Australia reclaim No. 1 Test ranking
On a day Michael Clarke called the most satisfying of his career, Australia returned to the No. 1 Test ranking for the first time in nearly five years, after the ICC's annual rankings update. Despite not having played a Test since their series win over South Africa in the first week of March, the Australians have edged ahead of South Africa because the rolling nature of the rankings system means results from 2010-11 have now been dropped.
Michael Clarke's men also hold the top position in the one-day rankings, meaning it is the first time since December 2008 that Australia have been No. 1 in both the Test and ODI formats. It is the first time since August 2009 that they have sat at the top of the Test rankings, having originally been displaced following their unsuccessful Ashes tour of England that year.
In Twenty20s, meanwhile, Sri Lanka, who were crowned World T20 champions just last month, lose the No. 1 ranking to India.
The annual update means results from 2012-13 are reduced to a 50% weighting, so Australia's home Ashes fiasco in 2010-11 and their six Test losses across two tours of India have now either disappeared entirely from the rankings or been devalued. Their home Ashes clean-sweep over the past summer and their 2-1 win in South Africa allowed them to move ahead of South Africa, who had been No. 1 since August 2012, by a fraction of a point.
India have suffered a significant fall, slipping from third down to fifth, while England and Pakistan have each gained a place, up to third and fourth respectively. New Zealand and Sri Lanka switched places, with New Zealand now ranked sixth in Tests and Sri Lanka down to seventh, while West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh remain unchanged at the bottom of the table.
However, Australia's immediate reign at No. 1 could be short-lived, with South Africa facing two Tests in Sri Lanka and one in Zimbabwe before Australia's next Test series, which is against Pakistan in the UAE in October. Still, the return to the top is a significant achievement after Australia slipped as low as fifth on the Test rankings in 2010 and 2011, and then went nine consecutive Tests without a win during 2013.
"The last two years have been extremely positive in some ways and there's been a number of tough times, and for a team that makes days like these even more special," Clarke said in Sydney. "As captain of this team over the last couple of years and what we've been through, I don't think I've had a more satisfying day or feeling in my career.
"It's so satisfying because of where we've come from. The fact two years ago we were ranked No. 5 in the world, as captain of the team I remember, it's still in the front of my mind what was written and said about us once we came back from India, we were named the worst Australian team to ever tour India and as captain that's the last thing you want to hear, that breaks your heart. To enjoy today and see the other side in a pretty quick turnaround from No. 5 in the world, I'm extremely proud of that."
Clarke and the coach Darren Lehmann have often said that Australia's goal was to achieve the No. 1 ranking in all three formats and while there is a significant way to go in T20, where they currently sit sixth, sitting on top in Test and ODIs is a considerable accomplishment.
"The players deserve a lot of credit. Our senior players have stood up and led the way over the past couple of years to turn things around. I've had a lot of help from [support] staff," Clarke said. "I think Darren Lehmann coming in in the last eight months has played a big part as well, his support has been fantastic. The power of within has been outstanding, to deal with what we went through in India and the Ashes and turn that around is a great feeling. And I think the public that watch us play see how close a group we are inside the camp.
"We've worked exceptionally hard to get here, we have to work even harder to stay here. The great teams have done that, the Australian team I walked into stayed at No. 1 for a long period of time and that was a sign of greatness. South Africa deserve a lot of credit for how long they've been No. 1 in the world, and we look up to teams like that so hopefully we can do exactly the same, find a way to perform at home and away from home as well."
James Sutherland, the Cricket Australia chief executive, said Clarke and Lehmann deserved plenty of credit for the results. "Everyone involved with the Australian team - players, coaches and support staff - should be incredibly proud of this achievement," Sutherland said. "There has been a huge amount of hard work and effort on and off the field to get to this point and it's something that those involved with the side should take time to savour.
"Australian cricket's team performance programme led by Pat Howard deserves considerable credit for this outcome. High praise needs to go to Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann for their excellent leadership."
In the ODI rankings, the only change to result from the annual update was that England and South Africa switched positions, with England up from fifth to fourth and South Africa down from fourth to fifth. Australia, India and Sri Lanka still occupy the top three spots in the one-day list.
Australia's success has had a considerable financial benefit for the players in addition to the prestige of their recent results. Performance bonuses tied to ICC rankings for the past 12 months and also overall in Tests and ODIs have delivered a total windfall of about $1.6 million to the team.
ICC Test Championship
|1. Australia (+1)||32||3950||123|
|2. South Africa (-1)||23||2831||123|
|3. England (+1)||30||3131||104|
|4. Pakistan (+1)||20||2064||103|
|5. India (-2)||23||2343||102|
|6. New Zealand (+1)||26||2383||92|
|7. Sri Lanka (-1)||22||1986||90|
|8. West Indies||19||1442||76|
ICC ODI Championship
|3. Sri Lanka||53||5890||111|
|4. England (+1)||36||3947||110|
|5. South Africa (-1)||32||3486||109|
|7. New Zealand||31||3031||98|
|8. West Indies||40||3744||94|
ICC Twenty20 Championship
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale