England’s position at the top was strengthened after they leapt 122 ratings points but the leaders can still be overhauled by South Africa in the forthcoming series which begins at The Oval on Thursday.
Although South Africa have fallen to the third spot, behind Australia, Graeme Smith’s team can leapfrog into top spot by simply winning the three-match series against England.
If South Africa win the series 1-0 or 2-1, they will be level on ratings points with England but when the rankings are calculated to a fraction of a decimal point then Smith’s team will have the edge.
A drawn series or a 1-0 win will mean England retain the No 1 position and if Andrew Strauss's side were to win 2-0 or 3-0, then South Africa would tumble to the fourth position.
England’s ranking has improved because the home defeat to South Africa and the away defeats in India and the West Indies are no longer counted in the rankings calculations.
Australia will take some encouragement — after the recent 0-4 one-day international series defeat in England — that their Test form has seen them rise back towards the summit they occupied for so long after falling to a low of fifth in 2009.
India and Pakistan have changed places. Pakistan, despite a 0-1 defeat in the three-Test series which finished in Sri Lanka on Thursday, have moved up to fourth and Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side, number one this time last year, is now down in the fifth place.
ICC Test ratings:
3 South Africa
6 Sri Lanka
7 New Zealand
8 West Indies