Dubai: Pakistan’s win over New Zealand has brightened the semi-final chances for Babar Azam’s team and a possible meeting with Asian neighbours and hosts India.
For Pakistan, a situation like this is not new. In 1992, when they were almost down and out, the team led by legendary all-rounder Imran Khan. His motivational talk asking the players to fight like cornered tigers helped Pakistan win their first World Cup title.
Permutations and combinations
Currently, the team’s in the same boat. Their performance against New Zealand backed by a century from Fakhar Zaman have raised the hopes. Pakistan look highly capable of repeating the feat the team did in Australia in 1992 and clinch the last spot in the semi-finals.
But it’s still a Herculean task where they also need the luck factor with other results going their way.
It is a given that India will finish No 1. With 16 points, the Men in Blue will have a clear edge than the rest even if they lose to the Netherlands in their final league clash. Here are the scenarios how Pakistan could play India in the semi-finals:
New Zealand lose to Sri Lanka and Pakistan win against England
The Black Caps have made a strong start to their campaign in this edition, winning the first four games. However, four straight loses, including the one against Pakistan via Duckworth Lewis method has really put them in troubled waters. Both New Zealand and Pakistan are on par with Afghanistan, who have an extra match on hand. But Afghanistan have two big teams to contend with — South Africa and Australia. So if they lose both the games, then New Zealand and Pakistan will be vying for the lone spot. If Sri Lanka beat New Zealand on Thursday, then Pakistan need to just extend their winning run against defending champions England. A victory will give Pakistan the much-needed two points and a place in the semi-finals.
New Zealand beat Sri Lanka and Pakistan need to beat England by big margin
New Zealand hold a higher net run-rate currently against both Pakistan and Afghanistan and hence if they win their last group match against Sri Lanka, they will almost certainly put themselves firmly in fourth spot. Young New Zealand opener Rachin Ravindra is key to the Black Caps as the left-hander has two centuries and one half-century in his maiden World Cup. Then for Pakistan, it becomes a bit tricky as they need to beat England by a handsome margin. At the current run-rate, the following is the calculations made by BCCI statistician Mohandas Menon assuming New Zealand win and maintain their current NRR, then Pakistan have to beat England by the following margins:
375 and win by 149 runs
350 and win by 150 runs
300 and win by 148 runs
Or chasing a target
275 and win by 144 balls
250 and win by 146 balls
200 and win by 148 balls.
Australia lose both matches against Afghanistan and Bangladesh
The five-time champions are back in the winning groove and it is difficult for them to lose from here. However, if they lose both their league matches, then they will also be on 10 points, which means four teams — Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Afghanistan — will be vying for last two spots, which will take it to the penultimate day of the league stage, November 11. However, Australians have been unstoppable as they are on a five-match winning streak.
Afghanistan continuing their winning march
Afghanistan could play party spoilers to all the other three giants of world cricket if they win both their league matches. The giant-killers of this edition with victories over defending champions England and former champions Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the Hasmatullah Shahidi-led team have showed the world that they have come of age and are no longer pushovers. Afghans could move up to third place with wins over Australia and South Africa, leaving Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan contesting for the lone spot.
Rains to provide twist to the tale
All these calculations could go wrong and rains could provide the twist to the tale, just the way it happened in Bengaluru between Pakistan and New Zealand. A washout could dash the hopes of any of the four teams.