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Explained: Why South Africa’s hopes of automatic World Cup qualification hang by a thread after series forfeit

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 3 minute read

The announcement of South Africa’s cancellation of their three-match ODI series against Australia has made their task of qualifying automatically for the 2023 World Cup even tougher than it already was.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) confirmed today that they will not play the series after they were unable to find dates that did not clash with their new domestic T20 competition. In effect, South Africa have now forfeited the series giving Australia all 30 ODI World Cup Super League points that were on offer.

The series was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic saw it reorganised for January 2023. In a statement, CSA CEO Pholetsi Moseki explained why South Africa forfeited the series despite the blow they will take to their World Cup hopes. Moseki said: “In the case of the Australia tour, CSA reached out to its counterpart months ago to reschedule the tour to mutually agreeable dates. CSA offered four options to that effect. Unfortunately, and to our disappointment, none of these were acceptable to Cricket Australia.

“CSA has agreed that ICC award Australia the competition points. While we are saddened at losing the crucial points, we are confident that our in-form Proteas team will garner the requisite points through the remaining games to secure automatic qualification to the showpiece event in India next year. As difficult as this decision has been for CSA, the long-term sustainability of our new T20 League is reliant on having all our domestic players available for this exciting new addition to the CSA calendar.”

The series forfeit leaves South Africa’s automatic World Cup qualification hopes hanging by a thread. Each team plays 24 fixtures (eight three-match ODI series) across the World Cup Super League cycle. The forfeit means that after 16 games, South Africa will have just 49 points to their name. Ahead of them, they have a home series against England, an away series against India and two games remaining in their suspended home series against the Netherlands.

The top seven of the 13 ODI World Cup Super League teams – as well as 2023 World Cup hosts India who qualify for the tournament automatically – qualify directly for next year’s 10-team showcase event. At the time of writing, no team has guaranteed participation at the World Cup through the Super League but a number of sides are all but there.

South Africa can now finish the Super League with a maximum of 129 points should they win all their remaining fixtures without incurring any further penalty points for slow over rates. England and Bangladesh both need just a single win from their remaining six fixtures to pass South Africa’s best possible points tally. Similarly, Afghanistan need just three wins from 12 to pass the 129-point mark while New Zealand need to win just five of their next 16 remaining fixtures to get to 130 points. Australia, the most obvious beneficiaries of the series’ cancellation, now only require three victories from nine fixtures to guarantee beating South Africa’s best possible final points total. Pakistan – who have 90 points from 15 games – are also on track to pass 129 points.

The fight for the last automatic qualification spot is likely to be between the Proteas, Sri Lanka and West Indies with Ireland, Netherlands and Zimbabwe all extremely unlikely to qualify given their current point totals. If South Africa win all of their remaining eight games they are all but certain to qualify, but given the identity of two of their opponents – 2019 World Cup winners England and 2023 World Cup favourites India – they are still in real trouble. The results of West Indies’ upcoming home series against New Zealand and Sri Lanka’s home series against against Afghanistan in early 2023 could go a long way to sealing their fate one way or the other.

Should South Africa miss out on a top-eight finish and direct World Cup qualification, they will then have to participate in the 2023 World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe from which the top two teams qualify for the 2023 World Cup in India.

At the time of writing, the ICC ODI World Cup Super League table does not take into account South Africa’s forfeited series against Australia.

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