South Africa became the first big casualty (second team after Afghanistan) to be ousted from a chance to make the semi-finals after their 49-run loss to Pakistan at Lord’s.
Pakistan kept their hopes alive with a splendid all-round performance led by Haris Sohail with the bat and Mohammad Amir with the ball.
Sri Lanka had done the World Cup 2019 a huge favour on Friday when they effected the biggest upset of the tournament with their 20-run win over England at Leeds. This upset suddenly threw open the qualification scenarios which seemed to be meandering to a predictable end.
Afghanistan and West Indies came agonizing close to upsetting two heavyweights in India and New Zealand on Saturday, 22nd of June – this would have made the race for the semi-finals even more interesting - but it was not to be.
There have been four upsets so far. The story is two losses for England and two wins for Bangladesh. If we rank them in descending order of magnitude then these would be: Sri Lanka beat England at Leeds, Pakistan beat England at Trent Bridge, Bangladesh beat South Africa at The Oval and Bangladesh beat West Indies at Taunton.
What does this mean for the tournament?
Where do all the 10 teams stand in the competition with respect to qualifying for the semi-finals? Who are the favourites? Who can cause a surprise?
Let us have a look at the most realistic scenarios.
The Three Likely Semi-Finalists
New Zealand are perched at the top with 5 wins from 6 matches. Along with India, they are the only team to not lose even a single match, thus far, in the tournament.
New Zealand were lucky with the schedule – they had an easy first-half draw and made the most of it – with wins over Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and South Africa. Their toughest match in the first half – against India – was washed out.
With a win over the West Indies, New Zealand are sitting pretty at the top with 11 points. Another win and they would have all but guaranteed a semi-final berth. Matches against Australia and England will not be easy though and New Zealand have an unfavourable head to head against Pakistan in World Cup cricket (2-6).
Australia are second-placed with 5 wins from 6 matches. Their only defeat came against India at The Oval. One more win should guarantee a semi-final berth for them. Even if they lose to England and New Zealand, they should beat a disoriented South Africa. However, with no real pressure on the Proteas now after their ouster from making the knockout stage of the World Cup, they could just go all out and play attacking cricket – Australia should be wary of that.
Making the semi-finals will be a huge achievement for Australia – who had their worst year (in terms of win-loss ratio) in 2018.
India got a real scare from Afghanistan but held their nerve to remain unbeaten in this World Cup. With 4 wins from 5 matches (and one washout), India are a couple of wins away from securing a semi-final spot.
They had an excellent start to their World Cup campaign beating three tough sides in South Africa, Australia and Pakistan. With comparatively easier matches against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and West Indies still scheduled, India should comfortably muster 15 points and sail through the semi-finals (even if they lose to England).
England – From Favourites to Possibility of Non-Qualification
England’s two shock defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka have suddenly, to use a clichéd, set the cat amongst the pigeons. England have 4 wins from 6 matches but have their task cut out in the three remaining matches – against the top 3 teams of the tournament – India, Australia and New Zealand. England haven’t had the best of records against these sides in World Cup encounters having beaten one of these three sides last in 1992!
If England lose all three, they remain on 8 points. In such a scenario, the home team faces a threat of being eliminated before reaching the semis as there is a very definite chance that one of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh or Pakistan may just leave them behind and secure the number 4 position.
If England win one of these matches, they are still not guaranteed of a place in the semi-finals though their probability of going through increases significantly. In such a scenario England end with 10 points and only face a realistic potential threat from Sri Lanka who, if they win all their remaining three matches could pip them for the number 4 position by ending with 12 points.
The positive for England, though, is their net run rate – at 1.457 it is the best in the tournament. So should a case arise where they find themselves tied on the same number of points with other teams, their net run rate should see England through.
The Two Dark Horses
Sri Lanka have had a mixed bag so far in the tournament. After being thrashed by New Zealand and beaten comprehensively by Australia and the weather playing spoilsport in two matches where they would have fancied their chances – against Pakistan and Bangladesh, they came back in fine style and defended a moderate total against hosts England.
They are now positioned at number 5 with 6 points from as many matches. They have three matches remaining – against South Africa, West Indies and India.
They have a realistic chance of beating the first two which would ensure they end with 10 points. They would then hope that England lose all their remaining matches and Bangladesh do not win more than two. In such a case, Sri Lanka will qualify in the fourth position unless Pakistan wins all their remaining 3 matches, the probability of which is low.
Bangladesh have 2 wins from 6 matches – against South Africa and West Indies. Their batting, led by Shakib-Al-Hasan, has been a revelation. They would fancy their chances against Afghanistan and may also get the better of Pakistan but it will be their clash against India which could potentially decide their fate. If they win all their remaining matches, Bangladesh will end with 11 points and then hope that Sri Lanka do not win all their matches and England win not more than one.
Can Pakistan do a 1992?
Pakistan came back against all odds and with a lot of luck going their way with the results of other teams, made it to the semi-final of the 1992 World Cup Down Under, finally going all the way and lifting the trophy.
They find themselves in a similar format and position in England 2019. Their win over South Africa means that they are now at number 7 with 5 points from 6 matches. Pakistan’s real test will be against New Zealand and their bowlers will face a stiff challenge from the in-form Bangladeshi top-order.
If they do manage to win all their remaining three matches they will end with 11 points and then hope that England do not win more than one and Bangladesh and Sri Lanka lose at least one match.
In such a scenario, Pakistan can still make it to the semi-finals.
If Pakistan win two of their three matches and end with 9 points they have a very miniscule chance of making the knockouts as their net run rate of -1.265 is the second-lowest in the tournament –only better than Afghanistan’s!
The Bottom Three
West Indies would have had their heart and soul broken after their loss to New Zealand at Manchester. They have won just one solitary match – against Pakistan. They have just 3 points from 6 matches – this includes four losses and one washout.
To have any realistic chance of making it to the knockouts, West Indies need to win all their remaining 3 matches which will take them to 9 points – this will be a tough challenge as one of their clashes is against India.
West Indies would then hope that England lose all their matches and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka win not more than one.
However, this is a highly unlikely scenario.
South Africa’s horrendous World Cup 2019 campaign finally came to an end and they have no chance of making it to the knockout stage now. They find themselves languishing at number 9 in the points table with 5 losses from 7 matches.
Afghanistan have lost 6 out of 6 and have already been eliminated from the World Cup.
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