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South Africa keep ODI top spot
April 02, 2007 01:24 IST
South Africa has topped the ICC ODI Championship at its annual cut-off date for the first time since the rankings were introduced, edging Australia into second place by the narrowest of margins.
April 1 was the cut-off date for the Championship and it means that the Proteas will receive US$175,000 for its achievement, while Australia will pocket US$75,000 for being the runner-up.
Australia can also take solace in the fact that it has just reached the cut-off date at the top of the LG ICC Test Championship.
It marks the end of a great 12 months of one-day cricket for South Africa. Graeme Smith's side assumed first place from Australia last month following an outstanding run of results over the past year, which saw the team win 15 of its 21 ODIs ahead of the 2007 World Cup and three out of four matches since the tournament began.
It is the first time a side has overtaken Australia in the ICC ODI Championship table since the listings began in October 2002.
And although South Africa lost to Ricky Ponting's men in their Group A game in St Kitts last week, it was not quite enough to dislodge the Proteas from the top spot. In fact, with both sides finishing on 127 points, it was only when it was calculated past the decimal point that they could be separated, with just 0.1199 of a ratings point being the difference.
South Africa's one-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the Super Eight stage in Guyana on Wednesday proved to be the result that took them over the top, giving them an unassailable if wafer-thin lead at the top of the ladder.
"I'm delighted that we are top of the ODI Championship and I think it is a just reward for all the hard work and dedication the guys have shown over the past 18 months or so," said South Africa captain Graeme Smith.
"That said, although this is very pleasing for us it will not detract us from the immediate job at hand. We are completely focused on the World Cup and we want to do the very best that we can while we are here in the Caribbean," he said.
The Proteas have had an extraordinary run of form over the past 12 months. This includes a 3-2 series win over Australia, sealed by scoring a then world-record 438-9. Since then South Africa has continued its good form, getting to the semi-final of the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy in India. They also remain one of the favourites to win this World Cup title.
But with the table so tight at the top, Ponting's team can get back on top if it continues to perform as it has done so far in the World Cup. If both Australia and South Africa win their remaining Super Eight games then the Proteas will progress to the semi-finals as the world number-one ranked ODI team.
But if it falters along the way, even once, and Australia remains unbeaten, then Australia will make a rapid return to top spot by the time the tournament is reduced down to four.
Meanwhile, further down the ICC ODI Championship table, there is still plenty of movement possible over the coming weeks. Just 13 ratings points separates New Zealand in third (115) and West Indies in eighth (102).
With fourth-placed team Pakistan and sixth-placed India having been eliminated in the group stage, there is an opportunity for the likes of the West Indies, England and Sri Lanka to move up the rankings if they can discover that winning feeling in the Super Eights.
As South Africa takes the ODI Championship, Australia can take consolation on two fronts. First of all, as runner-up it will receive US$75,000 and secondly, it has reached the cut-off date top of the LG ICC Test Championship and so will receive a further US$175,000 for that achievement.
While most minds are currently concentrated on the one-day game with the World Cup in full swing in the Caribbean, it should be remembered that the Australia Test team has proved over a protracted period that it is the dominant force in the longer form of the game.
It is the third year in a row that Australia has won the ICC Test Championship and in the past 12 months it has played seven Test matches and won all of them. That included all five Tests against England as Ponting's men became the first Australia team to win all matches in an Ashes series since the Warwick Armstrong-led side of 1920-21.
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