The Proteas are just one and three-quarter series into the World Test Championship, but they have given up a lot of ground on leaders India and Australia.
India have flown out of the blocks, winning three series and a perfect seven out of seven Test matches since the tournament got under way in mid-2019.
The runaway leaders head to New Zealand next for a two-Test series that Virat Kohli’s men will be well equipped to win.
It seems likely that India will top the table when all is said and done, given their dominance at home and vastly improved ability on the road, making catching Australia the target for the other seven outfits.
The Aussies have also enjoyed a great start, drawing the Ashes series before thumping Pakistan and New Zealand in a terrific home summer of 2019-20.
Australia have taken 296 points out of a possible 360 to sport a big lead over third-placed England, though Joe Root’s troops are still in the hunt having yet to complete their second series.
England face a tricky March assignment in Sri Lanka, where they will be hoping for a brace of victories and a full house of points to haul in Australia and get themselves in contention for the 2021 final at Lord’s.
Australia have the misfortune of having to play Bangladesh away from home mid-year, but might be able to get away with some dropped points in Asia considering which teams are chasing them.
England’s home summer includes two World Test Championship series, against the West Indies and Pakistan, with both being prospective whitewashes. Both the West Indies and Pakistan have been competitive in England in recent times and will pose a threat to the Root-led outfit, but neither side has been terribly convincing in Test cricket of late.
The Proteas next WTC assignment will be a tricky visit to the Caribbean, where the weather and the West Indies team will compete to be more unpredictable than one another.
South Africa play just one more WTC series in 2020 (the visit to the Carribean), affording them little opportunity to catch up to Australia. They are helped by the fact that Tim Paine’s charges will have to play host to India in the 2020-21 season as well as knowing that England will likely need to get something out of a five-Test series in the toughest country to visit in world cricket.
The Proteas finish off their WTC programme with three series in 2021, starting away to Pakistan before they host Sri Lanka and Australia.
South Africa don’t play Bangladesh or New Zealand and, like England, will have to play India away, which puts them at a considerable disadvantage in hauling in Australia.
The Proteas struggles in Test cricket, and their poor start to the World Test Championship, mean they can ill-afford not to win the fourth and final match of the series against England.
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