South Africa has retained the iconic ICC Test Championship mace and with it has won a cash award of USD$500,000 following its 2-0 series win over the West Indies in Cape Town on Tuesday. 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, the South Africans cannot be removed from the top Test pedestal at the 1 April annual cut-off date. The Proteas now have 124 ratings points, and, even if Australia wins the Sydney Test, it will finish on 119 ratings points, which will earn it 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 1 April but because the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be played between 14 February and 29 March, 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 has held the number-one position since August 2012, following its 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 of 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, Lord’s, 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 Reliance 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.” Cricket South Africa President and ICC Director Chris Nenzani said, “This is a proud moment, not just for the Cricket South Africa family, but for our entire nation to congratulate the Proteas on finishing the 2014/15 season as the ICC’s number-one ranked Test team. Coach Russell Domingo, captain Hashim Amla, vice-captain AB De Villiers and the rest of the senior management have done a wonderful job in ensuring a smooth transition from the Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis era into a bright and promising future. We have been blessed with some phenomenal individual talents but to me the hallmark of the Proteas has been their team culture. They are truly a team in the broadest sense of the word and their successes are richly deserved.”
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson congratulated South Africa, saying, “The Reliance ICC Test Championship mace is a recognition of excellence and I would like to congratulate South Africa on retaining it for the third successive year by finishing the season at the top of the table. It has been an exciting 12 months for Test cricket. We have witnessed hard-fought matches, exceptional batting performances and the resurgence of genuine fast bowling. A combination of competitive wickets, attacking play, proactive captaincy and pragmatic officiating has provided supporters with compelling matches and series around the world. I would like to thank all the players, match officials, administrators and curators for their contributions that help ensure Test cricket continues to thrive and remains the number-one format of the game.”
Photo credit: Chris Freeman