Four key series in the lead-up to the final

We take a look at four crucial series that will be pivotal in deciding which teams qualify for next year’s World Test Championship final.

While England are out of the running to feature in next year’s World Test Championship final, they can have a major say on who makes it to the decider during their upcoming series against the Proteas.

Brendon McCullum’s side will enter the series full of confidence on the back of four consecutive Test triumphs, but South Africa will be well prepared for this challenge and will be keen to retain their lead at the head of the World Test Championship standings.

The fitness of Kagiso Rabada will be pivotal to the outcome of the series, with the experienced South Africa pacer currently battling an ankle issue and already ruled out of the ongoing T20I series in Ireland.

Can South Africa quell the ‘Bazball’ phenomenon? Or will the England juggernaut roll on under their new coach and new skipper?

This is a mouth-watering series that will tell us a lot about South Africa and whether they are in fact good enough to maintain their place at the head of the World Test Championship standings.

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If Pakistan are to have any chance of reaching next year’s World Test Championship decider they need to find a bit more consistency and it starts with their home series against England at the end of the year.

Skipper Babar Azam continues to perform well in all formats of the game, but the Pakistan captain will need the likes of Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique to continue to contribute well if they are to have any chance of reaching the World Test Championship final .

Pakistan’s spin attack will be crucial during this series, as the likes of Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Ben Stokes will likely try and attack the hosts’ spinners as much as they can to try and gain the ascendancy.

England don’t have a huge amount of depth in their spinning ranks, meaning Pakistan should have the upper hand in this crucial series that may well shape the top of the World Test Championship standings.

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The winner of this series will be in the box seat to qualify for the World Test Championship final, with both sides currently occupying the top two places on the standings.

The visitors will have plenty of support Down Under, with a large South African contingent likely to be in attendance for the three-Test series that will be pivotal to the race for the World Test Championship.

It’s also the first red-ball series the two countries have played against each other since the infamous 2018 series that included the headline-grabbing Cape Town Test that saw a host of Australia players sanctioned by Cricket Australia for ball tampering.

Australia duo Steve Smith and David Warner will be keen to atone for those dark days from four years ago, so look for the pair to attack South Africa’s bowlers and try and stamp their authority early.

Interestingly Australia haven’t won a series against South Africa at home since the summer of 2008/09, so expect this one to be tight.

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The battle for the Border–Gavaskar Trophy next year could ultimately decide the two World Test Championship finalists and on recent form it doesn’t look good for Pat Cummins’ side.

Australia’s tour of India in 2004 may have seen future skipper Michael Clarke and evergreen all-rounder Dinesh Karthik make their Test debuts, but it is also the last time the Aussies won a Test series on Indian soil.

Virat Kohli with the Border-Gavaskar Trophy that India have held since 2017

Since then Australia have managed just one test triumph in India alone – an emphatic 333-run victory in Pune in 2017 on the back of an amazing 12/70 from spinner Steve O’Keefe – so everything favors more pain for the tourists.

Australia are leaving no stone unturned in their preparation for this series, having recently sent eight promising players to Chennai to acclimatise to Indian conditions ahead of the trip to the sub-continent next year.

Whether that makes much of a difference remains to be seen, but this series is likely to be hotly contested and one not to be missed.

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