Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Proteas edge closer to No 1
Cape Town - South Africa got the news they wanted on Monday, with Pakistan’s 3-0 Test series clean sweep over England
duly completed to give the Proteas an unexpectedly early stab at seizing No 1 spot on the ICC rankings.
The outcome in Dubai, where top-placed England ended three weeks of rare humiliation in succumbing by 71 runs, meant that Graeme Smith’s team might now go to England later in the year already atop the rankings, as a 3-0 sweep of their own against New Zealand away next month will propel them a notch up from their present second spot.
The Proteas play Twenty20 and one-day international matches against the Black Caps first, before the Test series begins in Dunedin on March 7.
New Zealand’s lowly status on the Test rankings - eighth - is deceptive because they have been in good form recently, and South Africa prevailing there, and then later in Hamilton and Wellington as well, will not be an easy task.
But it is still a mathematical incentive for the Proteas that had not seemed likely to be in place ahead of England’s trip to the United Arab Emirates, as there had been few reasons to suggest Andrew Strauss and company would be so emphatically dismantled.
South Africa have never lost a series to New Zealand, home or away, but they have also never managed to “sweep” a series against them of three Tests or more.
Six of the last seven series between the two have been played out over three contests, with the most recent in New Zealand (2003/04) shared 1-1 with one stalemate.
In the last two series on our soil, in 2000/01 and then 2005/06, with South Africa led by Shaun Pollock
and Smith respectively, the Proteas have won 2-0 with the tourists snatching a draw each time.
The first ever series between the two southern hemisphere teams, in New Zealand in 1931/32, was won 2-0 by Jock Cameron’s South Africans, but there were only two Tests as the tourists had already completed a gruelling five-Test visit to Australia.