COLOMBO - Kumar Sangakkara's Sri Lanka will have more than just a series win at stake when they take on New Zealand in the second and final cricket Test here from tomorrow.
With Ashes losers Australia relegated from the number one spot for the first time since official Test rankings were introduced in 2003, the race has begun for second place behind South Africa, who are on a rating of 122.
Sri Lanka, who are now joint second with India on 119, will hold the position on their own if they defeat New Zealand in the second Test at the Sinhalese sports club and take the series 2-0.
A draw or a loss will give India the second spot, with Sri Lanka third and Ricky Ponting's Australians confined to fourth place on 116 after Sunday's 197-run defeat to England at the Oval.
Andrew Strauss's victorious England stay in fifth position on 105 despite their 2-1 win according to a system in which Test rankings are updated at the end of each series.
Ahead of their encounter against Sri Lanka, New Zealand were ranked seventh, on 82.
Sangakkara, whose team beat the illness-plagued Kiwis by a massive 202 runs in the first Test in Galle on Saturday, said rankings were important in that they reflected the consistency of a side.
The tourists, who had 13 of their 15 players laid low by stomach bugs and fever during the Galle Test, were confident they will field a full-strength team tomorrow.
"We have no idea what caused the illness but everyone is recovering well," said team manager Dave Currie.
Skipper Daniel Vettori begins the Test needing just two more wickets to become only the ninth player in history to achieve the all-rounder's double of 3000 runs and 300 wickets. The 93-Test veteran was New Zealand's star performer in Galle, with five wickets and knocks of 42 and 67 and is again expected to lead from the front.
Vettori now assumes more responsibility after New Zealand Cricket on Sunday inducted him and coach Andy Moles into a revamped selection panel alongside Glenn Turner and Mark Greatbach.
The captain and coach join the panel on September 1, which gives them greater power in team selection, with voting rights rather than just an advisory role. - Sapa-AFP