Plenty at stake as top three sides go in to battle
As well as looking to wrap up the series 2-0, India will look to regain the No. 2 spot in the ICC Test rankings with a win in the second Test against England in Mohali starting Friday. Having briefly secured the second spot with a 2-0 win against Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in October-November, they were toppled by South Africa who beat Bangladesh 2-0 in the two-Test series at home, towards the end of last month.
The three points gained will put India above South Africa, who will then have to ensure a series win against Australia, the No. 1 team, in their contest starting Wednesday in Perth, to hold on to second spot. However, South Africa have the chance to go top if they whitewash Australia 3-0.
Australia have held on to the top spot despite the defeat in India, followed swiftly by a 2-0 series win in the Trans-Tasman Trophy at home to New Zealand. They are currently 13 points clear of South Africa, and 14 of India.
A 3-0 series win at home against South Africa will give them four points and stretch the gap ahead of no. 2 to 21 points. Any series win, in fact, will strengthen their position.
The Australia-South Africa series holds a number of incentives for the players as well. The South African pace duo of Dale Steyn (No. 2) and Makhaya Ntini (No. 4) will look to improve their positions among the top five Test bowlers, given that Australia's Stuart Clark (No. 3) has been ruled out of the first Test. Jacques Kallis will also look to widen the gap between him and Daniel Vettori at No. 2 in the Test allrounder rankings.
Michael Hussey, currently No. 4 in the Test batsmen rankings, will also look to move up the charts, and narrow the gap at the top. But he will hope that both, West Indies' Shivnarine Chanderpaul (No. 1) and Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara (No. 2) falter this December, in the series away to New Zealand and Bangladesh respectively.