Who will be in the WTC final?

My best guess for the most likely WTC finalists

Who will be in the WTC final?
Picture Credits - CricketXI's World Test Championship Predictor

At stumps on day one of the Australia-New Zealand Test, there was little chance the Kiwis could come back. At stumps on day three, Australia were almost out of the game. It was an incredible match of Test cricket that kept your head on a swivel right to the end. That is enough to make it important.

This match and Australia’s win ultimately matter to New Zealand fans more. They live in a world where losing to Australia at every key moment is their reality. But this game meant something else to Australia that it usually wouldn’t: they needed points in the WTC table. 

They drew against England and the West Indies, and later in the cycle, they will face the team currently on top of the table. Alex Carey was probably on the verge of being dropped, and he still might end up out of the team. Yet he might have got Australia into the WTC final.

There is a Reddit user called Andrew Tye Fighter, who might just be the greatest handle in cricket. Incredibly, I am not mentioning him because of that. He set up a World Test Championship predictor. The ICC had one earlier, but for some reason, they took it down. So Andrew Tye Fighter chose light over the dark side and made this himself. I am sure there are errors in it, not because he’s not done the work, but because things change. 

But let us play around with it anyway. Obviously, no one can tell you the result of each match. If I could do that, I would be a billionaire. However, we can make pretty good guesses. So let me go through with my best guesses for every match and therefore the most likely WTC finalists. 

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka one all. England should clean up the West Indies. But I can see South Africa splitting their games when heading to the Caribbean. Pakistan host Bangladesh, but surely one game has to be a draw. England should beat Sri Lanka as well. India are way too strong for Bangladesh, even with super Shanto. 

The Kiwis should be able to split the series against Sri Lanka, though I am also open to the home side winning both. Surely Pakistan can’t be as bad as we saw before at home, they must be able to win a single match at least, and England doesn’t play draws. Can Ajaz Patel take all 20 wickets in a Test to steal a victory against India? Probably not. South Africa in Bangladesh should produce one loss. 

India versus Australia is your big boy, but let’s just split the difference here and say the home team wins 3-2. West Indies should beat Bangladesh, but it will depend on the wickets. This series has little to do with the WTC, but this could be a sneaky fun series. Who knows what state England will be in by the time they arrive in New Zealand? You could say the same for the home team. I’ll go 2-1 England based on how they played before. South Africa should beat Sri Lanka and Pakistan at home. But Pakistan should win the series against the West Indies. Sri Lanka can pinch a match against the Aussies. 

So, what does our points table look like? Australia is in second spot here, even with their penalties. I haven’t factored in future ones, but Australia and England are most likely to get them again. 

Picture Credits - CricketXI's World Test Championship Predictor

New Zealand is pretty low here. Many think at least one of these teams outside India and Australia can give it a shake, so let’s revisit the Kiwis. 

Could they win both games in Sri Lanka? It feels incredibly unlikely, right? But let’s give them both wins. I can’t see them winning any against India. But what about another draw like before? If we flip the England series to them getting two wins and a loss, they still don't make it. They won't be in the final.

What about England? The only way I can see them making it is if they win every single game from now on. The problem is that they play in England, so rain is an issue. They are playing in Pakistan, so flat wickets are an issue. And it’s also 12 Tests. That is a lot of wins in a row, so let’s say that is probably not going to happen. 

Pakistan? They could beat Bangladesh twice at home. Them beating England twice is a huge push, but let’s put that in. They could beat West Indies in both matches at home. but that still leaves them just short. The only way is if I give them a win against South Africa as well. And that does feel like a fantasy. So I don’t see it for them either. That is a shame for the ICC, as it would mean a match against India in a final. 

So the only other option is South Africa. I think their batting is shaky, and that is the friendliest word I can find. That is why I think the West Indies bowlers can win them a Test. But for the sake of this, let’s give SA both wins - which is what they earned in 2021. Bangladesh is trickier; they haven’t toured there since 2015, and both matches were drawn. I can’t see them winning both here. But they don’t need to. Because that gets them by Australia already. 

However, let’s have another look at the Aussies because that is obviously their biggest threat. Australia has seven Tests against India and Sri Lanka. I had them winning four of those. If they win five, that is not enough to go past South Africa here. So that is a path. But it does mean that the South Africans have to win seven of their next eight games. 

They have an 11-9 record in Tests in the last three years, so that would seem pretty far-fetched. But all their losses are against the better teams. And they’re about to play two friendly sides at home and two lower-ranked ones away. They could actually go on a run here. It might be more hilarious if they come just short and miss out on another ICC final because they sent their F team to New Zealand. 

How secure is India? They will definitely win against Bangladesh. New Zealand could steal a draw, but I don't think so. Their future could depend on how good a run South Africa can mount and the Border Gavaskar trophy. If they lose an extra Test or have a draw down under, they can also slip out. 

But just to get more fun, if Australia beat them three times but lost one Test in Sri Lanka, India qualify. Even if Australia win two matches against Sri Lanka but only manages two wins against India, they are out if SA win a lot. 

So the most important series in this cycle is undoubtedly India-Australia. But it may also come down to the very last series, with Australia taking on Sri Lanka, who may end up last. 

Fans have not yet fully bought into the WTC. The finals themselves are fun, but the schedule is so convoluted and confusing that it often gets forgotten. If it needs anything outside the final to happen to it, having cricket’s most hyped series be a near shootout would help. With all of South Africa and India then watching on, the Sri Lankans try to hold off the Aussies at the end. 

Remember when the BGT made Steve Smith mark a guard with a star? Imagine what it could do with the WTC.