If there was ever a time for Australian cricket to take slow over rates seriously, it is now.
The team’s tardiness during the Boxing Day Test may have cost them a crack at the inaugural World Test Championship.
All 11 players were fined 40 percent of their match fee for slipping two overs behind their target over rate.
But the bigger penalty – which was handed down by match referee David Boon – saw the Australians docked four World Test Championship points.
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CA postpone South Africa tour
Those four points would be enough for Australia to have already qualified for the final, despite a 2-1 series loss to India.
Now, Justin Langer and his team are depending on a host of mathematical improbabilities to reach the Lord’s decider.
Australia is relying on England to win 2-0, 2-1 or 1-0 in the upcoming four-match series against India to leapfrog those two countries into second spot and face the Kiwis. A 1-1, 2-2 or 0-0 series result would also be enough for the Aussies to sneak in. As would a 1-0 India series victory.
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If none of these five scorelines eventuate, Australia is doomed. And they might have a sloppy over-rate to thank for it.
On the back of three Alastair Cook centuries, England upset India 2-1 in late 2012, offering some faint hope for Tim Paine’s men. Can lightning strike twice nine years apart?
It would be ironic if England’s success allowed Australia – their arch nemesis – to reach the final at Lord’s in June.
The World Test Championship is complicated to say the least. Points are divided up depending on the number of matches per series.
And some series’ – such as England’s tour of New Zealand in late 2019 – don’t count at all. Similarly, Australia’s postponed Test against Afghanistan that was slated to open the 2020/21 summer was off the grid.
Each team was set to play six series’ during the two-year cycle, three at home and three away. COVID-19 has made this impossible.
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The 2019 Ashes, last summer’s Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand, plus the recently completed India series will end up being Australia’s only series in the inaugural World Test Championship. That is three home series’ and one away campaign.
So while Australia will be disappointed if they miss out on the final, the first edition of the World Test Championship has hardly been the perfect tournament. For a start, not every country plays each other once! COVID-19 has only amplified the inequality.
However, Tuesday night’s announcement has two primary silver linings. The first is Australia’s players and coaches will be able to spend more time at home with family after months trapped in bubbles.
But the second is a mouth-watering prospect for cricket lovers. The once proud Sheffield Shield competition will benefit from Australia’s best players.
It’s not all bad.
World Test Championship
India – 71.7% (430 Points)
New Zealand – 70.0% (420)
Australia – 69.2% (332)
England – 68.7% (412)
Note: In the World Test Championship table, teams are ranked based on percentage.
The percentage is points earned divided by points available.
Initially, matches not played were deemed to be draws and the points were to be split. But the ICC decided to adjust this format in November so countries who had series’ cancelled due to COVID-19 would not be disadvantaged from a percentage perspective.
INDIA VS ENGLAND 2021, TEST SERIES SCHEDULE
1st Test: Chennai | 5th Feb-9th Feb
2nd Test: Chennai | 13th Feb-17th Feb
3rd Test: Ahmedabad | 24th Feb-28th Feb (D/N)
4th Test: Ahmedabad | 4th-8th March