Dubai:Australia's top position in the International Cricket Council (ICC) ranking is under threat, with South Africans waiting to seize the spot if the world champions fail to qualify for the finals of the triangular series one-day series starting in Brisbane on Sunday.
With South Africa giving them a stiff competition, Australia, who will compete with India and Sri Lanka in the tri-series, know they will have to be on the top of their game to keep their number one position.
Eight teams are competing for top positions with the cut-off date for seedings for the 2008 Champions Trophy, March 12, fast approaching. That tournament will be held in Pakistan.
Pakistan's fifth and final ODI in its series with Zimbabwe also begins Saturday while South Africa will be seeking to complete a clean sweep of the West Indies when they meet for the series finale in Johannesburg Sunday.
If the Proteas win that game, they will finish on 127 ratings points on the LG ICC ODI Championship table, just three behind leader Australia.
However, with New Zealand hosting England for a five-match ODI series starting Friday as well as the tri-series in Australia, there will be plenty of opportunities for teams to make their moves with that tournament in mind.
Depending on various permutations, it is must for Australia to make it to the final of the tri-series as they face India for the first ODI Sunday in order to cling on to top the spot. But even that might not be enough.
With just five ratings points currently separating New Zealand in third position from England in seventh and with India just two points behind, the competition is going to be fierce over the coming weeks to see who finishes where.
Wherever the top eight teams sit on that date will dictate the make-up of the two groups for the big event, which takes place in Pakistan in September.