Australia remain the team to beat

LONDON, Dec 25, 2007 (AFP) – By the end of a year where Australia continued to remain supreme as the leading Test and one-day side it was easy to think little had changed in world cricket. They won a third straight World Cup and, after a run of 14 consecutive Test wins, they were closing in on their own world record of 18 ahead of the start of their series with India.

In January, Australia completed only the second 5-0 Ashes whitewash, more than avenging their narrow 2-1 reverse of two years earlier.

After the end of the latest Ashes, in Sydney, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, who between them took 1,271 Test wickets, retired from the five-day game along with opening batsman Justin Langer.

Warne had singlehandedly revived the fading art of leg-spin and in so doing showed how slow bowlers could be an attacking force. His haul of 708 Test wickets was a then world record and few disputed his right to be regarded as the greatest wrist-spinner the game had known.

If the success of McGrath, who carried on to the World Cup, was achieved by more conventional means, it was no less important to Australia.

As reserved away from the pitch as Warne was colourful, McGrath elevate