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World Test Championship

Who is on track to contest the 2023 World Test Championship final?

by Shashwat Kumar 4 minute read

After a tense month of Test cricket, we are perhaps a little closer to identifying which teams will contest the final of the 2023 ICC World Test Championship.

The month of March saw India coast to a comfortable 2-0 series victory against Sri Lanka at home. Australia managed to scrape past Pakistan with England enduring another series defeat in the West Indies.

South Africa, who are placed second on the points table, are set to play a two-Test series against Bangladesh starting March 31. The rest of the teams don’t have any immediate red-ball assignments. On that note, though, let’s take a look at which teams can qualify for the summit clash.

Points structure

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 120 points were at stake in each WTC series. The teams would then be awarded points based on the number of matches in a particular series. For example, if teams played five games against each other, they were awarded 24 points for a victory, 12 for a tie and eight for a draw. The sides were also be placed on the basis of total points accumulated.

For the 2021-2023 cycle, the ICC are ordering teams on the percentage of points won (PCT). For this cycle, they have also standardised the points system, with 12 points for a win, six for a tie, four for a draw and no points for a defeat. There has also been a clamping down on slow over-rates. England, who haven’t been in great form, have lost 10 points for over-rate offences. India, meanwhile, have also lost three points.

So, who’s most likely to qualify for the final?

Australia, who recently defeated Pakistan in their first away series this cycle, sit pretty at the top of the table. They have garnered 72 points from eight matches (out of a possible total of 96) and have a PCT of 75.

They have two more overseas tours lined up (India and Sri Lanka), and those two encounters will have a massive bearing on where they will ultimately finish. But if the display against Pakistan is any indicator, they might just do enough to nudge ahead of their competitors.

South Africa, who are placed second, have two relatively straightforward home assignments against Bangladesh and the West Indies. Both teams are capable of rattling the Proteas’ cage but are highly inconsistent too. South Africa also seem to have turned a corner in the longest format. They will be without a few of their stars for the series against Bangladesh but if they can come through that engagement unscathed, they will be well placed to make the final two.

Of the two remaining away series, one is against England who have been a dominant force at home for much of this century. In the recent past, however, they have lost a series to New Zealand and are on the verge of losing another to India, meaning that South Africa might fancy their chances. As things stand, the Proteas have a PCT of 60.

Speaking of England, well, it would take an optimist to suggest that they will contest the WTC final. Their much-publicised red-ball “reset” didn’t quite go to plan against West Indies. It seems nigh-on impossible for them to qualify. They languish at the foot of the table with a PCT of 12.5.

New Zealand, rather uncharacteristically, are lagging behind as well. They have already lost two Tests at home (to Bangladesh and South Africa) and sit sixth with a PCT of 38.88.

Pakistan (PCT of 52.38) and Sri Lanka (PCT of 50), meanwhile, are placed above New Zealand. Both, though, have a few tough assignments to get through. Pakistan are slated to host England and New Zealand, whereas Sri Lanka will play a two-Test home series against Australia later this year. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also set to play each other in Sri Lanka.

As for India, well, their current cycle got off to an indifferent start. They could only draw at Kanpur against New Zealand. However, they recovered swiftly to beat the Kiwis at Mumbai, although that progress was shunted by a 2-1 series defeat in South Africa.

They have since obliterated Sri Lanka, and have three winnable series on the horizon. The Men In Blue travel to Bangladesh and England (for one Test) – games that they will expect to get at least 16 points from. India also host Australia, which considering the Aussies’ dubious recent record in the country, could be a shot in the arm for the Indians.

Thus, it seems that India, much like it happened in the previous cycle, hold all the aces. Apart from the series against Australia, they would back themselves to win all the games that remain. If that happens, they will most certainly catapult themselves into the top two.

Australia aren’t far behind and could take a giant stride towards qualification with a series victory in Sri Lanka. If they manage to draw the series against India or even win a solitary Test, they will inch closer to sealing their spot in the WTC final.

South Africa are making a much better fist of things this time out. A lot, though, depends on what they accomplish in Australia. They can still win their games at home and qualify. However, it would leave them hoping for favours from the other teams, considering away defeats would directly swell a direct rival’s (Australia) tally.

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