After T20 World Cup 2022, the spotlight has shifted to the longest format for the grand finale of the second edition of the ongoing World Test Championship, which is scheduled for June 2023. Test cricket is indeed the topic of the town at the moment with multiple teams fighting it out to play the finals. While Australia is playing a three-match series with South Africa down under, Pakistan is hosting New Zealand right after they played England at home. India just concluded their two-match test series in Bangladesh and gearing up for the high-voltage Border Gavaskar series against Australia starting in early February of 2023.
Currently, Australia is comfortably sitting at the top of the points table and is almost certain to seal the top spot, while India, Sri Lanka, and South Africa remain in contention for playing the finals. Apart from the ongoing fixtures, the India-Australia, New Zealand – Sri Lanka and South Africa – West Indies are the three itineraries remaining in this cycle of the World Test Championship after which we will get the top two teams who will play out for the prestigious trophy in England.
How does it stand at the moment?
Of the fourteen matches they have played so far, Australia lost only one against Sri Lanka while winning ten of them which gets them to over 78% of points, miles ahead of India who are second on the points table currently with around 59% points. Earlier, Australia ripped apart England in the Ashes 4-0, West Indies 2-0, and Pakistan 1-0. Even in their ongoing three-game series against South Africa, they are 2-0 up in the first two games with little resistance from the Africans. The last hurdle for the Aussies will be the Border Gavaskar Trophy in India where they need just one draw of the four matches.
World Test Championship points table ( as of 30 December 2022):-
|No. of Matches
India, second on the points table, need to win 3/4 matches against Australia to confirm their place in the finals or win two and expect South Africa and Sri Lanka each to lose at least one of their remaining games. Given that India has been an invincible test side at home in the last decade or so where they have lost only two tests, an India vs Australia final is looking to be the most likely outcome for this World Test Championship cycle.
Sri Lanka and South Africa would need a miracle from here to edge past India. They need to win all of their remaining games and hope India fairs poorly in the Border Gavaskar series. While for South Africa, the challenge is relatively easier in the Caribbean islands, Sri Lanka will have to fight out against New Zealand in alien conditions full of pace and bounce not very much suited to the Asian teams.
West Indies has an outside chance of making it to the finals by winning their two games against South Africa and hoping Australia decimates India by winning at least three matches. The rest of the teams including England, Pakistan, New Zealand, and Bangladesh are mathematically very much out of the race.
The Big Picture of the World Test Championship so far !!
England has been the most interesting team in this championship cycle so far. They started pretty badly by losing two games to India at home and later, getting whitewashed in the Ashes. They got further embarrassed by losing the series against West Indies 0-1. What followed was a change in captaincy and support staff and thus began the era of Bazball !! Thereon, the English defeated South Africa 2-1 and whitewashed Pakistan recently in a three-game away series. But this change in fortunes under Stokes – Mccullum era was a tad too late and by then, they were already very much out of the qualification scenario.
South Africa had very good chances of making it to the top two after they defeated India and Bangladesh at home and drew in New Zealand. But the ongoing series against Australia where their performance looked lackluster in both the games so far blew their prospects. India, on the other hand, started well in this cycle by outplaying England in the summer of 2021. They were riding high on the series victory in Australia and hoped to repeat the same in South Africa but lost against them 1-2. Despite that loss, India’s performance in the tests in SENA has been remarkable in the last few years and adding that to their invincibility at home, they become a very potent and powerful test side. The recent 2-0 series victory in Bangladesh has consolidated India’s position in the top two.
Pakistan had a very ideal fixture for doing well in this World Test Championship (WTC) cycle. They had to play Australia, England, and New Zealand at home whereas Bangladesh, Srilanka, and West Indies in away games. However, they lost squarely against Bangladesh (0-2), Australia (0-1), and England (0-3) while only being able to manage a 1-1 draw against each of Srilanka and West Indies, thus bowing out of contention. Similarly, even though Sri Lanka has kept their hopes alive yet by winning in Bangladesh and the four games at home against Australia, Pakistan, and West Indies, the series whitewash in India will come to haunt them eventually. Defending Champions New Zealand didn’t win a single away game in this cycle so far losing four of them to England and India. The Kiwis couldn’t compensate for that by dominating at home either and could only draw the series against Bangladesh and South Africa 1-1.
This is only the second edition of the marquee event in the longest and the oldest format of the game. The finals of the 2019-2021 cycle was played between India and New Zealand in June 2021 where the Kiwis pipped India to lift the trophy. The idea behind this Championship was to enthuse the audience about test cricket in the era of T20 leagues and retain the charm of the red ball cricket. So far, the championship does look to be doing that job perfectly and has surely generated enough buzz among the cricket fans who are appreciating the format.