At just-past the half-way point in the race for automatic qualification for the World Cup in England in 2017, Australia remain way out in front of the Women’s International Championship with 20 points, ahead of West Indies (16) and New Zealand (14) with England and South Africa tied on 13 points for joint-4th*.
Failure to secure automatic qualification would obviously be deeply embarrassing for England; but looking at the remaining fixtures finishing in the top 4 should really be a breeze.
England’s remaining matches are against the two lowest-ranked sides in the “Top 8” – Pakistan (at home this summer) and Sri Lanka (away) – and West Indies (away). Even if they lose all three matches against West Indies, as long as they win the Pakistan and Sri Lanka series 3-0, they will almost certainly guarantee themselves a top 4 finish.
England’s route is made easier partly because South Africa – their main rivals on paper – have a much more challenging year ahead, with series against all three sides above them in the table – New Zealand, West Indies and Australia.
Meanwhile New Zealand face Australia, South Africa and Pakistan, from which you’d expect them to take sufficient points to finish the job; whilst West Indies have South Africa, England and India – none of them doozies, but with 16 points already on the board, they have that little bit less to do.
Projecting, we think the likely automatic qualifiers will be Australia, England, West Indies and New Zealand; with India remaining a strong wildcard pick, even though they currently have only 7 points, because like England they also have yet to play both Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Finally, let’s not lose sight of the fact that even the sides finishing 5th/ 6th (i.e. two of England, West Indies, New Zealand, South Africa and India) will almost certainly jump hoops through secondary qualifying against the likes of Bangladesh and Ireland** to still be there in England in 2017.
* Although South Africa have a marginally superior Net Run Rate, according to the rules that technically doesn’t apply unless the teams are tied at the END of the competition, so for the moment “joint 4th” is strictly correct!
** Not to say one or both won’t qualify too… but perhaps at the expense of a Pakistan or a Sri Lanka… not a South Africa or an India!