26 March 2009
The Australian and South African cricket teams were recognised for their achievements over the past year when the ICC’s test championship mace and one-day championship shield were presented to captains Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
The awards are presented to the top ranked test and one-day international (ODI) teams, with the annual cut-off date being 1 April.
After winning both the test and ODI series when they toured Australia at the end of the 2008, the Proteas had an opportunity to finish top of both rankings. To do that, they would have to repeat their test series victory over the Australians in South Africa. Australia fought back to win the series by a 2-1 margin and hold onto their number ranking.
With the one-day international series yet to come, South Africa’s position at the top of the rankings was not threatened.
For finishing top of the ODI and test rankings, Cricket South Africa and Cricket Australia also received $175 000 respectively. The Proteas finished second in the test rankings and Australia second in the ODI rankings, which meant more money for Cricket South Africa and Cricket Australia: $75 000 each.
Former South African wicketkeeper Dave Richardson, now the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) general manager, made the presentations. “These awards are a recognition of excellence,” he said.
He also spoke about the enthralling rivalry that has developed between South Africa and Australia on the cricket field; their competition in Australia at the end of 2008 and the ongoing series in South Africa has been marked by good cricket that has drawn strong support from South African cricket supporters, and has also been keenly watched by cricket fans around the world.
‘A remarkable achievement’
“Australia has been at the top of the Test Championship table for a very long time now and that is a remarkable achievement,” said Richardson.
“It is one thing getting to the top, but it much harder to stay there, and when they were beaten in the series in Australia, Ricky and his players came to South Africa in real danger of losing their number-one spot.
“But they showed great character and skill in the first two tests to make sure of winning the series and remaining on top.”
He then turned his attention to the country he represented in 42 tests and 122 one-day internationals. “South Africa has been pushing Australia in both the Test and ODI formats of the game for quite some time and is deservedly top of the ODI Championship,” said Richardson.
“Playing the game in the right spirit’
“I want to congratulate both sides for their dedication, ability to entertain us all, and for playing the game in the right spirit. I wish them all the best for the coming year,” he added.
SA captain Graeme Smith reflected on the improvement of his team in recent years, saying: “If you look back a couple of years, we were probably fourth or fifth in both the test and ODI rankings, so to be second in the test rankings and number-one in one-dayers is a great feeling and is testament to how far we have come.
Clearly, though, Smith wants to achieve even more success. He said: “The hunger is there and we have shown that we can compete with Australia in both those formats of the game, and I am optimistic that we can eventually lead both sets of rankings because we have the right plan and the right attitude at the moment.”
Australian skipper Ricky Ponting praised his team for their hard work, especially for their focus and improvement to beat South Africa in South Africa after thye Australians had lost a test series at home for the first time since 1992/93.
“I think the way we performed in the first two tests of the series was as good as we have played in a long time, and it gave me perhaps more pleasure than any other series I have been a part of, either as a player or a captain.”
One-day international series
The teams played two Twenty20 internationals – on Friday, 27 March at the Wanderers in Johannesburg and on Sunday, 29 March at SuperSport Park in Centurion – before facing off in a five-match one-day international series.
The first ODI takes place at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead in Durban on Friday, 3 April, starting at 14:30. SuperSport Park in Centurion hosts the second ODI on Sunday, 5 April, with the match starting at 10:00.
The series then moves to Cape Town’s Sahara Park Newlands on Thursday, 9 April, with the start scheduled for 14:30. Then it’s on to Port Elizabeth’s Sahara Oval Saint George’s Park for the fourth ODI on Monday, 13 April, which starts at 10:00.
The curtain comes down on the series on Friday, 17 April when the Wanderers in Johannesburg hosts the fifth ODI.
The much anticipated Indian Premier League starts the next day, 18 April.
Reliance Mobile ICC Test Championship Standings
- Australia, 128
- South Africa, 119
- India, 118
- Sri Lanka, 108
- Pakistan, 100
- England, 98
- West Indies, 89
- New Zealand, 81
- Bangladesh, 0
Reliance Mobile ICC ODI Championship
- South Africa, 125
- Australia, 124
- India, 122
- New Zealand, 112
- Pakistan, 111
- England, 107
- Sri Lanka, 105
- West Indies, 92
- Bangladesh, 46
- Zimbabwe, 23
- Ireland, 19
- Kenya, 0
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