New Zealand qualify for Test Championship final

Dubai (AFP) –


New Zealand are the first team to qualify for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship, the organisers said Tuesday, following the postponement of the Test series between South Africa and Australia.

Australia pulled out of their Test tour to South Africa earlier Tuesday, citing an "unacceptable" risk to players with the coronavirus rampant in the country.

"(It) means New Zealand have become the first team to qualify for the inaugural ICC World Test Championship final to be held in England from June 18 to 22, with June 23 as the reserve day," the ICC said in a statement.

New Zealand, currently ranked second on the ICC WTC table, have a points percentage of 70 per cent, enough to secure them a place in the final.

"They will be joined by either India, England, or Australia with the second spot being determined by the outcome of the India v England four-match Test series due to start on Friday," the statement added.

"To book their place, India will have to win the series against England by 2-1, 2-0, 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0, margin.

"For England to qualify and join New Zealand, they will have to win the series against India by 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0 margin."

Australia can still qualify for the WTC final if the series between India and England is drawn, or if India win the series 1-0 or England win it by 1-0, 2-1 or a 2-1 margin.

Justin Langer's men were due to play three Tests against the Proteas, and Australia named their squad last week with the intent to fly out this month.

But the situation became untenable with the outbreak in South Africa accelerated by a new variant said to be more contagious than earlier strains of the virus.

With almost 1.5 million detected infections and more than 44,000 fatalities, it has the highest number of cases and deaths on the continent.

Cricket Australia interim chief Nick Hockley said the medical advice was not to travel.

It is the second major tour of South Africa to be cancelled in recent months after England pulled out of their trip midway through a one-day series in December over a Covid-19 outbreak among its touring party.