Speaking to Sanjana Ganesan on The ICC Review, Shane Watson praised the ICC World Test Championship, with consequence and entertainment now in almost every matchup.
Shane Watson: It’s Going To Be Hard For South Africa And Australia To Not Make It To WTC 2021-23 Finals
Competition across the 2021-2023 cycle to date has seen a reasonable level of parity among the nine teams and, as the business end approaches, every match impacts the table in a meaningful way.
The final of the ongoing cycle is set to be played next year, but the race for the top two spots in the league table is heating up. South Africa and Australia occupy the qualification spots for now but face some tough series to hold on to those positions. Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan lie in wait to pounce on any slip-up.
“Right now, the way I see it, it’s going to be hard for South Africa and Australia to not make it”, Shane Watson said, when asked to predict the two finalists.
“They’re both playing really good cricket. Australia played good cricket apart from that last Test against Sri Lanka where they got swept up in turning conditions in the last innings.”
Even as the front-runners in the competition though, South Africa cannot afford a serious dip in form. Taking on England in a three-match series away from home, three defeats would see them fall all the way down to a share of sixth place with the West Indies, who still harbour aspirations of a final appearance.
However, South Africa extended its lead on the World Test Championship standings with a win over England in the first Test at Lord’s on Friday. South Africa beat England by an innings and 12 runs in the first Test at Lord’s on Friday.
With seven Tests remaining (two vs England in this series, three vs Australia, and two vs West Indies), South Africa is in contention to take one of the two spots in the WTC final, which will be played at Lord’s in June 2023.
The Proteas currently lead the standings with a win percentage of 75 after eight Tests. They are followed by Australia (70 percent) at number two. Sri Lanka (53.33 percent) and India (52.08 percent) are third and fourth, respectively.
Kagiso Rabada (7/79 in the match) and Anrich Nortje (6/110 in the match) ensured that England’s batting line-up could not unleash its much-hyped ‘Bazball’ brand of cricket.
Shane Watson Would Be Surprised If India And Pakistan Don’t Come Close Leading To The WTC 2021-23 Final
Sloppy performances would leave things open for the chasing pack, namely India and Pakistan, to make a move. Importantly, Pakistan has home field advantage in all of their remaining five fixtures, while India hosts Australia for four of their six remaining WTC matches.
“You can never discount India and Pakistan, because they’ve got so many match winners, outside of their home countries as well,” Shane Watson added. ” Those two, I’d be very surprised if they don’t come knocking on the door leading into the final.”
Keeping an eye on the competition, there is an element of envy for Shane Watson watching on, with the all-rounder boasting 59-Test appearances but lamenting the late timing of the WTC’s introduction.
“Yes, I wish I did (play in the WTC). Even in my playing days, in Test cricket, there was a lot of talk about the ICC World Test Championship coming into play, and it took way too long to be put into place, and unfortunately, I missed out on it,” said Shane Watson.
“I was very fortunate to play a ‘Super Test’ in 2005, Australia against a World XI, which was something very special – it was one of the first Test matches I played.”
“That was special to be a part of, but this is even more so, to be able to win an ICC event and it being in Test cricket. For the current playing group, Test cricketers around the world, it’s very special to know there’s a culmination coming with a (WTC) final.”
Shane Watson scored 3,731 Test runs at an average of 35.19, including four centuries and 24 half-centuries, and also took 75 wickets at 33.68 and held 45 catches. Shane Watson made his Test debut at the Sydney Cricket Ground in January 2005 against Pakistan.