England’s World Cup nightmare has been amplified after Pakistan emerged as the latest threat to their semi final aspirations.
Reeling from a 64-run defeat to Australia at Lords, Eoin Morgan and his team would have watched in horror as Pakistan won a low-scoring thriller against New Zealand at Edgbaston 24 hours later.
Barely a week ago the tournament looked on course for a prescriptive path to the semis as a gap emerged between the top four and the rest.
Near the head of the queue was the home side, considered a lock for the playoffs. But three losses from their last four games has changed the landscape entirely.
Now, Sarfraz Ahmed’s side has joined an inspired Bangladesh outfit on seven points, just one shy of England. Each has two matches to play.
With 12 games in total to go, eight sides remain in mathematical contention for the finals. One of the four spots belongs to Australia – the other three are up for grabs.
This is what every contender must do to make it into the World Cup semi finals.
Points: 12. Matches remaining: 2 (vs New Zealand & South Africa)
A thumping 64-run victory over England catapulted Australia into the semis. They’ve steadily built into the tournament on the back of a brilliant opening partnership and fast bowling attack. Once the middle order clicks, they will be even tougher to beat.
2. NEW ZEALAND
Points: 11 Matches remaining: 2 (vs Australia & England)
The Black Caps have enjoyed a charmed run through the tournament, with their only scheduled match against a top four side to date (India) being washed out. The batting remains suspect – each of their last three matches has required a bail-out job. On Wednesday, they were finally exposed by Pakistan.
To qualify: A single point will lock in a semi final berth. Should they lose both matches, either Bangladesh or Pakistan would still need to go undefeated and drastically improve their net run rate to knock them out.
Points: 9 Matches remaining: 4 (vs West Indies, England, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka)
India is in pole position to claim one of the remaining semi final berths courtesy of an unbeaten run to this stage (only a washout has denied them a point). Their sternest test arguably came against Afghanistan – but that looked more like an off day on a slow wicket. Virat Kohli’s men are a force to be reckoned with.
To qualify: Four winnable fixtures await India. One win should do it, two makes it a sure thing. Their clashes with England and Bangladesh carry major implications for the tournament at large.
Points: 8 Matches remaining: 2 (vs India & New Zealand)
Well, well, well. The top ranked side, playing on home turf, has had its flaws brutally exposed in front of an increasingly jittery home crowd. Their gung-ho batting lineup has struggled as pitches have slowed. Tellingly, all three losses have come while chasing, a method typically preferred in modern white ball cricket. They need to find form against two of the top sides to survive.
To qualify: Two losses leaves them relying on not being overhauled by any of the below sides. One win may be enough depending on results. A loss to India could see them drop outside the top four and playing for survival against New Zealand. Two wins, meanwhile, will do it.
Points: 7 Matches remaining: 2 (vs India & Pakistan)
On the back of a stunning individual tournament by Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh has confirmed it is no longer a minnow in this tournament. Just as important as their wins, none more brutal than over West Indies, has been the way they've lost. At times out of the hunt early, they've fought to the death.
To qualify: A victory over India next Tuesday would be some statement. But the most plausible scenario is a do-or-die encounter with Pakistan, over whom they do hold a net run rate advantage. They will watch England's fixtures with much interest and need them to lose at least one, preferably both.
Points: 7 Matches remaining: 2 (vs Afghanistan & Bangladesh)
After failing to take the fight to either Australia or India for long enough, Pakistan has surged back into semi final contention with impressive victories over South Africa and New Zealand. Perhaps it was being labelled overweight by Nasser Hussain that sparked their resurgence.
To qualify: Pakistan plays again before either England or Bangladesh. Should they beat Afghanistan they will leapfrog England into fourth place. The clash with Bangladesh is shaping as a potential shootout.
7. SRI LANKA
Points: 6 Matches remaining: 3 (vs South Africa, West Indies & India)
Sri Lanka’s campaign was on life support before a shock victory over England. On a slow wicket they defended 232 and they’ll be hoping for more worn tracks. Batting remains a major issue – 247 is their highest total, in a failed chase of 334.
To qualify: Must win at least one of their remaining games and cheer on both India and New Zealand to do a job on England to level out the net run rates. Then Bangladesh and Pakistan must stumble. Two wins would make things interesting. It's not impossible, but asking a lot of them.
8. WEST INDIES
Points: 3 Matches remaining: 3 (vs India, Sri Lanka & Afghanistan)
The Windies may need a minor miracle, but anything is possible. The manner of their defeats to each of Australia, England and Bangladesh would not inspire confidence, and Carlos Brathwaite’s brilliant century aside, they would have been thumped by the
To qualify: West Indies must win all three, India must lose four and England must score no more than one point (ie, a washout). Not happening.