Race to the WTC final: Australia in pole position; India and Pakistan bank on home advantage

South Africa have a tough route to the final after their series defeat against England

S Rajesh
S Rajesh
England clinched a 2-1 series win against South Africa, but it's too late for them to book a spot in the WTC final  •  Getty Images

England clinched a 2-1 series win against South Africa, but it's too late for them to book a spot in the WTC final  •  Getty Images

With eight more series to go in the current WTC cycle, here is a look at how the teams are shaping up to qualify for the final.
How has the 2-1 series defeat impacted South Africa's qualification chances for the WTC final?
Before this series in England, South Africa were the table toppers with a win percentage of 71.43. They have now dropped to second place, winning 60% of the total points on offer from the 10 matches they have played so far. Their two remaining series in this cycle are in Australia (three Tests) and at home against West Indies (two Tests).
If South Africa win three and lose two of those five matches, their percentage will stay at 60. However, that won't guarantee them a top-two finish, as Australia, Pakistan and India can all go past 60. If South Africa win four out of five matches, their score will go up to 66.67, which might still not be enough.
Does the series win give England a shot at qualification?
Unfortunately, no. England have only one series to go - three Tests in Pakistan - and even if they win 3-0, their percentage will only go up to 46.97, which would not suffice for a top-two finish.
What about current toppers Australia? What do their qualification chances look like?
Australia have as many as nine Tests to go in this cycle, the most among all teams. Five of those are at home, across two series - two Tests against West Indies and three against South Africa. However, their away series will be their biggest challenge - four Tests in India.
If Australia win all five at home and lose all four to India, they will drop to 63.16 and India will leapfrog them if they win all six of their remaining Tests. If Australia manage a 6-3 win-loss record in those nine matches, their percentage will improve to 68.42, which will almost certainly ensure qualification.
What about India's chances of qualifying for their second final in a row?
India are currently in fourth place, but they should fancy their chances of getting plenty of points and moving up the table in their last two series of this cycle - against Bangladesh (two Tests away) and Australia (four Tests at home).
If India score a perfect six on six, their percentage will jump up to 68.06, which will be more than Australia's score even if they win their five home Tests.
Do Sri Lanka and Pakistan still have a shot?
Sri Lanka are currently third on the points table, but they have already played five of their six series slated in this cycle, and their only remaining games are two Tests in New Zealand. Even if they win both, their percentage will go up only to 61.11, a score that may not be enough.
Pakistan, on the other hand, are better placed even though they are currently fifth. They are only marginally behind Sri Lanka and India, but their two remaining series are at home, against England (three Tests) and New Zealand (two). If they win all five, their percentage will shoot up to 69.05, which will ensure qualification. If they win four and lose one, they will finish on 61.9, which might still give them a shot if other results go their way.
That means an India-Pakistan WTC final could still be possible if both teams win their remaining matches.
What about New Zealand and West Indies?
Neither of those teams has a realistic shot. The best that New Zealand can manage is a win percentage of 48.72 if they win all four remaining Tests (two in Pakistan and two at home against Sri Lanka). West Indies can theoretically go up to 65.38, but they have two tough away series coming up: each involving two Tests in Australia and South Africa.

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. @rajeshstats