South Africa holding on to the ICC Mace

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South Africa took a step towards securing their position as ICC Championship mace holders last Wednesday (23/10/13), when they defeated Pakistan in the second test match of the current series, drawing the series level at 1-1.

South Africa took a step towards securing their position as ICC Championship mace holders last Wednesday (23/10/13), when they defeated Pakistan in the second test match of the current series, drawing the series level at 1-1.

<i>'ICC Championship mace holders'?</i>

To the uninitiated, the national team holding the ICC Championship mace is essentially the national team enjoying the highest level of consistent success in top level international test cricket. Think of the prize as something akin to the IBF super-heavyweight championship belt – it remains in the possession of its holders for however long it takes for that team to be superseded by a rival.

Launched in 2003 by the International Cricket Council, the title stayed in the hands of Australia until 2009, after which it passed to South Africa, India and then England. In 2012, South Africa recaptured the crown, retaining it over the past year.

<i>South Africa as ICC Champions, 2012-?</i>

Having inherited the mace through the defeat of holders England on August 20th 2012, South Africa have gone on to enjoy a year of glory in the international cricket arena.

Memorable victories have included the tense but ultimately emphatic win over Australia last November, January's thumping win over New Zealand, victory over a declining Pakistan side and a summer of hotly contested Twenty20 and One Day International matches.

To view South Africa's results over the past 12 months in full, <a href='http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/cricket/teams/south-africa/results' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>click here.</b></a>

The past year has truly been a moment in the sun for South Africa at the summit of international cricket. However, it appears that diplomatic wranglings are now set to mar this golden spell for South African cricket.

<i>A shortened Indian tour and a threat to the ICC Mace</i>

The Board of Control for Cricket in India and Cricket South Africa released a joint statement this October, revealing India's forthcoming tour in South Africa is to be curtailed significantly, with only three fixtures to be played, compared with the ten originally scheduled. Infuriatingly, the reduction of the schedule has nothing to do with security, extenuating circumstances or even the game of cricket in itself. It all boils down to a petty dispute between Indian and South African officials.

The shortened tour means an increased probability of a draw overall in the series, which would damage South Africa's prospects of maintaining their lead at the top of the <a href='http://www.espncricinfo.com/rankings/content/current/page/211271.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>ICC Championship rankings</b></a>. With the likes of England and Australia snapping at the team's heels, this can only be bad news, and the odds (world cricket odds are available to check at <a href='http://freebets.org/' class='instorylink'><b>freebets.org</b></a>) on South Africa keeping the mace for another year are likely to lengthen accordingly.

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