WTC 2021-2023: World Test Championship state of play
Continuing this week in New Zealand, the 2021-2023 World Test Championship (WTC) is off to a hot start and the race for the mace is already starting to take shape.
Hosting South Africa in Christchurch in the first of two Test matches, interim New Zealand skipper Tom Latham faces a stiff challenge, up against arguably the form side in the competition.
To compound matters, New Zealand, having lost Ross Taylor after his retirement from Test cricket. They will be without the injured Kane Williamson. As well as Trent Boult who is expecting his third child.
South Africa made headlines earlier in the year when they came from behind to claim a series victory over India. However, Bangladesh opened their Championship account with a shock win over the Black Caps, and Australia flexed their muscles in a home 4-0 triumph over old foes England.
The Australians (86.66% of possible points) are hot on Sri Lanka’s heels at the top of the World Test Championship table, while at the other end, Joe Root’s men are reeling from a poor start, winning just one of nine matches.
1st – Sri Lanka
100% of possible points – two wins in two Test matches
Next three series: India (away – two Tests), Bangladesh (away – two Tests), Australia (home – two Tests)
Sri Lanka will be pleased with the start to their campaign after a 2-0 home series victory against the West Indies, though face two stiff challenges in the form of away trips to India from late February, and a Bangladesh side (May) buoyed by a strong result in New Zealand.
As Ramesh Mendis leads a solid bowling attack, boasting 18 wickets at an average at under ten, Sri Lanka are riding the wave of Dimuth Karunaratne’s imperious form, scoring 248 runs across four innings to start the campaign.
Karunaratne made 902 runs across his side’s seven Test matches across the last calendar year, and will need to emulate that form in 2022 if his side are to maintain their strong record.
2nd – Australia
86.66% of possible points – four wins and a draw in five Test matches
Next three series: Pakistan (away – three Tests), Sri Lanka (away – two Tests), India (away – four Tests)
Narrowly missing out on a chance of playing the first World Test Championship final, Pat Cummins’ men look in no mood to give up easy points throughout the 2021-2023 cycle.
Therefore, Crucially making the most of the home advantage early on, their campaign will be almost completely defined by their performances in 2022, with three difficult series away from home on the horizon.
Set to tour Pakistan for the first time since 1998, Australia also face alien conditions in Sri Lanka, where they went down in three heavy defeats back in 2016. Things aren’t any easier later in the year, meeting India, who have claimed the last three series between the two sides, the last two of which were in Australia.
Led by their world-class bowling attack, Australia will be encouraged by the number of batting options at their disposal, with both Travis Head and Usman Khawaja over-performing in the recent Ashes series.
Head was crowned player of the series for his exploits, while Khawaja made the most of his opportunity in Australian colours, hitting twin centuries in Sydney.
3rd – Pakistan
75% of possible points – three wins and a defeat from four Test matches
Next three series: Australia (home – three Tests), Sri Lanka (away – two Tests), England (home – three Tests)
Pakistan will be satisfied with the beginning of their campaign, though there may be a tinge of regret from their opening WTC tour in the West Indies, where they were just one wicket away from a series sweep.
Comfortably accounting for Bangladesh at home, the one-wicket West Indies win at Sabina Park is their only blemish thus far, having won the second Test at the same ground by 109 runs.
Sharing the load with the bat, spearhead Shaheen Afridi is in arguably world-best form with the ball for Pakistan, taking 28 wickets across the four matches at a strike rate of 29.
4th – South Africa
66.66% of possible points – two wins and a defeat from three Test matches
Next three series: New Zealand (away – two Tests), Bangladesh (home – two Tests), England (away – three Tests)
Coming from behind to claim a famous series victory over India at home, Dean Elgar’s side will be confident heading into the next year of Test cricket.
Blessed with depth in their fast bowling stocks, trips to New Zealand and England should favour Kagiso Rabada and the rest of the attack, who are making a name as one of the world’s best.
Elgar (235 runs at 47) remains the key at the top of the order. With young Keegan Petersen (276 runs at 46) making a fine start to his Test career against a fearsome Indian attack, claiming the ICC Men’s Player of the Month for January.
5th – India
49.07% of possible points – four wins, two draws and three defeats from nine Test matches (three points deducted for penalty overs)
Next three series: Sri Lanka (home – two Tests), Australia (home – four Tests), Bangladesh (away – Two Tests)
It’s been a tumultuous start for the runners-up at last year’s inaugural World Test Championship final, winning just four of their first nine matches. To add insult to injury, the team are also down a further three points due to a poor over rate. And will be appointing a new captain after Virat Kohli’s resignation.
In spite of this, there are more than enough reasons to suggest the side can turn a corner.
With tough tours to England and South Africa out of the way. India have favorable recent records against all three of their next opponents. And pose world-class individual talent across the side.
6th – New Zealand
33.33% of possible points – one win, one draw and two defeats from four Test matches
Next three series: South Africa (home – two Tests), England (away – three Tests), Pakistan (away – two Tests)
New Zealand will rue their missed opportunity of claiming a series victory against Bangladesh. Therefore, collapsing to a defeat in the first Test match by eight wickets.
The challenge continues for the defending champions, facing an upbeat South Africa. And an away trip to England without veteran Ross Taylor, who called time on his Test career.’
The Black Caps have happy memories of the UK, winning a two-match Test series against England in the lead-up to the World Test Championship final. Before their eight-wicket mace-claiming victory over India.
Equal 7th – Bangladesh
25% of possible points – one win and three defeats from four Test matches
Next three series: South Africa (away – two Tests), Sri Lanka (home – two Tests), India (home – two Tests)
While disappointingly going down 2-0 at home to Pakistan late last year. Bangladesh’s 1-1 series result in New Zealand proves the Tigers’ ability to turn the competition on its head. Therefore, they can piece together complete team performances.
Mominul Haque’s side seemingly have the bases covered with the ball. Though stability on the batting side is needed if they are to push up the table. Their first innings of 458 in the first Test against the Black Caps is an outlier across their eight innings thus far. With Liton Das (420 runs at 60), the only player with more than 200 runs in the cycle thus far.
They face a tough test next, away to South Africa from late March.
Equal 7th – West Indies
25% of possible points – one win and three defeats from four Test matches
Next three series: England (home – three Tests), Bangladesh (home – two Tests), Australia (home – Two Tests)
Runs have been hard to come by for the West Indies. And they have failed to post a score in excess of 260 across their four Test matches. Moreover, going down to Sri Lanka in two heavy defeats away from home. They also dropped 12 points at home, in a defeat to Pakistan.
Their one-wicket win in the first Test against Pakistan. Provided Kraigg Brathwaite’s team their only points of the cycle thus far. Though they have a golden opportunity to right the wrongs, taking on England at home in March.
The West Indies claimed the corresponding series in 2019. However, can distance themselves from the chasing England side reeling after their slow start.
9th – England
9.25% of possible points – one win, six defeats and two draws in nine Test matches (ten points deducted for penalty overs)
Next three series: West Indies (away – three Tests), New Zealand (away – three Tests), South Africa (away – three Tests)
Few positives can be taken out of England’s start to the cycle. However, with ten points deducted for poor over rates only compounding their woes. Winning just the one match at home to India. Joe Root’s side were comprehensively beaten by a rampant Australia. Also with their only points coming from a rain-affected draw in Sydney.
England’s tail came to the rescue to save the match, an all-too-common occurrence given the frailties from the top order. Therefore, outside of Root (886 runs), England have failed to build with the bat. Also with Jonny Bairstow (378 runs) and David Malan (350 runs) the next best in the side. The pair average just 34 and 27 respectively, underlining the lack of runs for their bowlers to play with.
On top of the scarcity of runs, time is the enemy of the English. With key bowlers in their career twilight. Moreover, James Anderson will be 40 by the March 2023 final and is unlikely to feature. While Stuart Broad at 35 is continues to have his workload managed by the team. The pair were recently dropped for England’s tour of the West Indies.
Ollie Robinson’s 32 wickets leads the World Test Championship field. Though faces injury struggles of his own after an arduous Australian series.