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Wisden’s ‘outside the Big Three’ current Test XI

Wisden's 'outside the Big Three' current Test XI, featuring players from outside England, India and Australia
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 4 minute read

England, Australia, and India, widely referred to as the Big Three, might be dominating world cricket in their own mighty ways, but there is no dearth of excellence elsewhere.

Presenting a world Test XI of players from the rest of the Test-playing nations based on current form. It was not easy picking this lot, with a number of suitable contenders just missing the cut.

Here’s the team:


Dimuth Karunaratne

Big Three or no Big Three, Karunaratne has been one of the finest Test openers on the globe for a while now. The top order around him – and their form – has fluctuated, but Karunaratne has comfortably scored the most runs for Sri Lanka since the start of 2021 [1,471 runs @ 54.48] after a poor 2020. The patch includes a century each in India and South Africa, and three tons [including a double] at home.

Devon Conway

Ever since a double hundred on debut at Lord’s, Conway has continued to stay among the runs, hitting at least a fifty in each of his first six Tests. While the numbers dipped slightly thereafter, he hauled himself back with scores of 92 and 122 in Pakistan. He has moved around a bit in the order in Kane Williamson’s absence but seems to be settling well in the opener’s role.

Kane Williamson

Williamson has missed a fair few games of late and has also moved on from captaincy, but the runs have continued to flow. From 2014 to 2022 (barring 2016), he has averaged 50 in every calendar year. An unbeaten 200 in Pakistan late last year demonstrated that the hiatus has done little to dim his run-making. He started 2023 on a silent note but cracked a fine century in Wellington: he is still one of the finest.

Babar Azam

For a while, it looked like Babar might never be as good in Test cricket as he was in limited overs. That changed significantly towards the end of 2019 when he struck four hundreds across a seven-innings patch and has not looked back since. Last year, he was in prime nick: from the match-saving epic 196 to a ton in Sri Lanka to two hundreds at home against England and New Zealand, Babar has just been climbing the rungs of excellence.

Shakib Al Hasan

The highest-ranked Test all-rounder outside the Big Three, Shakib has missed more than played of late. He has featured in nine out of Bangladesh’s 19 Tests since, but still has the joint third-most fifty-plus scores and the joint fourth-most wickets. The captaincy has switched hands in the interim, but Shakib is still one of their most trusted men, whenever he plays.

Dinesh Chandimal

Chandimal’s career trajectory hasn’t been easy to follow. His Test career began scratchily, and despite the odd peak, he could never sustain the levels of consistency expected out of him. That might be finally changing: since May last year, he’s hit four half-centuries, two centuries and a double ton, his first in Tests. The last one paved the way for Sri Lanka’s first innings-win ever against Australia

Tom Blundell (wk)

Blundell can do little wrong at the moment. Having spent the first few years in BJ Watling’s shadows, he came to his own once the latter retired. Since the start of 2022, he averages over 60, with two centuries across different series against England, and three nineties. His highest of 138 – against England last month – came when none of the others, barring Devon Conway, crossed 30. With Rishabh Pant unfortunately away, Blundell might easily be the current best wicketkeeper-batter by a fair mile.

Shaheen Shah Afridi

Another player battling injuries of late, Afridi has not played Test cricket since July. That does not take away his exceptional returns over the last few years, which have made him the undisputed leader of Pakistan’s bowling pack. In a short career, he is one short of 100 Test scalps and has four five-wicket hauls – three of which have come away from home. Despite being out of action, he is still among the top five in the ICC rankings.

Kagiso Rabada

There has rarely been a drop, if any, in Rabada’s standards, ever since he broke into the Test side, and became their spearhead in little time. He was tied with Nathan Lyon for the most wickets [47] in 2022, and it still was not among his best two calendar years, 2017 and 2018. Since his debut, no other fast bowler has taken more wickets. Enough said.

Anrich Nortje

In South Africa’s unending line of Test quicks, Nortje’s stocks have been going up as rapidly as his pace. Just 19 Tests in, he has already taken five-fors against England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies. He averages 23.62 at home but has played more games away, stringing together bursts of rapid pace to perfectly complement the rest of the attack. David Warner called one of his recent spells the “fastest he’s ever faced”. And Warner has seen a fair few quicks in his time.

Neil Wagner

The oldest of the lot, but probably the shrewdest. Wagner’s biggest strength has been to adapt and capitalise on his limited set of skills and combine them to create a world-class quick. He can pepper you with short-pitched balls all day or take out your toe with your yorker, and be at you all day without breaking a sweat. The numbers might have tailed off a little bit in the last year or so, but Wagner is still the workhorse you will dream of having on your side.


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