South Africa have received a major boost ahead of the Champions Trophy 2017 with pace bowler Kagiso Rabada moving up four places to take the top spot in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Player Rankings for ODI Bowlers.
Top-ranked South Africa lost their three-match series to England 2-1 but former ICC U-19 World Cup star Rabada’s haul of four for 39 in the final match at Lord’s on Monday helped him finish the series with seven wickets and become the youngest number-one bowler since Pakistan’s Saqlain Mushtaq in 1998.
Rabada, who has recently turned 22, has displaced his compatriot Imran Tahir whom he leads by two points.
With captain AB de Villiers top-ranked among batsmen, South Africa now have the top two bowlers as well as four players in the top 10 of the ICC Player Rankings for ODI Batsmen – Quinton de Kock (fourth), Faf du Plessis (sixth) and Hashim Amla (10th) being the others.
The intense competition in the individual rankings justifies the tournament’s name as players from the eight participating teams feature prominently in it and not much separates the top players in the fray.
The top three batsmen – de Villiers, David Warner and Virat Kohli are separated by just 22 points while only 23 points separate the top three bowlers – Rabada, Tahir and Mitchell Starc.
South Africa, India and England have four batsmen each inside the top 20 with New Zealand (three), Australia and Pakistan (two each) also having significant presence.
Similarly, among bowlers, Bangladesh and England have three each inside the top 20, followed by New Zealand, South Africa and Australia with two each. In the all-rounders’ list led by Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan, there are three players from England in the top 10.
England’s series win over South Africa, which helped them gain two points, also reflects the close competition that can be expected in a crisp tournament like the ICC Champions Trophy.
The top five ODI teams are close to each other with South Africa (122), Australia (118), India (117), New Zealand (114) and England (112) all having a lot to play for in the eight-team tournament. For example, Australia and India could overtake South Africa by the next rankings update if they win all their three league matches and South Africa loses all its three matches.
South Africa, Australia, India and New Zealand have all won this prestigious tournament in the past while last time’s finalist England will be hoping to do one better in home conditions and with the confidence of the series win over South Africa.
The tournament, which runs from 1-18 June, also gives an opportunity to teams like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan to consolidate their positions in the ICC ODI Team Rankings as England and the seven other top-ranked sides gain direct qualification berths to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.