Cricket: South Africa eager to hold top ranking

By David Leggat in Cape Town

AB de Villiers trains ahead of the first test at Newlands. Photo / Getty Images
AB de Villiers trains ahead of the first test at Newlands. Photo / Getty Images

South Africa have New Zealand in their sights at a means of starting what it hope could extend into a top-of-the-world reign for years to come.

They'll start the New Year as world No 1, on the back of their 2-0 series win in England a few months ago, and reinforced with the 1-0 series win over Australia several weeks ago.

Even a drawn series against No 8-ranked New Zealand will be enough to keep Graeme Smith's team top of the pile. But that outcome is not part of the plan.

The first test starting on Wednesday is South Africa's first at home since beating Sri Lanka by 10 wickets, also at Newlands, last January.

Since then, they have won away series against New Zealand, England and Australia - nine tests producing four wins and five draws.

Ahead, after New Zealand, they host Pakistan in February-March, travel to Sri Lanka and have an away series against Pakistan, most likely in the United Arab Emirates, and are home to India next season, likely to total 11 tests.

''We sat down and looked at everything that's happened in the last year, what's coming up this year, what we can achieve and where we want to go," senior batsman AB de Villiers said.

''Last time we got to the No 1 spot we threw it away like it didn't matter (in 2009)."

India and England have had turns at No 1 but there's a determination to make this tenure in possession of the International Cricket Council's gold and silver mace longer than the last, short period.

''Now there's a real sense of care, there's an amazing team spirit and we're looking forward to what's lying ahead in 2013.

''We believe if we can come through this year with very solid performances we have a chance to dominate for the next four or five years around the world."

It's a big call, but there's no shortage of self belief in the South African camp.

They have the world's best pace attack in Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, a strong, and deep batting lineup and catch and field like demons.

There is a desire to start as they mean to carry on, which could be grim news for New Zealand.

The last time out at Cape Town, de Villiers made 160 not out, Jacques Kallis 224 and Alviro Peterson 109.

''We play really well here," de Villiers said.

''There is a good sense of confidence when we play at Newlands. It's almost like we free up and express our skills.

''But it's our first (test) game in a while so we really have to pull together. It's important to get that glue and do the basics well in the first two days."

Which sounds a lot like getting straight back down to business.

- NZ Herald

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