September 20, 2017 / 3:37 AM / a month ago

Sri Lanka grab automatic 2019 World Cup berth at Windies' expense

(Reuters) - Sri Lanka have secured an automatic berth at the 2019 Cricket World Cup at the expense of West Indies after the two-times champions lost to England in the opener of their one-day series on Tuesday.

Cricket - Only T20 Match - Sri Lanka v India - Colombo, Sri Lanka - September 6, 2017 - Sri Lanka's Seekkuge Prasanna celebrates with captain Upul Tharanga and his teammates after taking the wicket of India's Lokesh Rahul (not pictured). REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

West Indies, who have 78 points in the ODI team rankings, cannot now overtake Sri Lanka (86 points) ahead of the Sept. 30 cut-off for automatic qualification regardless of how they do in the remaining four games.

An unbeaten century from Jonny Bairstow helped England stroll to a seven-wicket victory over West Indies at Old Trafford.

Failure to grab an automatic spot is a significant comedown for Jason Holder’s team, who won the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979. They will now have to finish in the top two at a qualifier next year if they are to progress to the 2019 tournament in England and Wales.

The 10-team qualifying event will see West Indies join Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland taking on the top four sides from the World Cricket League Championship and the top two sides from the World Cricket League Division 2.

The International Cricket Council (ICC) introduced the qualifying event after reducing the number of teams for the 2019 event to 10 from the 14 that contested the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand.

Sri Lanka, who lost a home ODI series to India 5-0 recently, join England, Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa as direct qualifiers for the May 30-July 15 World Cup.

Sri Lanka’s ODI captain Upul Tharanga was grateful for the support the team had received when results were not going their way.

“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,” he said in an ICC news release.

“ICC events have always brought out the magic in Sri Lanka cricket, and I look forward to proving that once again.”

Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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