BLACKCAPS on course for Champions Trophy

The BLACKCAPS have retained fourth place in the ICC World One-Day International rankings as the Champions Trophy deadline creeps ever closer.

The National Bank Series-opening victory against the West Indies in Wellington will have boosted their already healthy position in the top six of the table, which they must keep hold of to secure an automatic place in this year’s competition in India.

Four Kiwi bowlers – Daniel Vettori (seventh), Shane Bond (ninth), Kyle Mills (14th) and Jacob Oram (up one place to 15th) - have maintained positions in the top 20.

Batsmen Stephen Fleming (up one to 28th), Nathan Astle (up for to 33rd) and Scott Styris (up one to 37th) have all improved their positions.

For the first time in the history of the LG ICC ODI batting rankings, four players from one country – Australia - occupy the top four slots.

This Australian quartet is led by Adam Gilchrist (813 points) with skipper Ricky Ponting in second, Andrew Symonds third and Michael Clarke fourth.

Australia’s grip on the upper echelons of the ODI bowling rankings is not quite so strong. They boast two of the top three ODI bowlers but Brett Lee’s brief reign at the summit of the standings is over after he failed to take a wicket in the three finals matches.

Lee has slipped to second place behind South Africa’s Shaun Pollock with Glenn McGrath third and India’s Irfan Pathan up to fourth.

Australia retains a healthy 19-point lead in the table while Sri Lanka has slipped back to seventh. They are behind England by the narrowest of margins and face the very real prospect of having to play in the preliminary round of the ICC Champions Trophy.

LG ICC ODI Championship (after VB series group stages)
1st: Australia 135 points
2nd: South Africa 116
3rd: Pakistan 114
4th: New Zealand 112
5th: India 110
6th: England 108
7th: Sri Lanka 108
8th: West Indies 90
9th: Zimbabwe 44
10th: Bangladesh 14
* India, as hosts, will automatically qualify for the second stage of next year’s ICC Champions Trophy even if they are outside the top six of the LG ICC ODI Championship table on 1 April 2006. If they are outside that top six then the sixth-placed side in the table will take part in the preliminary round.

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