Cricket World Cup 2023 qualifying takes shape

With the ODI Super League, League 2 and the Challenge League all forming the pathway for the Cricket World Cup in India, we take a look at how the 32 teams across the three competitions are faring on the road to India.

At present, there are seven teams that have secured an automatic qualification spot for the 2023 Cricket World Cup, with three spots at this stage still up for grabs.

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Spots secured and heading to the Cricket World Cup: India, New Zealand, England, Australia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan

India qualified as tournament hosts, but the side have not rested on their laurels in Super League, currently top of the table with 139 points in 21 matches.

They host Afghanistan for a final series to bow out of the tournament, and the Afghans will be somewhat relieved to know their World Cup path is sealed after a strong Super League start. Clean sweeps against Ireland, the Netherlands and Zimbabwe set up their campaign, and their 115-point tally cannot be overrun by the chasing pack.

Curiously, New Zealand, Australia, England, Pakistan and Bangladesh all have 12 wins from their 18 matches thus far, and can focus on next year’s global tournament with their spots also locked in.

Still in the hunt for automatic qualification: West Indies, Sri Lanka, Ireland and South Africa

Just one spot for automatic qualification remains through the Super League pathway, with a quartet of teams nervously needing the back end of the competition to shake out in their favour.

The West Indies currently sit in the eighth and last automatic spot (88 points), though have completed their nine-win, 24-match cycle, and must watch the rest of the competition play out without their influence. To compound their woes, two points were deducted from their total for slow over rates against New Zealand in August, opening the door further for the chasing pack.

Sri Lanka (77 points) and Ireland (68) meanwhile have three matches left in their campaign to overtake the West Indies. Sri Lanka travel to New Zealand to close out their campaign in March, while Ireland host Bangladesh in May. West Indies would be forced to go through the World Cup Qualifier should one or both teams overtake them on the table.

South Africa (59 points) meanwhile have three matches against England, and a clean sweep of 30 points would also put them above the West Indies. They also have two ODIs against Netherlands in March 2023, part of a series which was postponed in November 2021 due to Covid.

Teams finishing in spots nine to 13 will all move to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, fighting with teams from the lower tiers.

Heading to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier: Zimbabwe, the Netherlands, Scotland

Even after a famous win in Australia back in (August), Zimbabwe’s poor Super League start meant an automatic spot was unattainable, and their subsequent Qualifier pathway fate was sealed early. The silver lining for the Chevrons is that they host the Qualifier, and should have a leg up on their rivals.

Despite positive performances and taking the game to more-fancied opposition in a tough Super League field, the Netherlands, the only Associate Member in the competition, will also fight for spots in Zimbabwe. Meeting them will be long-time rivals Scotland, who have sealed their place at the Qualifier by virtue of a top-three finish in League 2.

Richie Berrington’s side have been ever-consistent in League 2 across the three-year cycle, and will be no pushover for others at the Qualifier.

In the hunt for an automatic spot at the Qualifier: Oman, Namibia, UAE, Nepal

The winding path of the League 2 cycle has meant some teams have several matches in hand on each other, while Oman are already in the clubhouse watching the rest of the group play out the rest of the tournament.

Zeeshan Maqsood’s side finished on 44 points (21 wins, one tie, one no-result) after their 36 matches, a tally that should be enough to take a Qualifier spot. That said, the men from the sultanate will be eager watchers, considering Namibia and UAE, the two sides that could overtake them, do not cross paths again and thus do not eat away at each other’s points.

Namibia would need four wins in their final six matches to pass Oman, with UAE needing an improbable nine wins from their last 10 to overtake their neighbours.

For UAE to finish in the top three, they may need some help from Nepal and Scotland, Namibia’s opponents in the competition’s final tri-series.

Those who finish in the bottom four of League 2 are not yet eliminated from World Cup qualification, though must go through a Qualifier Play-Off, effectively a repechage tournament.

Off to the Qualifier Play-Offs: Jersey, Canada, USA, Papua New Guinea

Having played out their 36 League 2 matches, USA already know their 35 points are not enough for a top-three finish, meaning they now travel to the Qualifier Play-Off, a six-team competition that pits the bottom four of League 2 with the winners of each Challenge League group. From there, two spots for the Qualifier are up for grabs.

While celebrating a T20 World Cup qualification in 2021, Papua New Guinea had contrasting results in ODI cricket, and never found their feet in a turbulent League 2 campaign, and knew of their Play-Off fate early in proceedings..

Moving ‘up’ into the Qualifier Play-off are Jersey and Canada, the winners of their respective Challenge League groups.

Canada were imperious in their campaign after unluckily falling into the third tier at the start of the World Cup cycle, only dropping one match in the campaign, all the way back in September 2019. Jersey by contrast were late movers, winning four out of five matches in the last leg to overtake Uganda on Net Run Rate.

All matches at the Play-Off will carry ODI status, even in matches containing sides from the Challenge League, who haven’t held ODI status during the pathway to 2023.

The final finishing places will also determine League 2 and Challenge League spots for the next cycle, and therefore ODI status for each team.

Out of the run: 10 teams from the Challenge League (Denmark, Qatar, Singapore, Malaysia, Vanuatu, Uganda, Hong Kong, Kenya, Italy, Bermuda)

The sides that did not finish in top spot of the two Challenge League groups (ie not Canada or Jersey) are now eliminated from Cricket World Cup qualification for 2023.

Teams that finished first to fourth in each of the six-team groups have a guaranteed pathway to potentially qualify for 2027, though the teams to finish in the bottom two of each group now facing a precarious relegation Play-Off next year containing the top four countries from below who meet requirements regarding national domestic one day cricket and T20I rating as of 30 September 2023.

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