South Africa have retained the iconic ICC Test Championship mace and with it have won a cash award of USD 500,000 following their 2-0 series win over the West Indies in Cape Town on Tuesday. (South Africa Win 2-0)
The series win means irrespective of how both the fourth Test between Australia and India, and the second Test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, pan out, South Africa cannot be removed from the top Test pedestal at the April 1 annual cut-off date. India remain at No. 6 position.
South Africa now have 124 ratings points, and, even if Australia win the Sydney Test, they will finish on 119 ratings points, which will earn them second position and an award of USD 390,000. A defeat in the Sydney Test will result in Australia losing points but still remaining a place ahead of third-ranked England and fourth-ranked Pakistan, who will collect USD 280,000 and USD 170,000, respectively.
The annual cut-off date for the ICC Test Championship is April 1 but because the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be played between February 14 and March 29, these three are the last Test series of the season, thus bringing forward the annual cut-off date.
South Africa first surged to the top of the Test table in November 2009 and have held the number-one position since August 2012, following their 2-0 victory in England. This completes a hat-trick of winning the mace at the annual cut-off dates.
South Africa captain Hashim Amla collected the mace and a cheque for USD 500,000 on behalf of his side from ICC Chief Executive David Richardson in a presentation ceremony that took place after the conclusion of the Cape Town Test.
Amla, upon receiving the prestigious mace, said: "The 2014/15 Test season was a great advert for the longer format of the game. We saw enthralling battles between the Test-playing nations, which only highlighted and gave greater significance to Test cricket's place amongst the three formats. From Bridgetown, Bulawayo, Dhaka, Galle, Lords, Sharjah and Melbourne to name a few; Test cricket has been alive across the world.
"We had a sparse Test schedule this season due to the focus on 50-over cricket, however, I am pleased by the progress our team has made with away wins in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and a series win at home to the West Indies.
"The squad has gone through a transition period after the retirements of our legends Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith. Thankfully, we have managed to make an almost seamless transition, which is a testament to the team environment and culture.
"Our focus at the start of the season was to win games for South Africa; to work on finding winning combinations and personally, to find my feet as a new captain, so to finish on top of the ICC Test Team Rankings is almost the cherry on top. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 is the obvious challenge for the first few months this year, but we have away tours to Bangladesh and India, then England at home, so I'm looking forward to an exciting year for our Test team."