Victory in the Cape Town Test against Pakistan has guaranteed South Africa the number-one position on the ICC Test Championship table at the 1 April cut-off date and also a hefty prize purse of $ 450,000 for the achievement.
None of South Africa’s closest rivals -- England, Australia and India -- now can overtake.
South Africa had entered the series on 124 ratings points and only needed to draw the series to retain the Test mace.
But victory in the Cape Town Test by four wickets means even if it loses the third and final Test at Centurion, it will still gain one ratings point and finish on 125 points, which will be more than sufficient to give it the top spot at the cut-off date irrespective of how the India-Australia and England-New Zealand series pan out.
If England wins all the three Tests against New Zealand, the maximum it can achieve is 119, while India can rise to as high as 112 if it defeats Australia 4-0 and Australia can move to 121 if it wins all four Tests against India.
This is a significant increase in prize money, as, until last year, the side topping the Test or ODI Championship table received $175,000.
While South Africa has sealed the number-one spot, the battle for second, third and fourth positions is still on, and is not only intense but close, as only 13 ratings points separate second-ranked England from fifth-ranked India.
The side that claims second position at the 1 April cut-off date will earn $350,000 while the side finishing third will collect $250,000 and the side ending fourth will earn $150,000.
Meanwhile, Pakistan players have gained in the Reliance ICC Test Player Rankings despite suffering defeat against South Africa.
Younus Khan, who scored 111 and 14, has returned to the top 10 in ninth spot after rising two places while Azhar Ali’s total aggregate of 69 runs has earned him 11th spot.
Asad Shafiq, however, is the biggest mover inside the top 50 in the latest player rankings. The 27-year-old from Karachi, who scored 111 and 19, has jumped 12 places to join England’s Ian Bell in 16th position. Asad is now Pakistan’s fourth batsman inside the top 20 as Misbah-ul-Haq is in 12th position (down by two).
South Africa’s Robin Peterson, who scored a crucial 84 in the first innings, has rocketed 44 places to claim 100th position. Faf du Plessis in 33rd (up by one place), Vernon Philander in 85th (up by three places) and Dean Elgar in 86th (up by six places) are the other home side batsmen to make upward movements.
Hashim Amla, who scored 25 and 58, has retained his number-one ranking while fourth-ranked AB de Villiers, who scored 61 and 36, has achieved a career-best rating to date of 851 to lead fifth placed Kumar Sangakkara by nine ratings points but still trails third-ranked Shivnarine Chanderpaul by 28 ratings points. Australia captain Michael Clarke remains second.
In the Player Rankings for Test bowlers, Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal has returned to the top three in third spot. Saeed had match figures of 10 for 147 for which he has been rewarded with 58 ratings points. This has given him a career-best ratings to date of 847 and also a jump of two places.
Saeed now trails second-ranked Philander by 42 ratings points. Philander has collected 32 ratings points for his figures of five for 59 and four for 40. Dale Steyn is sitting on top of the tree, 18 ratings points ahead of his new ball partner.
Pakistan’s Mohammad Irfan, who took three wickets in the first innings of the Cape Town Test, has entered the table in 95th position.
In the ICC Test Player Rankings for all-rounders, Jacques Kallis has swapped places with Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan, who reclaims the number one position.