Euro 2020 Special

South African Defeat Boosts India’s WTC hopes: Australia Remains Final Favourites

South Africa’s defeat to England in the Third Test at the Oval may have wider ramifications for both them and several other countries in the race to reach the second final of the World Test Championship (WTC).

Before the series began, they led the points table and victory in the First Test at Lord’s consolidated their position. However, following back-to-back defeats in the next two tests, their prospects and looking a lot less bright.

And the chasing pack, including India, now have hopes they may yet overhaul them.


WTC – a reminder

As a brief reminder, the WTC is a league competition run by the ICC among the major test playing nations.

It was introduced in line with the ICC’s avowed intention of having one pinnacle tournament for each format of the game and to help breathe new life into test cricket which, in many countries, is in danger of dying off in comparison to the attractions of the T20 format.

The inaugural competition took place between 2019 and 2021 and culminated with India and New Zealand meeting in the final in Southampton in England. New Zealand, captained by Kane Williamson, won by eight wickets to became the first WTC Champions.

The WTC extends over a two-year cycle, in which all the countries involved playing three home and three away series.

The current cycle ends in 2023 and will conclude with the final, which it has already been announced will take place at Lord’s next June.


Percentage points basis

During the first cycle, every test match series was worth 120 points with the points on offer distributed equally across all the matches in the series.

This system, though, had an in-built inequity with two or three match series effectively carrying greater weight than a five-match series like the Ashes.

With the pandemic laying waste to the cricket calendar, teams’ standings were determined on the percentage of available basis they had collected.

Whilst this method has been retained, the underlying calculation has been made much fairer and the number of points on offer for each test match has been made unform.


Current Standings

Australia now have a clear lead at the top of the table with 72 percentage points. South Africa remains in second place but they have now dropped to 60%, with Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan all closely bunched behind them.

Sri Lanka, despite their current standing, have little chance of reaching the final because their last two remaining games are away in New Zealand and they are notoriously bad travellers.

England, despite their victory in the home series against New Zealand and South Africa and their delayed fifth test victory over India, were out of contention a long time ago after a difficult start to the current campaign.


Australia remain favourites

Australia have more tests to play than any of the other leading contenders but have the advantage of having five of those at home with the West Indies and South Africa scheduled to play two and three matches respectively.

Their remaining away series – four tests against India early next year – looks tough. But by then, they might have virtually booked themselves a place in the final.

The fact that South Africa have to play those matches on Australian soil will make it much harder for them to maintain their top two standing even if they beat the West Indies at home.


India may fancy their chances

India may fancy their chances because they have six tests still to play, including those four at home to Australia and then two in Bangladesh where they will travel as clear favourites.

Should they manage to win all six matches – difficult but not unconceivable – then they would leapfrog Australia.


Pakistan should not be discounted

Although Pakistan are only fifth in the WTC championship at present, their chances should not be discounted entirely.

That is because all their remaining matches are at home with three matches to come against England, and then two against New Zealand. A perfect record in those games would not only ensure automatic qualification, but could potentially set up the mouthwatering prospect of a final against India


Test cricket now takes a backseat

Despite these fascinating permutations, fans of test cricket will have to wait several months before the next development in this saga. With the World Cup in Australia coming up next month, it is now wall to wall T20 cricket for all concerned.




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