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New Zealand win adds intrigue to World Test Championship final race

The battle for the top two spots has opened up after India's 2-0 series defeat

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
Virat Kohli congratulates Kane Williamson  •  Getty Images

Virat Kohli congratulates Kane Williamson  •  Getty Images

New Zealand's 2-0 series sweep of India has opened up the World Test Championship race, which had looked a two-horse race after India had taken all 360 points on offer in their first three series, and Australia had dominated their home season. These are still relatively early days in the championship, with 16 out of 27 series still to be played, but here is an early look at the various scenarios.
Series played: 4, Points: 360
India raced off the blocks, winning every Test against West Indies, South Africa and Bangladesh, but the two losses in New Zealand have left them with a bit to do in their last two series. The tour to Australia later this year is expected to be a tough one, with Australia itching to avenge their 2-1 series defeat in 2018-19. That will be followed by a five-match home series against England early next year. The last time England toured India, in 2016-17, India won the four-Test series 4-0.
The peculiar feature about India's calendar is that the last two series will include as many Test matches as the first four (nine). That means each Test will count for fewer points, meaning that India will have to play more matches and put in more sustained performances to rack up the points. The good thing from India's point of view is that the England series comes towards the end of the WTC calendar, by which time they should have a reasonable idea of what they'll need to do to qualify for the final.
Series played: 3, Points: 296
Australia's perfect home season - they won all five Tests against Pakistan and New Zealand - means they are solidly placed after three series. In terms of average points per series, that works out to 98.7, which is the best among all teams (India's has slipped to 90).
Two of Australia's three remaining series, though, are away from home - in Bangladesh and South Africa. Their last tours to these countries weren't memorable: they drew 1-1 in Bangladesh, and lost 3-1 in South Africa. Their home series is against India, against whom they lost 2-1 the last time. Australia will want better returns in all three series.
New Zealand
Series played: 3, Points: 180
New Zealand's campaign has revived spectacularly with the 120 points they have gained against India; before this series, they had lost four out of five Tests in the championship. Their average of 60 points per series is only fourth-best, after Australia, India and England, but they have a reasonably favourable list of fixtures lined up: away in Bangladesh, and at home against West Indies and Pakistan. They haven't toured Bangladesh since 2013, when they drew 0-0, while they won every Test in their last home series against Pakistan and West Indies. If they repeat those performances in the three series, they will finish on 460 points and could be in contention for a top-two finish.
Series played: 2, Points: 146
The 3-1 defeat of South Africa in an away series puts England on a strong wicket too: in terms of points per series, they are third after Australia and India. Plus, like New Zealand, they too have home series against West Indies and Pakistan coming up. If they pick up maximum points there, then their two series in the subcontinent - in Sri Lanka later this month, and in India early next year - could well decide whether they are contention for the Lord's final or not. The last time they toured these two countries, their results were mixed: they thrashed Sri Lanka 3-0, but lost 4-0 in India.
Series played: 2.5, Points: 140
If Pakistan beat Bangladesh in the second Test of their split home series - the first Test was played in February and the second will happen in April - they will be pretty well-placed too, with 200 points from three series. Their problem, though, is that they have two tough away series coming up, in England and New Zealand, before hosting South Africa early next year. Pakistan have a good record in England, drawing their last two series there, but they lost both Tests in New Zealand the last time they toured in 2016.
The rest of the pack
Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh make up the rest of the table, but none of those teams are currently in contention for the top two spots. Sri Lanka, though, have home series coming up against England and Bangladesh to move up the table. South Africa have lost six out of seven Tests and did their cause no good by being docked six points for maintaining a slow over-rate against England. West Indies and Bangladesh have both played fewer than two complete series, and haven't picked up their first points yet.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats