The 2019 Cricket World Cup is fast approaching the halfway point for the initial Group stage, where the 10 teams are battling it out to finish in the top 4 once all of their nine games have been played – but even with the second half of games left to go, it seems almost inevitable that the semi finals will consist of India, England, Australia and New Zealand.
All teams have played at least 4 games – and of the current top four, only England (against Pakistan) and Australia (against India) have lost a game. The game between India and New Zealand was lost to the rain, with each team picking up a point and maintaining their unbeaten record – but, apart from the loss of England to Pakistan, no team has really come close to beating one of the top 4. All four seem a class apart from the rest – and whilst some of the matches have been exciting, it has seemed that the ‘Big 4’ have just been too organised, strong and superior to their rivals….so far.
So who, if anyone, can break the stranglehold these teams seem to have on the tournament at the moment and maybe break into the top 4 and snatch a semi final place?
BANGLADESH (currently 5th)
The manner in which Bangladesh dispatched the West Indies at Taunton yesterday (Monday 17 June), knocking off the West Indies total of 321 with nearly nine overs to spare, suggests they have the game to be competitive against anyone. They will rue having lost the game against the struggling Sri Lanka to the weather, on the back of routine losses to England and New Zealand. But they beat South Africa in their opening game to leave them on the cusp of the top 4 as the table currently stands. Of their remaining game, they will fancy a win over Afghanistan, will likely take a loss to the Indians, meaning the games against Pakistan and Australia are crucial should the Tigers be the team to snatch a semi final place. Star man, and the number one ranked ODI all rounder in the world, Shakib Al Hasan (above) will need to keep his current form up and be ably assisted by his team mates if they are to really have a run at the semi finals. But the feeling is that as exciting as they can be, they may just struggle to win three of their last four as they will highly likely need to do.
SRI LANKA (currently 6th)
If we were talking of the Sri Lanka team that used to have the likes of Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Murali, Jayawardene, De Silva and co, then we would be all over the Sri Lankans like a rash. But, sadly, we aren’t, and despite Lasith Malinga (above) still one of the best bowlers around at the death, the Sri Lankans are a shadow of their former selves and, the truth is, that half of their current points tally has been thanks to the rain rather than their cricket. With England, South Africa, West Indies and India still to play, Sri Lanka’s hopes of gaining more points could again well rest on the weather more so than with the willow. All signs point to them looking down more so than up.
WEST INDIES (currently 7th)
After looking mighty impressive in walloping Pakistan, and then a respectable loss to the Aussies, the West Indies will feel sore at the loss of their game against South Africa to the weather….but then hugely concerned in the manner of their losses to England and then Bangladesh, where they were as badly walloped as Pakistan were. With talisman Chris Gayle looking out of sorts, Andre Russell (above) injured and the rest of the West Indies team inconsistent at best, you have to feel that by the time they have faced the Kiwis and Indians in their next two games, their World Cup will already be over, with their final and very winnable two games, against Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, dead rubbers.
SOUTH AFRICA (currently 8th)
Much like Sri Lanka, if we were talking about a nation that fielded the likes of Kallis, Donald, Pollock, Klusener, Ntini and Cronje on the pitch, we would remain positive about their chances – not that those guys would have lost three of their opening four games anyway, with the other lost to the weather. But even with the impressive Imran Tahir (above) in their midst, they remain an inexperienced and transitional side. Still, they hammered Afghanistan and, much to their relief, remain, mathematically at least, still in the play off equation. They will need to win out to stand any chance – but with New Zealand next up, and Australia lying in wait, not to mention Pakistan – that looks much more hopeful than expectant. The Kiwis could…should…all but put the Proteas on the plane back home.
PAKISTAN (currently 9th)
It isn’t often that a team sitting ninth, with just one win to their name and having just one team below them in the table, could just be the team still to watch. But, yet, they are. Out of all the teams who could just break into the top 4, Pakistan, we feel, are they. Here’s why. Their one win was against England – a team unbeaten at home in ODI’s in over 4 years – scoring 348 runs against their much vaunted bowling attack and defending it – at Trent Bridge – notoriously tough to defend runs at. Then, their schedule. They have already played England, Australia and India – and ‘all’ that’s left are South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Okay, we know they were lamentable against the West Indies, and have lost a valuable point with the washout against Sri Lanka. But with the likes of Amir, Hafeez (above), Babar Azam and Wasim more than capable on their day, they COULD just run out winners of their final four games. With that including New Zealand, who themselves still have Australia and England to play, they COULD just sneak in. There are a lot of ‘could’ there we acknowledge….but if anyone can, Pakistan can.
AFGHANISTAN (currently 10th)
Currently tenth – and 10th they will stay. They cant even get a break with the weather – carnage every day, yet every Afghanistan game has gone ahead. Go figure. Still, they are playing with smiles on their faces and happy to just be part of the 2019 Cricket World Cup. Players and fans alike. Fair play to them as well.
So, to answer the opening question….if anyone will, we feel its Pakistan. But, the truth is, its highly likely to be the four that currently reside in the top 4 places. All we will be keen to see is in what order they finish.