really nailed down that number 6 spot even though he has made 1 hundred. Along with Chandimal he is the future of a line up that will see around 4 players retiring in the next 3-4 years. Keeper is solid.
South Africa; Packed full of class, Kallis is still churning out the runs and is supported either side by the wristy Amla and classy De Villiers. Graeme Smith often looks out of nick, but is still scoring well and doing it under pressure. Number 6 spot and opening spot still not completely secure, but Rudolph and Peterson certainly arent bad players. Boucher is a bit hit and miss, but overall this line up just needs to avoid brain fades.
Australia: Decent line up, but too much pressure on Clarke and Hussey. Ponting hasn't been the same player aside from the India series and the openers have work to do. Wade looks like he will be around for a very long time. Watson has the potential to do so much more with the bat; like Angelo Mathews he is very consistent, but now needs to kick on once he's in. Australia may be better served with him as an opener.
Pakistan; Younis is the jewel which this lineup revolves around. Openers look dodgy and need to up their game. Azhar is the real deal, and has shown the invaluable ability to soak up pressure, now needs to work out how to play the moving ball. Misbah is reliable and mentally strong. Shafiq hasnt done much yet, but in the England series he made a habit of timing his 40s and 50s precisely when they were needed. Keeper is a terrible bat. All in all a lineup with huge weaknesses, even when the ball doesnt move around, this line up could be decimated when it doe.
West Indies: Like New Zealand just a ridiculously weak lineup. Keeper scores the runs expected from a tailender, both openers have failed to show that they are close to test class. Chanderpaul is the key, but too much pressure on him. Kirk Edwards and Bravo have good attitudes and talent and have started well but too early to say whether they can keep it up. Similar to Pakistan in that they have weaknesses even when when the ball doesnt move around, I worry for them when it does.
1) South Africa
3) Sri Lanka
7) West Indies
8) New Zealand