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South Africa lie waiting for Ponting’s men to slip up; top eight sides jostle for position as seedings cut-off date for ICC Champions Trophy 2008 looms.

The whites have been packed away, the red ball put back in the box and the sightscreens blackened as ODIs are now taking centre stage after what was a busy time for Test cricket.

Pakistan’s fifth and final ODI in its series with Zimbabwe takes place today while South Africa will be seeking to complete a clean-sweep of the West Indies when they meet for the series finale in Johannesburg on Sunday. If the Proteas win that game, they will finish on 127 ratings points on the LG ICC ODI Championship table, just three behind leader Australia.

Also on Sunday, the eagerly awaited ODI tri-series involving Australia, Sri Lanka and India gets underway with Ricky Ponting’s men taking on India for the first game in Brisbane. With South Africa breathing down its neck, Australia knows it will have to be at the top of its game to keep the tag of number-one ODI team in the world.

Indeed, depending on the various permutations, it is likely that Australia will have to make the final of that tri-series in order to cling on to top spot and even that might not be enough.

With just five ratings points currently separating New Zealand in third position and England in seventh, the competition is going to be fierce over the coming weeks to see who finishes where.

This will become particularly significant as we approach 12 March, which is the cut-off date for the determination of seedings at the ICC Champions Trophy 2008. Wherever the top eight teams sit on that date will dictate the make-up of the two groups for the big event, which takes place in Pakistan next September.

With New Zealand hosting England for a five-match ODI series starting on Friday as well as the tri-series in Australia, there will be plenty of opportunities for teams to make their moves with that tournament in mind.

Upcoming ODI fixtures:

Pakistan v Zimbabwe series:

2 Feb – Sheikhupura, 5th ODI

South Africa v West Indies series:

3 Feb - Johannesburg, 5th ODI

Tri-series in Australia, involving host, India and Sri Lanka:

3 Feb - Australia v India at Brisbane

5 Feb - India v Sri Lanka at Brisbane

8 Feb - Australia v Sri Lanka at Sydney

10 Feb - Australia v India at Melbourne

12 Feb - India v Sri Lanka at Canberra

15 Feb - Australia v Sri Lanka at Perth

17 Feb - Australia v India at Adelaide

19 Feb - India v Sri Lanka at Adelaide

22 Feb - Australia v Sri Lanka at Melbourne

24 Feb - Australia v India at Sydney

26 Feb - India v Sri Lanka at Hobart

29 Feb - Australia v Sri Lanka at Melbourne

2 Mar - TBC v TBC at Sydney, 1st Final

4 Mar - TBC v TBC at Brisbane, 2nd Final

7 Mar - TBC v TBC at Adelaide, 3rd Final

New Zealand v England series:

9 Feb - Wellington, 1st ODI

12 Feb - Hamilton, 2nd ODI

15 Feb - Auckland, 3rd ODI

20 Feb - Napier, 4th ODI

23 Feb - Christchurch, 5th ODI

LG ICC ODI Championship (as of 1 February)

Rank Team Rating

1 Australia 130

2 South Africa 126

3 New Zealand 112

4 India 110

5 Pakistan 109

6 Sri Lanka 108

7 England 107

8 West Indies 97

9 Bangladesh 47

10 Ireland 28

11 Zimbabwe 18
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