For Australia, it is not just the Border-Gavaskar Trophy that is on line at Dharamsala in the fourth Test against India starting Saturday, but a lot more.
Steven Smith’s Australia will also have to battle hard to keep their second spot on the ICC Test ranking to pocket the $500,000 cash reward with South Africa closing in to dislodge them ahead of the April 1 cut-off date.
While Virat Kohli’s India are assured to keep their top spot and pocket the $1 million cash award irrespective of the outcome at Dharamsala, the fight is essentially between Australia and South Africa for the second and third place in the ICC rankings.
Australia need at least a draw in the fourth Test against India to maintain their second rank, while South Africa can finish second only if Australia lose in Dharamsala and the Proteas either win or draw the last Test against New Zealand in Hamilton which also gets underway from Saturday.
As per the ICC, the third-placed team on April 1 will receive $200,000 while the fourth-placed team, which will be England, will get $100,000.
The Test team rankings, unlike the ODI and T20I rankings, are updated after the end of a series.
If South Africa manage to pip Australia in the Test rankings, it will be a double blow for Steve Smith as South Africa had snapped their No. 1 ODI ranking earlier this month with a 3-2 series win in New Zealand.
Steve Smith’s Australian cricket team were written off by several pundits before they arrived in India for the four-Test series. However, the visitors have given a tough time to Virat Kohli’s men in the first three Tests.
India were routed in the first Test in Pune on a rank-turner while Virat Kohli’s team fought back in an acrimonious match in Bangalore. The third Test in Ranchi ended in a draw, with Australia salvaging honour with some solid batting from Shaun Marsh and Peter Handscomb on Day 5.
All eyes are now on Dharamsala where both teams are expected to fight tooth and nail to clinch the series.