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Friday, February 26, 2021

Explained: Who will face New Zealand in WTC title clash?

The top two teams in the WTC table, with the current cycle ending in March, will play the title decider.

Written by Shamik Chakrabarty |
Updated: February 4, 2021 11:04:01 am
New Zealand on Tuesday became the first team to reach the final of the inaugural World Test Championship after Australia’s away series against South Africa got cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The postponement of Australia’s scheduled tour of South Africa due to Covid-related health concerns has secured New Zealand’s qualification for the ICC World Test Championship (WTC) final to be played at Lord’s in June. India need 70 points from their upcoming four-Test series against England to be the Kiwis’ opponents in the final. The top two teams in the WTC table, with the current cycle ending in March, will play the title decider.

Why are New Zealand through?

The WTC finalists will be decided on the Percentage of Points (PCT) accrued instead of absolute points – a Covid-forced change made by the International Cricket Council, taking into consideration the postponed/cancelled series. PCT is the percentage of points won out of total number of points contested. On that basis, New Zealand are second in the table with a PCT of 70%. Following Australia’s 2-1 home series loss to India, their PCT dropped to 69.2%. With the South Africa series postponed for now, the Aussies can’t get past their Trans-Tasman rivals. So the Kiwis are through, because their other two nearest rivals, India and England, are about to play a bilateral series and only one of them can qualify.

Where do India stand?

As per the ICC standings, India sit atop the table both on absolute points and PCT – 430 and 71.7% respectively. Each series under the WTC is allotted 120 points and India need 70 from the one against England to top Australia’s PCT and qualify for the final. In a four-Test series, 30 points are allotted for a win, while a draw will fetch 10 points. So, a 2-1 series win against England, which is the minimum requirement, will secure India’s qualification for the WTC final.

What about England?

Joe Root’s team, too, has a chance to play the WTC final, although the equation for them is quite tough. England’s PCT at the moment is 68.7% and they need 87 points from the series against India to be at the Lord’s final. With three wins in the upcoming series, which is the minimum requirement, they will get past Australia, while India’s PCT will come down. A 3-1 or 3-0 series win against India will see England through.

Do Australia still have a chance?

Theoretically, they have. If the India-England series ends in a stalemate – 0-0, 1-1 or 2-2 – then India’s PCT will drop below Australia’s, while England will stay rooted in fourth place. A 1-0 or 2-1 series win for England, or if India win 1-0, will also see the Aussies in the WTC final. In that case, both India and England will fail to collect the required number of points and will be knocked out.

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So, Australia’s chances have been badly dented by the postponement?

To a large extent, yes. A three-Test series in South Africa would have had Tim Paine and Co playing for 120 points, with 40 points for a Test win. In hindsight though, Australia would rue the four points they lost because of a slow over-rate in the Boxing Day Test against India. With those four points, Australia’s PCT would have been 70 per cent, the same as New Zealand’s. Australia’s better Runs per Wicket (RPW) ratio, in that case, would have seen them through. According to ESPNCricinfo, Australia’s RPW is 1.39 vis-à-vis New Zealand’s 1.28.

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