Australia’s grip on the No.1 ODI team ranking might be slipping but the world champions’ hopes on hanging on to the title remains a remote possibility.
Following their 0-2 Chappell-Hadlee series defeat in New Zealand last week, Australia’s lead over South Africa at the top of the International Cricket Council ODI charts was cut to just a fraction of a point.
Australia remain at the summit of the ODI rankings on 118.48 points, ahead of the Proteas on 117.73, with New Zealand a spot further back in third on 113.15.
If South Africa, who currently hold a 3-0 lead in their five-match series against Sri Lanka, win the final two ODIs, they will move to the top of the rankings and be in the box seat to finish off the international year as the best in the 50-over format.
The Proteas then head to New Zealand for another five-match ODI series which will determine the order of the one-day team rankings.
However, Australia can still be the No.1 ODI by the April 1 cut-off date if the one of the following scenarios occurs.
1) If South Africa whitewashes Sri Lanka 5-0 but lose to the Black Caps 3-2, or
2) If the Proteas fail to sweep Sri Lanka but win the series 4-1, then beat New Zealand 3-2, Australia would be ahead of South Africa by a fraction of a point
The team at the top of the ODI rankings come April 1 receives a hefty cheque from the ICC, as does the No.1 Test team, which will be India unless Steve Smith’s men can cause a major upset on the subcontinent.
The 2015 World Cup winners have been inconsistent in the one-day game in recent times, losing heavily to South Africa (0-5) and New Zealand (0-2) away while beating the Black Caps (3-0) and Pakistan (4-1) at home this summer.
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Australia’s next ODI assignment will be this winter’s ICC Champions Trophy in the United Kingdom, which has been resurrected after it was farewelled in 2013 with victory to India.
The tournament, which Australia have won twice (in 2006 and 2009), runs from June 1 to June 18 and will be a prelude to the 2019 50-over World Cup held in England and Wales.