Proteas eye ICC cash bait

2012-01-31 11:24
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – A couple of weeks ago, the possibility of South Africa rising to No 1 in the Test rankings reasonably early in 2012 seemed a far-fetched one.

But thanks to Pakistan’s surge to an unexpected series victory over currently top-ranked England in the United Arab Emirates with one match still to play, the Proteas may head to New Zealand shortly in with a shout at a roughly R1.4-million cash bonanza from the International Cricket Council.

Certainly they will know, before they tackle the Black Caps in the first of three Tests in Dunedin from March 7 – they play all their limited-overs fixtures first – whether toppling England from their perch is a realistic prospect.

For that to happen, South Africa must hope Pakistan complete a humiliating clean sweep over England (it is presently 2-0 to them with one further Test in Dubai to follow from Friday) and then set their sights on nothing less than a 3-0 outcome themselves when they tackle the Kiwis.

On April 1, the ICC provides US$175 000 to the team heading the Test rankings, and that could be the Proteas under those circumstances, difficult though the task obviously remains.

The side in second gets a lesser booty of US$75 000.

With England’s batting, especially, suddenly in some disarray against a canny, spin-dominated Pakistani attack, memories of their glorious 4-0 thrashing of India in the last English summer are fading fast, and players like SA-born Kevin Pietersen – series scores thus far 2, 0, 14 and 1 – have attracted mounting criticism.

Graeme Smith’s Proteas side again played a curious mix of rousing and wretched Test cricket in beating Sri Lanka 2-1 at home recently, and will attempt to find a more consistently clinical touch when they face New Zealand.

The Black Caps come off some decent results, recent achievements including a series-squaring victory over Australia in Hobart and then muscular dismantling of Zimbabwe in Napier last weekend, but they are still a lowly eighth on the rankings so South Africa ought to start as reasonably clear favourites.

Their last Test tour of the country in 2003/04 ended in a 1-1 outcome over three Tests.

The top four in the rankings right now are: 1. England (rating 125); 2. South Africa 117; 3. India 111; 4. Australia 111.

Read more on:    graeme smith  |  proteas

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