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World Test Championship

Why the 2021-2023 World Test Championship was a big missed opportunity for Pakistan

Babar Azam Test captain
Abhishek Mukherjee by Abhishek Mukherjee
@ovshake42 5 minute read

Pakistan should have done better at the 2021-23 World Test Championship, and have only themselves to blame for their eventual seventh rank.

Of the nine participating countries at the 2021-23 WTC, Pakistan had one of the easier schedules. Their three overseas fixtures were in the West Indies, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka, who had occupied the bottom three slots at the 2019-21 edition.

Of course, there were the three difficult series too – against Australia, England, and New Zealand – but that was at the comfort of home. Not their adopted home of the UAE, but on Pakistani soil.


What could have possibly gone wrong? Surely they were among the favourites for the final? Surely they were expected to do better than their sixth-place finish from the previous edition?

The first blow came in their first Test series. Defending 168, Pakistan had reduced the West Indies to 114-7, then to 151-9, before the hosts found unlikely heroes in Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales.

Still, Pakistan levelled that series 1-1, and made up for the lost points by their incredible win over Bangladesh at Mirpur. Rain pushed the first innings of the Test into the fourth day, but Pakistan still declared on 300-4 and still bowled out Bangladesh for 87 and 205 to win minutes before end of play.

Four Tests, 36 points. The defeat in Kingston seemed a blip as Pakistan prepared themselves for their first home series. And it was here that things started to go wrong, for they somehow failed to understand the one key thing about the World Test Championship.

The WTC is a result-oriented tournament. It discourages draws. Teams gain 12 points for a win but only four for a draw. In other words, a 2-1 defeat fetches a team as many points as a 0-0 draw.

Yet, when they hosted Australia for three Test matches, Pakistan rolled out the flattest pitches Test cricket has seen in some time. A wicket fell every 103 balls (roughly five wickets a days) – the worst strike rate among the 27 Test series played in the league stage of WTC 2021/23.

A typical Test match lasts 450 overs, and a strike rate of 67.5 suffices for 40 wickets. Six of the 27 series in the WTC cycle saw a strike rate higher than that, but it did not exceed 89 for all but this one glaring exception.

After three Test matches of backbreaking toil and a bold declaration, Australia clinched the series in the final session of the Test match. Blunted by the docile pitches, a quality Pakistan attack was reduced to helplessness.

Pakistan finished a home series with eight points, fewer than what even one win would have fetched them. In their attempt to avoid defeats, they ended up missing out on vital WTC points – and lost the series anyway.

Ironically, the 1-1 draw in Sri Lanka that followed got them 12 points – more than what they got from the Australia series or, for that matter, any home series.

Pakistan were next up against a rampant England side, who had used strategic counterattacking style to great success to win six out of seven Test matches in their home summer.

All summer, England had targeted specific bowlers of the opposition, particularly after seeing off the new ball. Their batters scored runs quickly enough to allow their bowlers enough time to take 20 wickets. They risked collapses, but their approach was in tune with the WTC’s result-oriented, aggressive points system.

Here, as Pakistan rolled out more flat pitches, the English batters did not feel the need to choose their bowlers or wait for the old ball. They set new records for quick scoring, and won the first Test on the final afternoon, and won twice more to sweep the series.

Wickets fell every 53 balls, nearly half the rate of the Australia series, but that had little to do with a change in the pitches. While Australia had scored at 3.17 per over, England got their runs at 5.50, and drove that advantage home.

There was one final part of the story, when New Zealand came over and Pakistan drew both Test matches. The series strike rate of 86 was the third-worst in the WTC.

WTC 2021-23 Final position Bowling strike rate in the country
Australia 1 56.8
India 2 53.6
South Africa 3 46.3
England 4 54.2
Sri Lanka 5 57.0
New Zealand 6 63.5
Pakistan 7 76.5
West Indies 8 60.1
Bangladesh 9 67.8

The countries that have produced more result-oriented wickets at home finished in the top half of the points table of the WTC 2021-23. Pakistan got 48 points from their six overseas Tests, and had had their chance to exploit their home pitches.

Instead, they ended up with only 16 points from seven matches at home – fewer than what they would have, had they won two and lost the other five.

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