Pakistan have impossible task at hand; embattled England aim Champions Trophy berth
Kolkata: Nothing less than a miracle will help Pakistan as they face a near-impossible task of making the semifinals by winning with an unthinkable margin, while a charged-up England will look to qualify for the Champions Trophy when the two sides clash in the World Cup here on Saturday.
New Zealand’s net run-rate boosting five wicket-win over Sri Lanka has virtually shattered Pakistan’s semifinal hopes. The 1992 champions now have to beat England by an improbable margin.
New Zealand’s NRR is +0.743 while Pakistan’s is +0.036, and for the Babar Azam-led side to eclipse the former to qualify as the fourth side, it has to win by around 287 runs batting first. While chasing, Pakistan need to win with 284 balls to spare. That is an impractical task.
For defending champions England, the World Cup title defence dream may have been over for quite a sometime now but the Jos Buttler-led side will aim to finish inside top-8 to make the cut for the 2025 Champions Trophy.
As things stand, it’s a four-way race with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands also in the mix with England.
Their 160-run win over the Netherlands in the last match has given the down-and-out England the much-needed late charge as they have climbed up to the seventh spot and face the easiest equation among the four teams.
A win against Pakistan should seal the spot, considering that both Bangladesh and the Netherlands face tough opponents in Australia and India respectively, and also have inferior NRRs than England.
Pak batters in spotlight
Pakistan have failed to live up to the expectations in this World Cup but have showed some late surge in the last two matches to stay alive.
Having played two matches already at the Eden Gardens, Pakistan have better knowledge about the conditions which has been slow and spin-friendly during the middle overs.
But they would still need their top-five to fire, which has not been the case so far.
Explosive opener Fakhar Zaman, who put on a spectacular show of power-hitting against New Zealand, missing five matches has been a mystery. The left-hander has showed what he’s capable of in the last two matches.
He along with Babar, in an unbroken 194-run alliance from 141 balls in their DLS win over New Zealand in the last match, have demonstrated that they can successfully tackle any equation.
England’s late surge
About a month separated England from their first and last win in the global showpiece. In between, they lost five matches in a row to see their World Cup campaign go up in smoke.
Ben Stokes and David Malan have done well in the previous two games and it will be an interesting battle against the likes of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Rauf.
Stokes is slowly coming to his own with a half-century and an 84-ball 108 in last two matches, while opener Malan has been their best batter in a forgettable World Cup.
Their only batter with 300-plus runs, Malan has been consistently giving them starts. He has all the shots in his armoury to excel at the Eden Gardens which has behaved differently this time.
England will hope that the likes of Joe Root, Harry brook and skipper Jos Buttler also get some runs and end their a disastrous World Cup campaign on a high.
Another bright spot for England in their big win was the way Chris Woakes shone with both bat and ball.
He complemented Stokes with a quick fifty and then gave England the perfect start en route to finishing with tidy figures of 1/19 in seven overs.
In Woakes and David Willey, England have the pacers up-front to make a mark, and it would be an intriguing battle against the Pakistan’s in-form Fakhar and Babar, who is due for a big knock.
On spin-friendly conditions, England will also rely on Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, who will look to strangulate the Pakistan progress in the middle overs.
England has been a white-ball champion side and it is simply beyond logic why it failed to recreate the magic in this World Cup.