Dubai, Mar 28 (IBNS) South Africa captain Graeme Smith on Thursday received the prestigious Reliance ICC Test Championship mace and enhanced prize money of US$450,000 for leading the team that finished on top of the Reliance ICC Test Championship table on the annual cut-off date of 1 April.
This is the first time, since the current ranking system was introduced in 2003 that South Africa had finished as the number-one ranked Test side on the 1 April cut-off date.
Vince van der Bijl, former Natal, Transvaal and Middlesex fast bowler and currently ICC's Umpires and Referees Manager, presented the mace to Smith who also collected the cheque of US$450,000 from Cricket South Africa (CSA) president Chris Nenzani along with South Africa's Minister of Sport and Recreation Fikile Mbalula, in a ceremony that was staged at the Long Room Extension, The Wanderers in Johannesburg.
At the presentation, Smith said: "I am truly honoured and humbled to receive the Reliance ICC Test Championship mace and prize money, not just on behalf of myself, the players and the team management but on behalf of all South Africans. We all appreciate the enormous privilege of representing our country and taking on the responsibility that goes with it."
Van der Bijl said: "The mace is a symbol of excellence and recognition of a side's outstanding achievement in the toughest and most traditional format of the game.
"South Africa has all the reasons to be proud of its feat as it is only the fourth team after Australia, India and England to hold the mace. South Africa claimed the mace from the then No.1 side England in the last English summer and then successfully retained it by winning all the five home Tests."
CSA president Chris Nenzani said: "It gives me the greatest pleasure to congratulate coach Gary Kirsten, captain Graeme Smith and other members of the Test squad on their achievement of becoming the number-one side on the Reliance ICC Test Championship Table and staying at the top for what we hope will be a considerable period of time.
"As we all know from past experience it is one thing to gain the No. 1 ranking but it becomes even harder to retain it and the Proteas are well into their first year at the top. They have also opened up a considerable gap between themselves and their challengers and at various stages they have had the number-one batsman (Hashim Amla), the number-one bowler (Dale Steyn) and the number-one all-rounder (Jacques Kallis) in this format of the game.
"South Africa is proud of our boys. They have set a standard of excellence and integrity that represents all that is best in the world of sport."
Gurdeep Singh, President & CEO, Wireless Business, Reliance Communications, said: "We would like to congratulate Graeme Smith and his boys for emerging as the world´s best Test-playing team on the Reliance ICC Test Championship Table.
"Each player in the South Africa cricket team has demonstrated a hunger to succeed in the toughest format of the game, and the team´s consistency over the last few years has seen South Africa reach this top position, winning them the Reliance ICC Test Championship mace.
"We at Reliance wish South Africa the very best for the games ahead, and look forward to other Test playing sides picking up the gauntlet and coming back strong, thereby making future Reliance ICC Test Championship Tables even more competitive and entertaining."
Reliance ICC Test Championship table (as on 26 March)
Rank Team Points
1. South Africa 128
2. England 114
3. India 112
4. Australia 110
5. Pakistan 104
6. Sri Lanka 92
7. West Indies 92
8. New Zealand 83
9. Bangladesh 1
Zimbabwe is currently unranked, as it has played insufficient matches. It has 263 points and a rating of 38.
(Developed by David Kendix)