South Africa are primed for Cricket World Cup qualification, but penalty points could be decisive
The Cricket World Cup Super League is nearing its conclusion, with four teams still in with a chance of claiming the final automatic qualification spot for the 2023 Cricket World Cup.
A quick recap: the 12 full-member nations and the Netherlands are competing in a lengthy schedule of three-match ODI series, with each side playing eight other sides, four at home and four away. The top eight sides will qualify automatically for the 2023 Cricket World Cup. Those in positions nine to thirteen will contest the Cricket World Cup Qualifier, with two teams making it to the World Cup.
After Australia forfeited their three-match series against Afghanistan, conceding all 30 points on offer, Afghanistan’s path through to the 2023 World Cup was safely sealed with an unassailable lead over those behind them. They, along with England, Bangladesh, Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand and hosts India, are guaranteed a place at the main event later this year.
Zimbabwe and the Netherlands are adrift at the bottom of the table, meaning the fight for eighth place now lies between the West Indies, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Ireland.
Apart from the West Indies, who have completed their quota of 24 matches for the league, the other three teams all have three matches left to play. Ten points are awarded for each win and five for an abandoned match.
West Indies (88 points from 24 matches)
Things are looking pretty bleak for the West Indies and their hopes of automatic qualification. Currently occupying the eighth and final spot for those who won’t have to go through the qualifier tournament in Zimbabwe, they can do nothing but hope the results of those below them in the table go their way. Even then, it would take a minor miracle. South Africa are their closest competitor, nine points behind them. If they win their final match against England on Wednesday, or indeed win any of their remaining three matches, they will overtake the West Indies and effectively relegate them to the qualifier tournament. Even if England do manage to overcome South Africa in the final match of the series, South Africa’s last two matches are against the Netherlands at home. It’s hard to imagine they won’t win at least one of those matches and overtake the West Indies at that point.
If South Africa do lose against England and twice against the Netherlands, two wins from Sri Lanka, or three wins from Ireland would be enough to push West Indies down into ninth position.
South Africa (79 points from 18 matches)
South Africa are looking the most likely in the four-way shoot-out to make automatic qualification. Their two wins against England have put them in the prime position to overtake the West Indies and given them breathing room to Sri Lanka behind. Having forfeited their three matches against Australia, the Proteas will play three matches less than the others in the league.
Three wins would see South Africa in an untouchable position in eighth. Even if they lost one of their three remaining matches, Sri Lanka would still have to win all three of theirs against New Zealand to overtake the Proteas. Losing twice would still require Sri Lanka to win two of their matches, or Ireland to win all three of their last round.
However, Temba Bavuma’s side will need to be careful to avoid any over-rate penalties, relying heavily on fast bowlers and taking a while to get through their overs in the second ODI, albeit with mitigating factors at play. Being docked just two points would effectively leave them needing an extra win to overtake West Indies.
Sri Lanka (77 points from 21 matches)
New Zealand will host Sri Lanka in March to play their final three matches of the league, a tough opposition given they currently occupy the top spot in the table. Sri Lanka will need to win two of those matches just to overtake the West Indies and qualify, regardless of South Africa’s results. If they win those two matches, unless South Africa lose two out of their three, or lose one and get docked three points, they will still have to win the third. Even with two wins, there is an outside chance that Sri Lanka could find themselves vulnerable to Ireland, but only if Ireland won all three of their matches against Bangladesh. Thus, it’s two wins minimum for Sri Lanka, and probably three. Had they not copped three overrate penalty points, it might be that one win would be enough.
Ireland (68 points from 21 matches)
While mathematically still in with a chance of avoiding the qualifier tournament, Ireland’s path to automatic qualification looks narrow. Even if South Africa and Sri Lanka lost all of their remaining games, Ireland would need to beat Bangladesh twice just to draw level with the West Indies – with NRR currently as it is, the West Indies would come out on top. If South Africa win just one of their matches, Ireland will be out of the running.
In the event that Ireland manage to whitewash Bangladesh in May, apart from needing South Africa to lose all of their games, they would also need Sri Lanka to lose once to New Zealand.