South Africa need to defeat Zimbabwe in a one-off Test starting on Saturday if they are to keep their number-one position on the Reliance ICC Test Team Rankings Table after reclaiming the top spot following a 1-0 series victory against Sri Lanka. A draw or loss in Harare will see Hashim Amla’s team drop below Australia into second position. Zimbabwe’s ranking of ninth will not change regardless of the outcome of the Test, but should the side defeat the Proteas, it will gain 10 ratings points and close the gap with eighth-ranked West Indies.
South Africa’s AB De Villiers (first) and Hashim Amla (third) are the top-ranked batsmen expected to be seen in action, while Faf Du Plessis (18th) is the other Proteas batsman inside the top 20. For Zimbabwe, captain Brendan Taylor (29th) is the highest ranked batsman. Dale Steyn will start the one-off Test as the number-one ranked bowler, leading team mates Vernon Philander (fourth) and Morne Morkel (16th) as the players in the top 20 who are likely to be seen.
Meanwhile, the two-Test series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan starts in Galle on Wednesday, with the hosts aiming to improve their ICC Test Team ranking and Pakistan looking to retain its third position. The Sri Lankans are in sixth position. While the final rankings of each team are heavily dependent on the ongoing five-Test series between England and India, both will be aiming for a series win to avoid downwards movement.
The series between the English and Indians will end a day after the series between Sri Lanka and Pakistan finishes. England and India are currently locked in a 1-1 deadlock after three Tests. Meanwhile, Pakistan must win the series to maintain its hold on third position and thereby close the gap with South Africa and Australia in first and second place, respectively, while Sri Lanka could drop a place to seventh in such a scenario.
On the other hand, if Sri Lanka were to win the series 1-0, it could move up one place to fifth, while a 2-0 win will hand Angelo Mathews’ side a rise of two places to fourth. A series loss by any margin will mean that Pakistan would drop to sixth.
A 1-1 series deadlock will see both sides maintaining their pre-series rankings. Sri Lanka and Pakistan will start their two-match Test series with as many as three of the top 10 batsmen in the ICC Player Rankings for Test Batsmen likely to be seen in action. Kumar Sangakkara, who was adjudged the ICC Cricketer of the Year and Test Cricketer of the Year in 2012 at the LG ICC Awards in Colombo, will lead the charge, alongside skipper Angelo Mathews (sixth) and his Pakistan counter-part Misbah-ul-Haq (seventh) during the two-Test series.
Among the other stars in the top 20, Pakistan’s Younus Khan (11th) and Sri Lanka’s Mahela Jayawardene (14th) are also expected to play. Among the bowlers inside the top 20 of the ICC Player Rankings for Test Bowlers likely to be seen in action are Saeed Ajmal (fifth), Rangana Herath (eighth), Abdur Rehman (14th) and Junaid Khan (17th).