As many as six teams are still in contention to feature in next year’s World Test Championship final and two crucial series commence next week that will be pivotal in determining which sides stay in the mix.
Australia host the West Indies in a two-match series at home, with Pat Cummins’ side holding on to a narrow lead at the top of the World Test Championship standings.
Pakistan also host England in a three-match series and Babar Azam’s charges will still harbour aspirations of qualifying for their first World Test Championship final.
We take a look at the possibilities of all four sides qualifying for next year’s World Test Championship final at The Oval.
Australia squad to play West Indies: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner.
Pat Cummins’ team have more series remaining this period than any other side and that may work to their advantage as they attempt to win a place in Australia’s first World Test Championship final.
Next year’s tour to India for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be difficult for Australia to negotiate, so expect the powerful Aussies to try as hard as possible to maintain their place at the top of the standings during home series against the West Indies and South Africa.
Australia looked to have put a disappointing ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign behind them when sweeping past England 3-0 in the recent ODI series on home soil and the Aussies will be hoping that form can be replicated to the Test arena.
West Indies squad to play Australia: Kraigg Brathwaite (c), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Anderson Phillip, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Devon Thomas.
The West Indies do have two series remaining this period and can still mathematically qualify for next year’s final with positive results in Australia and South Africa.
Kraigg Brathwaite’s side will play two-Test series in both countries and could rise as high as 65% with four victories in those matches which may be enough to sneak into the decider.
Whether or not the West Indies have enough class to register four victories away from home in difficult places to win remains a query, but the Caribbean side are still well in contention.
Pakistan squad to face England: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shan Masood, Saud Shakeel, Salman Agha, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Abrar Ahmed, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Nawaz, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Ali.
With two series at home remaining this cycle, Pakistan can still qualify for a first World Test Championship final with positive performances against England and New Zealand.
Pakistan have just four wins from nine Test matches so far this period and will probably need to win the majority of their remaining five Tests if they are to sneak into next year’s decider.
Confidence will be high within the Pakistan camp on the back of a strong showing at the T20 World Cup that took them all the way to the final and the Asian side will be keen some revenge on their MCG conquerors when they host England at the start of December.
England squad to play Pakistan: Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Will Jacks, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Liam Livingstone, Jamie Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood, Rehan Ahmed.
While England are out of contention for next year’s World Test Championship final with just one series yet to play, they can be a major player in helping or hindering Pakistan’s hopes during their upcoming series on the sub-continent.
The three-match series in Pakistan is the only Test series England have remaining this period and Ben Stokes’ side will be hoping to finish their campaign on a high.
England have included teenage spinner Rehan Ahmed in their squad for the tour and, if selected, the 18-year-old will become the youngest player to debut for England in a Men’s Test match.