3-0 loss to New Zealand can cost Australia top spot

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Dubai, Dec 12 (UNI) World champions Australia can not afford to relax in the upcoming three-match Chappell-Hadlee ODI series against New Zealand as they can be dethroned by South Africa from the number one spot in the ICC chmapionship table if they lose 0-3 to their trans-Tasman neighbours.

New Zealand won the series 3-0 last year and if that repeats again Graeme Smith's side will once again climb to the top even before a ball has been bowled in its home series against the West Indies early next year.

The Proteas had dethroned the Aussies for a brief period -- less than a month -- in April this year.

On the other hand, if Australia sweeps the series starting December 14, it will go seven rating points clear of the Proteas, who are currently four behind Ricky Ponting's men.

No matter what the outcome is, New Zealand will stay third in the ODI Championship although if it loses the Chappell-Hadlee series 3-0 it will lead India only by a fraction of a ratings point.

Meanwhile, five Austrlian batsmen can occupy all the top five places in the LG ICC ODI batsmen chart by the end of its upcoming three-match series against New Zealand.

With Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden already taking up the top three spots, there is also the chance for team-mates Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke to join them as the players currently ranked fourth and fifth, Kevin Pietersen of England and Pakistan's Mohammad Yousuf, have been busy with their countries' Test series in Sri Lanka and India, respectively.

All five Australia players have been named in the squad to face the Black Caps and each will be chomping at the bit to get an all-gold top five.

As far as New Zealand players are concerned, Scott Styris can make a return to the top 20 in the batting rankings with a good performance at Adelaide, Sydney and Hobart.

The 32-year-old is currently ranked at 23rd position with what is the highest rating points of his career to date but a good series against the old foe can improve that even further.

With former captain Stephen Fleming now retired, Styris is the highest-ranked Black Cap batsman at present and he will know that plenty rests on his experienced shoulders if his side is to enjoy a repeat of last year's Chappell -Hadlee series, which it won 3-0.

However, a big blow to New Zealand is the absence of fast-bowler Shane Bond, who in the past seemed to save his best performances for Australia. He is currently ranked second among ODI bowlers behind South Africa's Shaun Pollock but will not be able to close that gap due to injury.

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