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Australia, SA to battle for Test crown

February 24, 2009 21:33 IST

Two into one doesn't go. That's what captains Graeme Smith of South Africa and Australia's Ricky Ponting must have realised as they posed with the Reliance Mobile ICC Test Championship mace on Tuesday.

The two teams are vying for the number one ranking in Test cricket and the mace that goes with it but only one of them will walk away with that prize at the end of the three-match series that starts in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Australia is currently top of the ladder, a position it has held for almost six years, but any series win for the Proteas would see Smith's side overtake it. An Australia series win or a drawn series would see the touring side retain its position at the head of affairs.

Whichever of the two sides leads the table on April 1 will secure US$175,000 for achieving that feat. The second-placed side in the listing on that date will receive US$75,000.

South Africa is top of the ICC ODI Championship table and cannot be caught before that cut-off date so has already secured US$175,000 for that achievement.

That means if the Proteas win this Test series it will be a total of US$350,000 richer.

ICC Test Championship (as of 24 February):

Rank Team Rating
1 Australia 126
2 South Africa 21
3 India 118
4 Sri Lanka 109
5 England 103
6 Pakistan 98
7 West Indies 81
8 New Zealand 81
9 Bangladesh 0

South Africa vs Australia, Test series schedule:
February  26 to March 2: First Test, Johannesburg
March 6  to 10: Second Test, Durban
March 19 to 23: Third Test, Cape Town

Background on the Test Championship mace:

The Reliance Mobile ICC Test Championship mace is presented to the team that leads the ICC Test Championship.

It has been in Australia's hands for all but five months (January -- May 2003, when South Africa topped the table) since it was inaugurated in May 2001.

The mace was produced by the then British Crown Jeweller, Asprey & Garrard, in 2001, which was commissioned to make a distinctive prize designed to stand out from other cricket trophies.

The designers produced a 90cm silver and gold-plated trophy based on a cricket stump as its shank, topped by an orb that represents the cricket world -- both geographically and through the inclusion of the emblems of all 10 ICC Members that have played Test cricket.

The stump and the orb combine to portray the mace, regarded as a symbol of authority and prestige. This is regarded as an appropriate combination given the rich history of Test cricket and its image as the most traditional and purest form of the game.

The mace sits on a wooden base with a silver-plated plaque in front with room for engravings of the sides to hold it. The mace was valued at 30,000 Pounds in 2001 and automatically passes from one team to another as results confirm a change of leadership in the ICC Test Championship table.

The mace and its base weigh a combined total of 10kgs with each section weighing 5kgs.

The side that tops the ICC Test Championship table on April 1 each year collects US$175,000 for doing so. The second-placed side receives US$75,000.

South Africa has already secured a guaranteed US$175,000 for its performances in One-Day International cricket as no side can catch it at the top of the ICC ODI Championship table ahead of the April 1 cut-off.