Colombo:Kumar Sangakkara's Sri Lanka will have more than just a series win at stake when they take on New Zealand in the second and final cricket Test here from Wednesday.
With Ashes losers Australia relegated from the number one spot for the first time since official Test rankings were introduced in 2003, the race has begun for second place, behind South Africa on a rating of 122.
Sri Lanka, who are now joint second with India on 119, will hold the position on their own if they defeat New Zealand in the second Test at the Sinhalese sports club and take the series 2-0.
A draw or a loss will give India the second spot, with Sri Lanka third and Ricky Ponting's Australians confined to fourth place on 116 after Sunday's 197-run defeat to England at the Oval.
Andrew Strauss's victorious England stay in fifth position on 105 despite their 2-1 win according to a system in which Test rankings are updated at the end of each series.
Ahead of their encounter against Sri Lanka, New Zealand were ranked seventh, on 82.
Sangakkara, whose team beat the illness-plagued Kiwis by a massive 202 runs in the first Test in Galle on Saturday, said rankings were important in that they reflected the consistency of a side.
"Winning by playing consistently well is a key issue and I think we have been able to achieve that," he said.
Sri Lanka won the preceding home series against Pakistan 2-0, but former captain Mahela Jayawardene warned against taking victory against New Zealand for granted.
"They are tough opponents, they play hard and keep coming at you," Jayawardene, who hit 114 in the first Test, wrote on the Cricinfo website.
"We need to guard against being complacent and do the things that we have been doing well for the last two or three years.
"We have played some really good Test cricket, and we have to continue doing that. It's about doing the things that matter right: building partnerships, building pressure, winning sessions.
"If we concentrate on doing that, the results will come our way."
The tourists, who had 13 of their 15 players laid low by stomach bugs and fever during the Galle Test, were confident they will field a full-strength team on Wednesday.
"We have no idea what caused the illness but everyone is recovering well," said team manager Dave Currie.
Skipper Daniel Vettori begins the Test needing just two more wickets to become only the ninth player in history to achieve the all-rounder's double of 3,000 runs and 300 wickets.
The 93-Test veteran was New Zealand's star performer in Galle, with five wickets and knocks of 42 and 67 and is again expected to lead from the front.
Vettori now assumes more responsibility after New Zealand Cricket on Sunday inducted him and coach Andy Moles into a revamped selection panel alongside Glenn Turner and Mark Greatbach.
The captain and coach join the panel on September 1 which gives them greater power in team selection, with voting rights rather than just an advisory role.
"When you are responsible for the team's performance, you want to have some control on selection," Vettori said.
"I had a heavy involvement (with selection matter) prior to this appointment, so hopefully my role within the team and the way I am perceived among the team, remains the same."