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2023-2025 World Test Championship

After losing in India, can England still qualify for the World Test Championship final?

Ben Stokes and Joe Root during England's WTC campaign
by Katya Witney 4 minute read

After losing the series in India with one Test still to play, England are in more than a spot of bother in the 2023-25 World Test Championship points table. However, they could still qualify for a place in the final in 18 months’ time.

Where to England stand right now?

England are currently eighth, second from last, in the WTC points table after their first nine matches. Despite winning three of their games and drawing one, their points percentage total is currently at 19.44 after they were handed a 19-point deduction for slow over rates following last summer’s Ashes series. From a possible 108 points available, England have 21.

This is a dire situation to be in with a year left to go in the league cycle and, in all likelihood, is unrecoverable. However, they are not necessarily out of the running for a place in next year’s final at Lord’s just yet.

In the last cycle, the only one which fully used the current points percentage (PCT) system, 58.8 PCT was enough for second-place qualifiers India to seal their place in the final. India also currently sit in second place in the ongoing cycle on 64.58 PCT. Under the assumption that a PCT of 60 would be enough to qualify for the final, there is a way for England to reach that.

Who do England play next?

England still have one match left to play against India in Dharamshala. After that, their next Test match series will be three games at home against the West Indies in July. They will host another three match series against Sri Lanka the following month, wrapping up their home fixtures in the cycle. Three matches against Pakistan and then three against New Zealand in the 2024/25 winter will conclude their fixtures, meaning they have 13 matches in total left to play, and 156 points potentially up for grabs.

Starting from the best-case scenario: if England were able to win the maximum available points from their remaining fixtures on top of their current points total, they would finish the cycle on 177 points out of 264 available for them to win across the whole cycle. That would give them a PCT of 67.04 at the end of the league stage.

Realistically, England might not win all of their 13 remaining matches in the cycle, especially considering India’s exceptional win record at home ahead of the final Test of the ongoing series, and their record winning away from home in New Zealand. Despite their 3-0 victory over Pakistan in 2022, Pakistan has also historically been a difficult place for England to win Test matches, and even if they’re dominant over the West Indies and Sri Lanka at home as expected, rain-affected draws are common in English home summers.

The position England find themselves in is so challenging because, even if they only lose two of their remaining fixtures, their PCT drops to 57.95. Looking at those above them in the league table currently, it’s hard not to see at least two of those sides finishing the cycle with higher PCTs than that.

India currently have a PCT of 64.58. They have 11 fixtures left in the cycle, six of which are at home. In the last ten years, India have lost only six of the 56 Test matches they’ve played at home. Taking on Bangladesh and New Zealand at home over the next year has the potential to yield a lot of WTC points. The stiffer challenge for them will be five matches in Australia. However, even if India lose three of their remaining matches, they will finish on a higher PCT (69.29) than England can if they win all of their remaining matches.

As for current table leaders New Zealand, they have ten matches left to play, five of which are at home. New Zealand have only lost seven of the 51 Test matches they’ve played at home since the beginning of 2012. Even if they only win six of their remaining matches and draw one, they would finish on a similar PCT to England if they won all of their remaining fixtures.

As for reigning champions Australia, who currently sit in third with a PCT of 55, they have nine matches left to play, five of which are at home against India. If they win six of their remaining matches (losing three), they will finish with a PCT of 60.52, higher than England’s if they lose just one of their remaining matches and draw one other.

The over-rates problem

None of this takes into account any over-rate penalties that could be issued to sides over the rest of the cycle. The real problem England have is that their current PCT is so low mainly because of how many points have been deducted for slow over-rates, which is more than any other side has been penalised by so far. Had those 19 points not been deducted, their PCT would currently be at 33.33. Even though they would still be in the bottom half of the table, they would still be in with a better shout of finishing in the top two than they currently are.

The long and short of it is, England can barely afford to lose one match in their remaining WTC fixtures, even if the sides currently in the top part of the table perform at average or slightly below across the rest of the cycle. While they can technically still qualify for the final next year, they would need a remarkable string of wins, and for other sides to lose matches they are expected to win.

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