Australia's poor run costs them pole position February 18, 2007

South Africa take over top spot

Cricinfo staff

Shaun Pollock didn't know it then, but his superb form over the last season helped his side knock Australia off the top spot © Getty Images

South Africa have replaced Australia at the head of the ICC ODI rankings following Australia's five-wicket loss to New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland. It is the first time Australia has slipped from the top spot since the rankings began, in October 2002.

Australia's defeat was their fourth consecutive loss - the first such sequence since 1997 - and fifth in their last six matches. South Africa on the other hand, have been in stunning form, having won seven of their last eight ODIs (with one washed out). Even if Australia win the final match of the Chappell-Hadlee series, in Hamilton on Tuesday, it will not be enough for the side to regain top spot.

The rankings do have little more than just bragging rights at stake: the side that leads the table on April 1 stands to win US$175,000, with US$75,000 going to the second-placed team. With the World Cup starting in the Caribbean on March 13, there is still time and opportunity for Australia to regain top spot ahead of that cut-off date.

There is little doubt that over the last year, South Africa have been the form team in world cricket. They have won 15 of 21 ODIs since failing to qualify for last year's tri-series in Australia. The run includes a memorable 3-2 series win over Australia, sealed with a world record-chase at Johannesburg.

In that time, South Africa's ratings have increased by ten points while Australia's have slipped by seven points. New Zealand's win has lifted them to 111 points and they only trail third-placed Pakistan on decimal points. If they complete a clean sweep against Australia, they will move ahead.