As World Cup looms, South Africa chase Test No 1 tag
Faf du Plessis has his sights set on the Test pinnacle. © AFP

The low-key nature of a two-Test series against Sri Lanka, coming after a facile 3-0 sweep of Pakistan last month, just months away from the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, offers South Africa a chance to gain on top-ranked India in the ICC ratings for Test teams.

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South Africa are No 2 in Tests, eight points behind leaders India, and if they beat Sri Lanka 2-0 they will reduce that gap to four points. The ICC World Test Championship starts July 19, and come October, South Africa will begin their campaign with a series in India.

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For skipper Faf du Plessis, making it back to No 1 in Test cricket – a spot South Africa last held in January 2016 – is the target despite the World Cup looming.

“For myself and the coach, we’re comfortable with having our eyes on both,” he said on Wednesday. “Yes, there are a few ODI players in the Test team, but it is important for the Test team that their focus doesn’t get distracted in making sure that everything they do is geared towards us trying to get back to No 1 in Test cricket.

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“You can’t completely forget about the thinking and planning for the World Cup, but there is a lot to play for on the Tests stage.”

Under du Plessis, South Africa have not a lost a home Test series.