England’s prospects in World Test Championship race hampered by rain
The two rain-affected draws in their three-Test series against Pakistan have put England on a sticky wicket in their quest for a place in the final of World Test Championship (WTC). To put these results in perspective, a win in the forthcoming tour of India will fetch only 24 points – given it is a five-Test series – but the difference between a win and a draw in a three-Test series is 27 points (40 points for a win, 13 for a draw).
The WTC schedule is not halfway through yet, with 14 out of 27 series still to be played, but here is a look at where teams stand at this point.
Series played: 4, Points: 292
England began their summer with a theoretical chance of leapfrogging to No.1 on the WTC points table. But while the loss in the first Test of the series against West Indies put paid to such hopes, the draw in the third Test against Pakistan means that they will have to settle for the third spot, at present, behind India and Australia.
A couple of more wins in the summer would’ve given them a healthier chance of finishing in the top two, but they have lost out on a potential 54 points with the two washouts against Pakistan. They will have to fare exceptionally well in their remaining two series, both away – a five-Test series in India and a two-match series in Sri Lanka – to finish in the top two from here on. England face a daunting task of upending India in their own backyard if they are to entertain chances of playing the WTC final at Lord’s. The last time they toured India, in 2016-17, they went down 4-0 in a five-match series. However, they did thrash Sri Lanka 3-0.
Series played: 4, Points: 166
Pakistan would have hoped to secure at least one win on their England tour given their decent Test record in the country, but they settle for a total of 26 points from the three matches, which drags them back a little in the race for a spot in the final. They have three 60-point home Tests left (one of a two-match series against Bangladesh and a two-match series against South Africa), which they would look to capitalise on. A full 180-points return from the three home Tests will mean that they progress to 346 points but will still be 14 points short of what India have now. With Australia, too, comfortably placed to finish in the top-two, the two-match series in New Zealand has to go well for Pakistan to give them a realistic chance. They, however, lost both Tests the last time they toured New Zealand in 2016-17. And they can ill afford to drop any points in the home Tests.
Series played: 4, Points: 360
India raced off the blocks, winning every Test against West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh, but the two losses in New Zealand left them with a bit to do in their last two series. The tour to Australia later this year is expected to be a tough one, with Australia looking the avenge their 1-2 series defeat in 2018-19. That will be followed by a five-match home series against England early next year.
The peculiar feature about India’s WTC fixtures is that the last two series will include as many Test matches as the first four: nine. Each Test will, therefore, count for fewer points, meaning that India will have to play more matches and put in more sustained effort to rack up the points. The good thing from India’s point of view is that the England series comes towards the end of the WTC calendar, which means they will have a reasonable idea of what they’ll need to do in that series to qualify for the final.
Series played: 3, Points: 296
Australia’s perfect home season – they won all five Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand – means they have racked up 296 points in three series. In terms of average points per series, that works out to 98.7, which is the best among all teams. (India’s have slipped to 90.)
Two of Australia’s three series, though, are in Bangladesh and South Africa. Their last tours to these countries weren’t memorable: they only drew level 1-1 in Bangladesh, and lost 3-1 in South Africa. Their home series is against India, against whom they lost 2-1 the last time around. Australia will want better returns in all three series.
Series played: 3, Points: 180
New Zealand’s campaign revived spectacularly with the 120 points they gained against India; before that series, they had lost five out of six Tests in the WTC. Their average of 60 points per series is only fourth-best, after Australia, India and England, but they have a reasonably favourable list of series lined up: away in Bangladesh, and at home against West Indies and Pakistan. They haven’t toured Bangladesh since 2013-14, when they drew 0-0, while they won every Test in their last home series against Pakistan and West Indies. If they repeat those performances in the three series, they will finish on 460 points.
Sri Lanka, West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh make up the rest of the table, but none of those teams is currently in contention for the top two spots. Sri Lanka, though, have home series coming up against England and Bangladesh to move up the table. South Africa have lost six out of seven Tests and did their cause no good by being docked six points for slow over rate against England. West Indies got on board with a fine Test win in England, but then lost the next two to spoil their case, while Bangladesh are the only team without a point on the board.