Dubai: England have secured the top spot in the International Cricket Council Test Championship table at the April 1 cut-off date, after the first Test between New Zealand and South Africa ended in a draw in Dunedin on Sunday.
This is the first time since the current rankings system was introduced in 2003 that England have topped the table at the cut-off date, meaning they will retain the Championship mace and will also receive a cheque of $175,000, presented annually to the side that tops the table.
For the next three years, $3.8m will be distributed in prize money with the side topping the table at the cut-off date in 2013 receiving a minimum of $450,000 and rising to $500,000 in 2015. From 2016, there will be further increases in Test prize money.
Graeme Smith's men had entered the Test series against New Zealand needing to win all the three Tests to move ahead of England. But after the draw in Dunedin, the best series result South Africa can now achieve is a 2-0 win, which will keep them at 117 ratings point, one behind England.
Because of bad weather, no play was possible on the fifth and last day of the first Test, after New Zealand had finished the penultimate day's play at 137-2 after being set a victory target of 401.
South Africa now need to ensure that they don't lose the remaining two Tests so that they can finish in second place on the table and with it win $75,000.
If the Proteas win 1-0, they will finish on 116 ratings points while in case of a one-all drawn series, South Africa will end up on 113 ratings points - two ahead of India and Australia who are on 111 ratings points, each but Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side is ranked above Michael Clarke's side when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.
If New Zealand wins both the Tests, then South Africa will slip behind India and Australia on 108 ratings points, while New Zealand will gain 10 ratings points and will jump to 93 ratings points.
England have been holding on to the number-one position since toppling India from the top spot after inflicting a 4-0 defeat in the last English summer.
ICC Test Championship table (before the start of New Zealand-South Africa Test series, to be updated only after the end of the series)
1 England 118
2 South Africa 117
3 India 111
4 Australia 111
5 Pakistan 108
6 Sri Lanka 98
7 West Indies 87
8 New Zealand 83
9 Bangladesh 4