World Test Championship: New Zealand book final spot after Australia postpones South African tour

New Zealand have officially booked a spot in the World Test Championship final, after Australia postponed its tour of South Africa.

The final is scheduled for June 18-22 at Lord's in London, but just who New Zealand plays is still up in the air.

The postponement of the Australia v South African series leaves India in the box seat, as they prepare for a four-match home series against England, starting later this month.

Virat Kohli's side needs at least a 2-1 series win to qualify, while England must win at least three tests to ensure their path to Lord's.

Anything less than that and the Blackcaps will play Australia in the final. 

Interim Cricket Australia chief exeuctive Nick Hockley says travelling to South Africa during a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic posed "unacceptable" risk to the squad.

"Following extensive due diligence with medical experts, it has become clear that travelling from Australia to South Africa at this current time poses an unacceptable level of health and safety risk to our players, support staff and the community," Hockley says.

"We acknowledge the significant amount of work by CSA in planning for the tour, during which we made it clear that CA was prepared to take on additional cost and effort to make the series happen.

"This decision has not been made lightly and we are extremely disappointed, especially given the importance of continuing international cricket at this time, our valued relationship with CSA and our aspirations to compete in the inaugural ICC World Test Championship."

A depleted Australian squad will tour New Zealand for five T20s later this month, featuring a slew of stars from the Big Bash League.

CA has already confirmed that the likes of Pat Cummins, David Warner and Steve Smith will not be added to the touring party, despite now becoming available.

Instead, Australia's test squad will be inserted into domestic cricket, before the Indian Premier League begins in April.

When or if the tour will be rescheduled is unclear.

But Cricket South Africa director of cricket Graeme Smith believes the Australian concerns are unfounded.

"We are extremely disappointed by the decision of CA," Smith says. "CSA has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to ensure that we meet every single expectation of CA, so to be informed about the CA decision at the 11th hour is frustrating."

South Africa has recorded more than 1.45 million coronavirus cases and more than 44,000 deaths.

The country hosted Sri Lanka for two tests at the turn of the year and their test side are currently touring Pakistan.

CSA acting chief executive officer Pholetsi Moseki says costs already incurred by the organisation in planning for the Australia tour are significant.

"In this challenging period for cricket and its member countries, we believe the stance taken by CA is regrettable and will have a serious impact on the sustainability of the less wealthy cricket playing nations." 

How second finalist will be determined 

India have to win the series against England by a 2-1, 2-0, 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0 margin.

England have to win the series against India by a 3-1, 3-0 or 4-0 margin.

Australia can still qualify, if the series between India and England ends up drawn, or if India win the series 1-0 or England win it by 1-0 or 2-1 margin.