South Africa are once again the No 1 Test side in the world after winning their two-match Test series against Sri Lanka 1-0.
After batting out a tense fifth day to draw the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo, the Proteas will climb above Australia, who claimed the mace following their 2-1 series victory over South Africa in March, when the rankings are updated later this week.
Sitting just a fraction of a point behind Australia, the Proteas needed to claim a win in the series in Sri Lanka in order to take them to 124 points, one above Australia, who are on 123. After securing an all-important victory in the first Test, it was clear that the side was content with drawing the Test in Colombo, as it would mean both an historic series victory in Sri Lanka, as well as the opportunity to regain the Test mace.
Many fans will feel vindication in the Proteas’ return to the top spot, after they were unexpectedly demoted following the series loss to Australia. South Africa’s record over the past five years shows just one series loss compared to Australia, who had endured a torrid period, losing home and away on multiple occasions.
However, the fly in the ointment comes with the news that the Proteas could lose the No 1 ranking as quickly as they regained it. Even if, as expected, they beat Zimbabwe in their one-off Test in Harare in two weeks’ time, they could find themselves dropping down the table once again if Australia triumph over Pakistan in their two-Test series scheduled for late October.
The problem lies in Zimbabwe’s low ranking. A win over a poorly ranked side doesn’t give a top-ranked side as many points as a win over a side of similar quality to them. That means South Africa will stay on 124 points until their series against West Indies in December, regardless of the result of the Harare Test. A win over Pakistan would give Australia either one, two, or three rankings points (depending on the margin of victory, as well as other series results), putting them above South Africa.
But for now, Hashim Amla and his charges can rest assured that their return to No 1 is well-deserved.
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