India have finished at the top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test rankings and taken home the purse of $1 million for a third consecutive year, the governing body said on Monday.
India, who registered their first series victory in Australia at the turn of the year, finished with 116 points on the April 1 cut-off date, eight points ahead of New Zealand who finished second and took home $500,000.
South Africa finished third with 105 points while Australia finished with 104 points to finish fourth, a few decimal points ahead of England.
"Retaining the ICC Test championship mace once again is something we are all really proud of," India captain Virat Kohli, who won the ICC's cricketer, Test and one-day international player of the year awards in January, said in a statement.
"Our team has been doing well across formats but it gives us extra pleasure to come out on top of the Test rankings. We all know of the importance of Test cricket and of how only the best can prosper in the format."
A top place finish was never in doubt for India, while New Zealand's consistent performances over the past year saw them climb from third position, needing them to only avoid losing the home series against Bangladesh last month to finish at the same position.
The Kane Williamson-led side, who also had the satisfaction of seeing their captain get the ICC Spirit of Cricket award for 2018, earned US$500,000 after finishing with 108 points, eight behind India.
South Africa, who had finished second the previous two times, will now get a prize money of US$200,000 for finishing third with 105 points while Australia who edged out England on decimal points at 104 points bag US$100,000.
"Our team has a lot of depth and I am sure this will stand us in good stead once the ICC World Test Championship commences later this year. That is again something we are really looking forward to as it adds more context to Test match cricket," Kohli said.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said it was an "awesome" achievement for his side to finish second in the ICC Test Team Rankings
"...as a team we should be very proud. It's come off the back of a lot of hard work and perseverance; not just by the eleven guys on the field, but the entire squad and support staff.
"It's been especially pleasing to see the consistency we've shown in the longest form of the game over a decent period of time."
ICC chief executive Manu Sawhney congratulated the Indian team while reiterating the importance of Test cricket and looking forward to the start of the World Test Championship after the World Cup in May-July.
"I congratulate India on retaining the ICC Test Championship Mace and appreciate the passion Virat Kohli's team has shown across formats over the past few years. Test cricket has been enjoying a purple patch over the last couple of years with more positive results than ever and a genuine competitive balance between nations," he said.
The ICC's world Test championship begins in August, after the 50-over World Cup in England, with nine Test playing nations taking part in 71 Test matches spread across 27 series to reach the final in 2021.
ICC Test Team Rankings (as of April 1 2019)
1. India 116 points
2. New Zealand 108
3. South Africa 105
4. Australia 104
5. England 104
6. Sri Lanka 93
7. Pakistan 88
8. West Indies 77
9. Bangladesh 69
10. Zimbabwe 13