Dubai:South Africa leapfrogged India to the second spot, pushing Anil Kumble's men to the third place in the annual update of the ICC Test Championship table issued on Wednesday.
England too lost a place and slipped to fourth but if Michael Vaughan's men can beat the South Africans in the four-match Test series starting from , India would benefit from the outcome and regain its second place.
However, Australia continues to be the table topper, thanks to their 2-0 win against the West Indies in the Caribbeans.
The annual update is carried out to ensure the table continues to reflect recent and current form with results older than last three years being discarded.
The new table no longer reflects series concluded before August 1, 2005 and that benefits South Africa because it means losing series against Sri Lanka (0-1), India (0-1) and England (1-2) no longer feature in the calculations.
For India, a narrow series loss at home to Australia (1-2), that series win over South Africa and a drawn series with Pakistan (1-1) no longer count.
To retain second place, South Africa needs to avoid defeat in the series against England. But if England wins the series 1-0 or 2-1, then India and South Africa will swap places.
A win for England by 2-0, 3-1 or 3-0 will leave India second, but see England go third, with South Africa slipping back to fourth.
A 4-0 clean sweep for England would lift its rating to 114 and into second place, with India third (at its current mark of 113 points) and South Africa further adrift on 106 points.
If the series is tied, South Africa and India would be level on 113 points but the Proteas would retain second place when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.
Among the bowlers, Indian Test skipper Anil Kumble continues to be the lone Indian in the top 10, at the eight position. However, South African pacer Dale Steyn is within a touching distance of replacing Muttiah Muralidaran to be the new numero uno as just five rating points separates him from the Sri Lankan.
England has four players while South Africa has the two highest ranked players in the ICC Player Rankings for Test bowlers.
While no Indian batsman figures in the table, Kumar Sangakkara of Sri Lanka is at the top followed by Shivnarine Chanderpaul of West Indies and Aussie batsman Mike Hussey is in the third spot.
South African Jacques Kallis is the top all-rounder in the ICC Player Rankings with Flintoff in third place, sandwiched by New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori.