India v England Men's - Tests
How Australia can reach World Test Championship final
Australia can still reach the inaugural Test championship decider, but now need results from the India-England series to fall in their favour as MCG over-rate offence comes back to bite
3 February 2021, 09:00 AM AEST
Australia's tardy over rate against India in this summer's Boxing Day Test has come back to bite them and could well cost them a spot in the World Test Championship (WTC) final.
Confirmation last night that Australia has postponed their three-Test tour of South Africa has seen New Zealand become the first team into this year's showpiece event.
The Blackcaps' opponents will not be known until after the forthcoming India v England Test series, and although Australia still remains a chance of making it through to the final, their destiny is out of their own hands.
Put simply, Australia can make the final if any of the following seven results in the four-Test India v England series eventuate:
• India win by 1-0
• England win by 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1
• The series ends in a draw (0-0, 1-1 or 2-2)
Any other result will see one of England or India through to the WTC final against New Zealand, which is expected to be played mid-year in the UK, potentially at Lord's.
If Australia are eliminated from the WTC final, they will look back at their slow going in the Boxing Day Test, when ICC match referee and former Australia Test batsman David Boon ruled Tim Paine's team were two overs short of their target.
Their penalty, under ICC regulations, was a fine of 40 per cent of their match fee for each player, and the team was penalised four WTC points.
That has proven to be crucial given teams are ranked on the WTC standings by their percentage of points earned, or PCT. It is calculated as the percentage of the points won by a team from a Test series out of the total number of points contested.
For example, Australia have a PCT of 69.2 for their 332 points won out of the total 480 points up for grabs in the four series played in this WTC cycle.
Had Australia not lost those four WTC points for their over rate offences, their PCT rises to 70 and they would be tied with New Zealand. However, the Australians hold a better "runs per wicket" ratio which the ICC uses as its first tiebreaker, putting Australia into second spot – and a place in the WTC final.
The runs per wicket ratio is calculated as "runs scored per wicket lost, divided by runs conceded per wicket taken". Australia's ratio is 1.392, compared to NZ's 1.281.
The change to rank teams by PCT was introduced by the ICC back in November to the already complicated WTC points system that had been further muddied by the COVID-19 pandemic and the number of Test series that had been postponed, creating further imbalance in the table.
Under the WTC points system, there are 120 points up for grabs in each Test series, split between the number of matches played in that series (ie, a two-Test series means each Test is worth 60 points, while a five-Test series means each Test is worth 24 points).