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Can struggling England claim last Cricket World Cup semi-final spot?

Ben Darvill 27 Jun 2019
Ben Stokes of England (credit:Adam Davy/PA Wire/PA Images)

With only a handful of games left for each of the sides in the group-stage at the 2019 World Cup, and things are far tighter than many might have assumed they would be, with teams struggling to kick on after strong starts and others coming out of their slumber to run things very close as the tournament wears on. Here, we will run down the sides still in with a real chance of taking the final playoff spot, assuming that New Zealand and India take two of the final three after Australia confirmed their place in the semi-finals following their win over England.

England - 4th with 8 points 

Remaining Matches

India - Sunday, June 30 

New Zealand - Wednesday, July 3

How has it gotten to this for England? An opening day win over South Africa went exactly to type as the tournament hosts scored in excess of 300 before skittling South Africa to complete a win by 104 runs. However, their next game saw the Three Lions fail to chase down 349 to win against Pakistan, meaning they fell to defeat. Comfortable wins over Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan saw the confidence surging through the side as they went in to play a misfiring Sri Lanka outfit. Chasing an under-par score of 233 to win, England collapsed once again in a run chase, with the side bowled out for just 212, with this loss then followed by another batting collapse as they lost to Australia by 64 runs. Interestingly, England’s three losses have all come when they were chasing, while they have won comfortably every single time they have gone in to bat first. 

The eight points they have picked up means they are currently only one point clear of Bangladesh and Pakistan in fifth and sixth respectively, while they are two clear of Sri Lanka in seventh. Wins are crucial if England are to make it out of the group, but they must now play two top sides in India and New Zealand, with their hopes of making it out of the group still in their own hands, but coming under massive scrutiny. The form of Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and James Vince with the bat is a huge concern for England, while Bairstow and Eoin Morgan were guilty of throwing their wickets away against Australia, something they could not afford. The hopeful reintroduction of Jason Roy to the top of the batting order following injury is something England and their fans will be desperate to see after Vince's disastrous start to the World Cup, while all eyes will be on their bowling attack after many corners of the game criticised England for going too short against the Aussies. Despite the pessimism currently surrounding the side after their two awful performances with the bat, this England outfit are capable of anything. If Morgan is able to get them into bat first then they can control the tempo and post a score at their own pace, with their inability to chase in this World Cup what could cost them a place in the finals. All it will take is one swashbuckling performance to see the confidence flooding back into the players, but on the other side of that, all it will take is one more collapse to potentially put England on the brink of a group-stage elimination. 

Bangladesh - 5th with 7 points 

Remaining Matches

India - Tuesday, July 2 

Pakistan - Friday, July 5 

What a World Cup it has been for Bangladesh so far, with the side battling among the very best in the competition. Three wins, three losses and a No Result in their seven games at the competition means the Tigers will be eyeing up a place in the final four, and for good reason. An opening day win over South Africa was followed by a very tight loss to New Zealand before they were completely blown away in a 106 run loss to England. Their match against Sri Lanka proved to be a washout before they defeated the West Indies in a very impressive seven wicket win, but Australia proved to be a level too high for the side before they hammered Afghanistan in a 62 run win. That victory coupled with England's loss to Australia means that Bangladesh are right in with a chance of snatching the last semi-final spot, with their exploits across the tournament showing just how far they have come in world cricket over the last few years. 

Unfortunately for Bangladesh, they do not face two particularly kind fixtures to end their campaign. Despite being two games behind every team for most of the group-stage, India have always seemed destined to take a last-four spot, and they look like a good bet to back to win the tournament with Rohit Sharma seeing the cricket ball like a beach ball at the moment, while Virat Kohli is not a man people should bet against. Pakistan may not be in the same league as India talent wise, but they could still be fighting for a semi-final spot, with this match potentially a straight shoot-out for a place after the group-stages. The Tigers will fancy their chances against a Pakistan outfit that are very inconsistent, but they will be put under a huge amount of pressure to qualify if they make it into that situation, with that sort of expectation something those players will not have felt before. 

Pakistan - 6th with 7 points 

Remaining Matches

Afghanistan - Saturday, June 29 

Bangladesh - Friday, July 5 

What a turnaround it has been for Pakistan this summer, with their inconsistent ways making way for some really impressive performances. A massive seven wicket loss to West Indies in their opener saw the side start in the worst possible way, but a supreme victory over England came on the back of one of the most impressive batting performances of the World Cup so far. An abandoned game against Sri Lanka was hugely disappointing, while losses to Australia and India saw their hopes of making it out of the group hit hard. A 49 run win over South Africa on Sunday set them up perfectly to face New Zealand, who they were able to defeat by seven wickets after a supreme bowling performance saw the Black Caps skittled for just 237 in their 50 overs. While New Zealand were clearly not at their best, Pakistan still had to be on top form to impart a first loss of the World Cup on the side, and that will fill them with confidence ahead of their upcoming matches. 

For Pakistan this tournament came at the wrong time after failing to get a win in their 11 games before the World Cup, but they have somehow managed to come into the competition and win games and drag themselves to within contention of a place in the semi-finals. Their comfortable losses to India and Australia will worry the side going forward as if they are to go the distance then they will likely have to play one of if not both of their opponents who conquered them. However, all eyes will be on their next few games and rightly so, with nothing set in stone yet despite their recent resurgence. 

Sri Lanka - 7th with 6 points 

Remaining Matches

South Africa - Friday, June 28

West Indies - Monday, July 1 

India - Saturday, July 6 

Despite being absolutely awful at the start of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, Sri Lanka still somehow find themselves in contention to make it into the last-four of the competition. A loss straight off the bat at the hands of New Zealand was about as comprehensive as it gets, with the Black Caps winning by 10 wickets after bowling the opposition out for just 136. Their next game was an incredibly tight win over cricketing-minnows Afghanistan before two No Results against Pakistan and Bangladesh saw the side lose all momentum. A comfortable 87 run loss to Australia was one many thought would end their battle for a top-four spot, but they humiliated England as they clinched a 20 run win which was largely built upon a superb bowling performance. That victory saw the side climb onto six points from six games, meaning they are right in the mix for a playoff berth. 

What will be most important for Sri Lanka going forward is the form of their batsmen. Bowling wise they have looked fairly good, with their defence of 232 against England a bowling performance of impressive might. With the bat they have struggled though. Their top scorer is Dimuth Karunaratne with 180 runs, with their top scorer not even in the top 20 run scorers of the current World Cup. A bowling unit can be as strong as it wants, but if a team’s batting lineup cannot consistently score runs then they will not win games. Sri Lanka have a great chance to put some real pressure on those above them with games against South Africa, West Indies and India to come, but they will have to put runs on the board against the Windies and India in particular, with both able to pile the runs on. 

The latter-stages of the round robin has been closer than many thought it would be with England giving those below them huge incentives by dropping points against weaker opposition. Bangladesh have continued to overachieve and they will feel a top-four spot is there to be taken, and while Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been below their best, they are still within a few wins of a spot in the final four. The last cluster of games will be incredibly exciting then, with more nail biting games to come. 

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Can struggling England claim last Cricket World Cup semi-final spot?

Can England turn their awful run of form around and take a World Cup semi-final spot or will one of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or Pakistan pip them to it?

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