Dubai:India on Thursday retained their number one status in Test cricket after the thrilling victory over South Africa in Kolkata, which also entitles them to USD 175,000 given to the team that tops the chart at the annual cut-off date.
With this victory, Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men also ended Australia's seven-year run of finishing on top spot at the annual cut-off date.
Consequentially, India will retain the ICC Championships mace which they won after beating Sri Lanka 2-0 in the home series in December last year, besides pocketing the USD 175,000 prize money which is presented to the side that reaches the April 1 cut-off date in top spot.
India was in serious danger of losing its top spot after South Africa won the Nagpur Test last week and then bad weather yesterday allowed only 31 overs of play on the penultimate day of the second Test.
However, Harbhajan Singh took 5/59 and Amit Mishra bagged 3/78 as South Africa was bowled out for 290 despite a fighting 123 not out by Hashim Amla, his second century of the Test.
The 1-1 series result means that the pre-series status-quo in terms of positions on the table is maintained though India (124) lost one rating point while South Africa has stayed second on 120 points.
Australia (116) are third in the ICC Test chart, followed by Sri Lanka (115) and England (107).
Although Bangladesh will host England for a two-Test series and Australia will travel to New Zealand also for a two-Test series before the cut-off date, the situation at the top of the table is such that none of the four teams, no matter what is the outcome of the series, is capable of toppling India.
It is the first time India has topped the ICC Test chart at the annual cut-off date since the rankings were introduced in June 2003.
In 2008, it finished second and it was placed third in 2005 and 2006, fourth in 2007 and sixth in 2004.
It was another heart-break for Graeme Smith's side which once again came agonisingly close to achieving the top spot but having to settle with a USD 75,000 cheque which is presented to the side that finishes second.
Last year also, they needed a series win to finish at the top of the Test table at the April 1 cut-off date but it lost the home series to Australia 1-2 and finished nine ratings points behind Ricky Ponting's side.
The presentations of the prize money cheques will be made after the second-placed team in the ICC ODI Championship table is decided.
Both India and South Africa, second and third respectively in ICC ODI table, are also in contention to earn an additional USD 75,000 that will be presented to the side that finishes second on the ODI table at the April 1 cut-off date.
The two sides, separated by just two rating points, will go head to head in the three-match ODI series on February 21 in Jaipur and the side that wins the series will finish second and will earn an additional USD 75,000.
Australia is already guaranteed a number-one finish as it currently sits on 131 ratings points and even if it loses the fifth ODI against the West Indies and all the five forthcoming ODIs against New Zealand, it will only drop to 126 ratings points which will be enough to earn it USD 175,000.
The side that finishes on top of the ODI Championship table at the April 1 cut-off date receives a shield and a cheque of USD 175,000 while the side that finishes second receives USD 75,000.