Second-ranked Australia goes head to head with New Zealand in a two-Test series in Wellington on Friday aware that they have to win the series to seal the number-one Test spot on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings table at the annual cut-off date.
The annual cut-off date is 1 April, but since this is the final Test series before focus shifts to the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016, the decision on the best Test side will be confirmed by 24 Feb when the second Test concludes in Christchurch.
This, in turn, means along with the number-one position, the prestigious ICC Test Championship mace, as well as, a cash prize of $1 million is up for grabs.
India to top the rankings if Aus fails to win
The ICC Board, during its October 2015 meetings, had improved the incentives for Test performances by increasing the level of Test ranking prize money, to be allocated as following:
No.1 ranked Test side - $1million
No.2 ranked Test side - $500K
No.3 ranked Test side - $200K
No.4 ranked Test side - $100K
TOTAL - $1.8million
India currently occupies the number-one Test position on 110 points, but Australia is just one point behind. If Australia wins the series 1-0, then they will finish with 111 points while a 2-0 win will put it on 112 points. A 1-1 draw will mean Australia will join South Africa on 109 points, but will be ranked third when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point.
On the other side of the coin, if New Zealand wins the series 1-0, then Australia will drop to third on 106 points, fraction of a point ahead of Pakistan, and fourth on 105 points if the home side wins both Tests.
For New Zealand, the incentive is to gain a place and move ahead of England to the fifth position. But to make it happen, they will have to win both Tests. It will drop to 96 points but will retain its sixth position if Australia wins both the matches.
Smith and Williamson to battle for No. 1 batsman’s spot
Meanwhile, Australia captain Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson will resume their battle for the number-one position on the MRF Tyres ICC Test Rankings for Test Batsmen. Smith leads Williamson by 10 points after leapfrogging the New Zealander following the Boxing Day Test against the West Indies.
Fifth-ranked David Warner is the other batsman inside the top five who will be aiming to break into the top three. The left-handed opener trails fourth-ranked Hashim Amla by six points while the duo of Williamson and Joe Root are 35 points ahead.
Adam Voges of Australia is also inside the top 10 and shares 10th position with India’s Ajinkya Rahane, with Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq 11 points ahead.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum will enter in his farewell Test in 19th position among batsmen and will aim to finish solidly inside the top 20. McCullum is 20 points behind India’s 16th-ranked Murali Vijay.
McCullum has been inside the top 20 since December 2013 while he achieved his career-high ranking of 12 in December 2014 against Sri Lanka in Christchurch.
In the MRF Tyres ICC Player Rankings for Test Bowlers, Trent Boult of New Zealand will start as the highest-ranked bowler from either side in the seventh position, leading Josh Hazlewood of Australia by 46 points. New Zealand’s Tim Southee is ninth, 10 points behind Hazlewood.
Other high ranking bowlers to feature in the series include Nathan Lyon (14th), Peter Siddle (15th), James Pattinson (21st), Neil Wagner (22nd) and Doug Bracewell (34th).
Stuart Broad is the number-one ranked bowler, followed by Ravichandran Ashwin of India and Pakistan’s Yasir Shah.
MRF Tyres ICC Test Championship table (as of 10 February)
MRF Tyres ICC Test Player Rankings
Batsmen (top 10)
|2||Kane Williamson||New Zealand||889|
|4||Hashim Amla||South Africa||860|
|7||AB de Villiers||South Africa||818|
|8||Angelo Mathews||Sri Lanka||808|
Bowlers (top 10)
|4||Dale Steyn||South Africa||841|
|7||Trent Boult||New Zealand||787|
|9||Tim Southee||New Zealand||731|
|10||Morne Morkel||South Africa||724|
All-rounders (top 5)
|2||Shakib Al Hasan||Bangladesh||384|
|5||Vernon Phillander||South Africa||275|