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2023-2025 World Test Championship

Explained: How last-placed England can still make the 2025 World Test Championship final

Ben Stokes and Joe Root during England's WTC campaign
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 3 minute read

England slumped to last place in the WTC 2023-25 points table after Sri Lanka beat Bangladesh at Sylhet, but they can still make it to the final – here’s how.

With a PCT (points percentage) of 17.5 after 10 Test matches, England are now last in the nine-team WTC points table. But things are not as bleak as they look like.

Their two most difficult series – against Australia and India – are now out of the way. Rain denied them eight points at Old Trafford (they would have been above eighth-placed South Africa otherwise). And really, they need to do something about that pesky over rate. Had they not lost points, they would have been fourth on the table with a PCT of 40 even with that Manchester Test.

England can still make it to the final, but for that, one of India and Australia, who are some distance ahead of the others, has to miss out. Of the two, Australia are the easier to displace for several reasons.

To begin with, India are already ahead of Australia. Australia’s only pending Test series are at home against India, whom they have not beaten anywhere since 2014/15, and in Sri Lanka, where they drew their last series in 2022 and were swept 0-3 in the one before that, in 2016.

Apart from the Australia tour, India’s remaining Test series are at home, against New Zealand, who have not won a Test there since 1988/89, and Bangladesh, who have lost all three of their Tests in the country.

For England to make it to the WTC final, their best bet is to displace Australia. The route, while convoluted, is not outlandish.

How England can make it to the WTC 2023-25 final

The path

Series are in “home team v away team (number of games)” format.

Bangladesh v Sri Lanka (2): Sri Lanka won the first Test match by 328 runs. Let’s give them another win to make it 2-0.

England v West Indies (3): Shamar Joseph notwithstanding, it is not unreasonable to expect England sweeping this 3-0.

West Indies v South Africa (2): South Africa do not tour the Caribbean regularly (only once since 2010). Over the past few years, West Indies have drawn against Pakistan and beaten England at home, but let us assume they will not win anything. Still, it rains there, there can be the odd flat, slow pitch – in other words, a draw cannot be ruled out. Let us give this 1-0 to South Africa.

Pakistan v Bangladesh (2): Pakistan to sweep this 2-0. The series will not have any bearing on the finalists anyway.

England v Sri Lanka (3): Another 3-0 home sweep for England if the rain stays away. Six home wins in a summer may seem steep, but for a last-placed side to make it to the final, that is a bare minimum.

India v Bangladesh (2): India to sweep this 2-0.

Sri Lanka v New Zealand (2): Sri Lanka to win 2-0. Of course, it can be 1-1 or even 0-2 (there can be draws as well), but again, that will not impact the finalists.

Pakistan v England (3): Another 3-0 sweep in Pakistan for England. But nine consecutive Test wins? We are probably entering the realm of the improbable, but this is what they have to do.

India v New Zealand (3): A 3-0 sweep for India. Any other outcome is also fine for England.

Bangladesh v South Africa (2): Let us go by the performances of the three other ‘SENA’ teams in the country – one win each.

Australia v India (5): The big one. We are giving this 3-2 to Australia despite India’s excellent run in the country. If India win more, it will be easier for England.

West Indies v Bangladesh (2): An inconsequential series. Bangladesh were swept 0-2 in each of their last three tours to the Caribbean, so let us predict an encore.

New Zealand v England (3): Hear us out. Had they not enforced the follow on, England would almost certainly have swept the series in New Zealand. Why not back them to actually do this?

South Africa v Sri Lanka (2): South Africa, England’s other rival, should win this 2-0.

South Africa v Pakistan (2): Same as above.

Pakistan v West Indies (2): Pakistan favourites to win 2-0 in this inconsequential series.

Sri Lanka v Australia (2): A lot will hinge on this series. If Sri Lanka win one Test match, Australia will finish behind England, who will go through.

The final standings

All this will give, assuming no further deductions for any side due to slow over rates, England a PCT of 62.50 at the end of the league stage, behind India (69.30) but ahead of South Africa (61.11), Australia (60.53), and the rest. England will, thus, join India in the final.

Of course, Australia can beat India 4-1 – but then, they can also lose 0-2 in Sri Lanka. Just as probable is South Africa winning 2-0 in the West Indies, but then, the hosts may pull off a win as well.

The biggest hurdle ahead of England is to win 12 Test matches in a row. Even one draw will hurt their cause. And, of course, they need to keep an eye on that over rate thing…

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