Sri Lanka have become the eighth and final team to qualify automatically for the 2019 World Cup, following West Indies’ seven-wicket defeat against England in the first ODI at Old Trafford.
With September 30 set as the cut-off date, West Indies (78 points) now cannot move ahead of Sri Lanka (86 points) in the ICC ODI rankings, irrespective of how their remaining matches against England pan out.
They had gone into the five-match series needing to win by either 4-0 or 5-0 to amass enough points to leapfrog Sri Lanka, but their fate was sealed in a 42-over-a-side contest in which a Jonny Bairstow century guided England past their victory target of 205 with more than 19 overs remaining.
Sri Lanka, World Champions in 1996, now join Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa as the confirmed participants in the 2019 event, which will be held in England between May 30 and July 15.
West Indies, two-times champions in 1975 and 1979, must now compete in a 10-team qualifier in 2018, where they will be joined by the bottom three sides in the ICC team rankings – Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland – as well as the top four sides from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and the top two sides from the ICC World Cricket League Division 2. The top two sides will complete the World Cup line-up.
“You always know there’s the potential of that [not qualifying direct], we knew it was going to be a tough ask,” said Toby Radford, West Indies’ batting coach. “But we are very positive as a group and are trying to develop in all formats. If it means the qualifiers next year, it means the qualifiers next year and we’ll build our way back up.”
Upul Tharanga, Sri Lanka’s ODI captain, was relieved to have avoided that fate: “It’s no secret that we have been going through a tough time, but I want to say a big, big thank you to our fans who’ve kept faith with us when things looked bleak.
“ICC events have always brought out the magic in Sri Lanka cricket, and I look forward to proving that once again.
“We have a clear plan toward the World Cup, and we will work hard at achieving each step. As we say in the dressing room, – Little ‘w’s [wins] add up to make the big ‘W’ – so that’s what we’ll be focusing on and I know you will see Sri Lanka’s special brand of cricket out there once again soon.”