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South Africa v India

India’s World Test Championship pursuit now has almost no margin for error

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

India’s loss against South Africa has not only kept them waiting for their maiden Test series win in the country but has also served as a blow to their World Test Championship (WTC) final chances.

Having also been kept to a rare draw at home in the first of two Tests against New Zealand, India are currently placed fifth on the points table, with 49.07 points won per points contested percentage (PCT). However, the 2021 finalists need not fret as they have a relatively easy schedule ahead of them.

India’s other WTC encounter so far has come in England, with the series poised at 2-1 to India with one to play, having been postponed on the morning of the fifth Test.

What India’s schedule looks like

While India are languishing in mid-table, they have done away with arguably their three toughest assignments, barring one Test in England. They have two home series coming up in the next few months, against Sri Lanka (three Tests) and Australia (four Tests), along with an overseas tour of Bangladesh (two Tests). They will also play the rescheduled fifth match against England later this year in England.

Australia last won a Test series in India way back in 2004/05, clinching the four-match series 2-1. Since then, they have toured India four times, playing 14 matches, and have won only once. Their poor record in the country combined with India’s winning streak at home means that Virat Kohli’s men will go into that series as favourites, and will be disappointed to lose a game.

From the start of 2015, India have played 12 Test series at home, winning all 12. Overall, they have played 34 matches, won 26, lost two and drawn five. They last lost more than two Tests in a home series in 2012/13, when England had defeated India 2-1. It also remains India’s last home series loss.

Sri Lanka could pose a challenge to India too when the two meet in February later this year, considering their familiarity with the wickets, but the experience of R Ashwin, Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja (if fit), makes them the favourites to win against a struggling Sri Lankan outfit.

The fifth Test against England could go either way: though India leads the series 2-1, they will hardly have time to acclimatise with the conditions, although England’s poor form will give the tourists reasons to be positive. But even if they fail to get a win, they will fancy their chances to whitewash Bangladesh in Bangladesh.

It’s hard to say exactly, with so many fixtures left, how many points India need to qualify for the WTC final. However, 70 PCT was enough in the first cycle, and India are still in with a chance of breaching that mark again, though there is little margin for error. If they win all their remaining Tests, and assuming they don’t add to their tally of three penalty points, they will end up on 74.54 PCT. If they draw one game and win the rest, they will secure 70.83 PCT. One loss and wins in the rest will give India 68.98 PCT. Two draws will mean they can secure a maximum of 67.13 PCT, which could still be enough, but any more than even two minor slip-ups could end their chances.

India are still in the hunt. It’s not out of the question that they win all of their remaining games. But there is little margin for error remaining.

 

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