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18 Jul 2019 23:31
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Cricket

    Will England bow out of the Cricket World Cup before the semi-final stage?

    England is teetering on the brink of elimination from its own Cricket World Cup, with a trio of teams scrabbling at the host's heels.


    Oh England. Where did it all go wrong?

    The usual portents of an imminent demise for the hosts were nowhere to be seen in the build-up to this tournament.

    England was number one in the world and brimming with the confidence that is the clear favourite's wont.

    That confidence came from the form of a stellar batting line-up so powerful that it was likened to New York Yankees' famed Murderers Row teams of the 1920s by Offsiders columnist Richard Hinds.

    The inclusion of three bowlers who can constantly push 144kph, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes, alongside spinners Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali simply added credence to the feeling that this England team was the one to beat.

    Even the format appeared to be in England's favour, designed as it is to remove any remote likelihood of a smaller team upsetting the apple cart while simultaneously removing the Irish-shaped banana skins that have tripped the English up in the past.

    Sadly, those predictions did not take into account England's shocking history of desperately underperforming in major tournaments — tournaments not just limited to cricket.

    After Stuart Lancaster's England team departed its own Rugby Union World Cup in ignominious fashion in the group stages back in 2015, battle-worn English sports fans must have prayed that the cricket team would restore pride in this, the next major tournament the country has hosted.

    Instead, after suffering a surprise early defeat to Pakistan, England has been plunged into the mire following consecutive defeats to Sri Lanka and Australia.

    As such, England has resurrected the terrifying prospect of an early exit from the World Cup, just like the last time the nation played hosts in 1999.

    On that occasion, England failed to make the Super-6 phase of the competition, embarrassingly crashing out the tournament the day after the official song had been released.

    Now, the hosts likely face a four-way battle with Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka for that final spot in the semi-finals.

    What does England need to do?

    Before we all laugh at England's oddly predictable plight, it is important to note that the hosts are far from being write-offs and can still make the semi-finals.

    As the best team in the world over the preceding two years — and a team unbeaten in a home ODI series in four years — there is every likelihood that the tide could quickly turn.

    As captain Eoin Morgan pointed out to the BBC, all England needs to do is win its next two matches.

    "We are in charge of how we go from here on in," the England skipper said after the Australia defeat.

    "We win two games, we definitely go through.

    "It's a matter of producing a performance in one, if not both, of the next two games."

    Win the next two games and the hosts will take their place alongside Australia — and the likely pairing of New Zealand and India — in the final four.

    However, winning those two games might be easier said than done.

    Despite not losing back-to-back ODI's for over two years prior to the consecutive defeats against Australia and Sri Lanka, England must return to form immediately to keep its head above water.

    England's final two games will come against an undefeated India on a spin-friendly surface at Edgbaston on Sunday and New Zealand in swing-friendly Durham on Wednesday.

    Tricky ties that make England's fourth spot look increasingly precipitous, particularly when it appears the basics have deserted Morgan's team just when it matters most.

    "Normally when we lose games of cricket, we go back to what we do well," Morgan said.

    "We'll still strive to do that for Sunday's game [against India].

    "Everything we need to turn around is quite simple. The basics of the game let us down in the last couple of games. Hopefully we will improve on them moving forward."

    Pakistan set to steal a semi-final spot

    Never write Pakistan off.

    "Whenever we are in a corner we play our best," Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed told media at Edgbaston after his side recorded a memorable six-wicket triumph over New Zealand to keep their hopes alive.

    Pakistan's stunning victory really threw the proverbial cat in among the pigeons.

    That win moved Pakistan to within a point of England's increasingly precarious fourth position.

    It appears the portents are also in favour of Pakistan going deep at this World Cup, although that situation appeared fanciful in the extreme when Australia hammered Pakistan to the tune of 5-0 in the UAE back in March.

    So far in the 2019 tournament, Pakistan's results have perfectly mirrored those from the 1992 tournament held in Australia and New Zealand.

    So, are Pakistan a chance at a repeat World Cup triumph?

    As the World Cup's most unpredictable team, they'll need to find some steady form in order to upset the apple cart, and fast.

    Pakistan has two games to go; the first against win-less Afghanistan in Leeds, the second a potentially tournament-defining contest against Bangladesh at Lord's.

    Bangladesh poised to create history

    Bangladesh also sit just one place, and one point behind England — level on points with Pakistan.

    With a match against conquering India in Birmingham on July 2, the July 5 clash against Pakistan could turn into a winner-takes-all match at the home of cricket.

    Playing Pakistan in a World Cup in England already brings back positive memories for Bangladesh.

    In 1999, Bangladesh's first World Cup appearance was marked by an historic 62-run group stage victory over Pakistan at Northampton thanks to a stunning new ball spell from Khaled Mahmud, who took three of the first five wickets to reduce Pakistan to a terminally low start of 5-42.

    That victory announced that the Tigers had arrived on the world stage and laid the foundations that ultimately led to Bangladesh being accepted as a full Test-playing nation.

    A similar victory at Lord's could see the Lions reach the semi-finals of a World Cup for the first time, undoubtedly a seismic event for the nation.

    Perhaps Sri Lanka could cause an upset?

    The third team that could come flying past the post to upset England's World Cup ambitions is Sri Lanka.

    Just two points behind England, Sri Lanka has three games to play, two of which are against teams that have failed to fire in any meaningful way so far.

    Sri Lanka's first two matches against eliminated South Africa and West Indies will both be negotiated at Chester-le-Street in Durham, before the much sterner test of India on the final day of the group stage in Leeds.

    However, aside from shocking England at Headlingley, Sri Lanka has been poor so far this tournament, scraping past Afghanistan in a thriller and meekly capitulating against New Zealand and Australia, while two other matches were rained out.

    As such, their net run rate is the second worst in the competition, whereas England's is currently best.

    Will rain save England?

    This is a possibility — there has been plenty of rain about so far this tournament — but not a very likely one.

    If it does rain biblically from here on out and every game gets abandoned, then England will still qualify.

    However, despite the "unseasonable" rain that dogged the second week of the competition, hopes from England fans willing to sacrifice their summer sun for more showers to help their cricket team may go unfulfilled.

    Europe, and to a lesser extent England, is currently sweltering through a week-long heatwave.

    So although humidity is sky high — which should at least get the ball swinging — rain is unlikely to cause any significant delays, nor save England's skin.

    Remaining fixtures

    © 2019 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved


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