The shock defeat of Sri Lanka at the hands of Zimbabwe, their first away series win since 2009, keeps the final direct qualification slot for ICC World Cup 2019 open. Sri Lanka went into this five match home series ranked 8th with the rating of 93 in ICC ODI Rankings and ended up with the rating of 88 after the five matches against the team currently ranked 11th in the world.
West Indies is currently ranked 9th with 78 rating points. They are scheduled to play 1 ODI against Ireland and 5 ODIs against England before 30 September, the cutoff date for ICC World Cup 2019 direct qualification. In case West Indies win all 6 of their matches before the cut-off date, it will only take them to 88 rating points.
Due to Zimbabwe’s dismal rating of 46 before the series, in terms of rating points, there was nothing for Sri Lanka to gain from this series but only to lose. Had Sri Lanka beaten Zimbabwe 5-0, as was expected before the start of the series, it would have helped them only to maintain their pre-series 93 rating points, effectively knocking West Indies out of the race.
The announcement of Sri Lanka’s another ODI series at home before the cutoff, against India, means that the race is still on, although, only mathematically. There can be an early announcement of final 8 teams to qualify directly for 2019 WC on August 24, 2017 instead of September 30, 2017.
That is the date on which the 2nd ODI between Sri Lanka and India is scheduled to be played and only 2 wins is what Sri Lanka needs to shut the doors of direct qualification on West Indies regardless if WI win all of their 6 ODIs before the cutoff.
Another snap scenario is if West Indies loses to Ireland on September 13, 2017. Regardless if Sri Lanka loses 5-0 to India, if West Indies loses to Ireland, Sri Lanka will go through.
In case Sri Lanka manages to win only 1 match against India, West Indies will go through if they win all of their 6 ODIs against Ireland and England. Whereas, in case Sri Lanka loses 5-0 to India, West Indies will sneak pass them even if they lose 1 match against England.
On the face of it, it all looks a mathematically possible yet highly unlikely but stranger things have happened in Cricket before, like Zimbabwe beating Sri Lanka in an ODI series away from home. As they say, its not over till the last ball is bowled, or in this case, till the last match is played. Let’s see.