LAHORE - Second-ranked Australia go head to head with New Zealand in a two-Test series in Wellington on Friday aware that they have to win the series to seal the number-one Test spot on the ICC Test Rankings table at the annual cut-off date.

According to an ICC press release on Wednesday, the annual cut-off date is April1, but since this is the final Test series before focus shifts to the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016, the decision on the best Test side will be confirmed by 24 Feb when the second Test concludes in Christchurch.

This, in turn, means along with the number-one position, the prestigious ICC Test Championship mace as well as cash prize of $1 million is up for grabs.

The ICC Board, during its October 2015 meetings, had improved the incentives for Test performances by increasing the level of Test ranking prize money, to be allocated as following: No.1 ranked Test side - $1million, No.2 ranked Test side - $500K, No.3 ranked Test side - $200K, No.4 ranked Test side - $100K.

India currently occupy the number-one Test position on 110 points, but Australia are just one point behind. If Australia win the series 1-0, then they will finish on 111 points, while a 2-0 win will put it on 112 points. A 1-1 draw will mean Australia will join South Africa on 109 points, but will be ranked third when the ratings are calculated beyond the decimal point. That would sent Pakistan to third spot and doubled their cash incentive.

On the other side of the coin, if New Zealand win the series 1-0, then Australia will drop to third on 106 points, fraction of a point ahead of Pakistan, and fourth on 105 points if the home side win both Tests.

For New Zealand, the incentive is to gain a place and move ahead of England in fifth position. But to make it happen, it will have to win both Tests. It will drop to 96 points but will retain its sixth position if Australia wins both the matches.

Meanwhile, Australia captain Steve Smith and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson will resume their battle for the number-one position on the ICC Test Rankings for Test Batsmen. Smith leads Williamson by 10 points after leapfrogging the New Zealander following the Boxing Day Test against the West Indies.

ICC Test Championship


1 India 110

2 Australia 109

3 South Africa 109

4 Pakistan 106

5 England 102

6 New Zealand 99

7 Sri Lanka 89

8 West Indies 76

9 Bangladesh 47

10 Zimbabwe 5