Kolkata, Nov 10: Pakistan need dollops of luck and a huge win over an already-eliminated England to leapfrog New Zealand and take the fourth semi-finalist slot at the ICC Men’s World Cup at the Eden Gardens here on Saturday.
To make it to the last four, the Babar Azam led side, now on eight points from as many matches, are two points adrift of the Kiwis, who have played all their nine games. However, what gives the New Zealanders a leg up is their much better net run rate (0.743 as against Pakistan’s 0.036). run rate.
So, the equation before Pakistan is simple but far from easy – bat first and win by 287 runs or more, to snatch fourth place and set up a mouth-watering semi-final clash with arch-rivals India. However, such is Pakistan’s position that their fate can be sealed even before a ball is bowled in the match. That is if England captain Jos Butler calls the coin correctly and then decides to make first use of the popping crease.
Provided that doesn’t happen, and Pakistan get to bet first, they would be looking at their top order to pick up where they left off against New Zealand. In that game, Fakhar Zaman (126 not out) and Babar Azam (66 not out) had propelled them to 200/1 from only 25.3 overs.
That was enough for Pakistan to clinch victory over New Zealand by 21 runs under the DLS method even while chasing 402 and set up a crunch clash against England now.
While Pakistan have their task xut out to stay afloat in the premier tourney, England enter the encounter with their own motivations for the future as they look to secure a spot in the next ICC Champions Trophy.
Pakistan are set to host that 50-over event in 2025 which will feature the top eight sides on the standings at the end of this Cricket World Cup.
England are currently in seventh place and can’t move any higher, but with Bangladesh and Netherlands also having one match to play a third win of the tournament will at least ensure their qualification.
England opener Dawid Malan has been a shining light in England’s dismal title defence to be
among the top-10 run-scorers at the tournament despite having little support.
Malan has amassed 373 runs from eight innings, with a blazing century against Bangladesh backed up by fifties in his two most recent knocks against Australia and Netherlands.
England’s next best with the willow has been the redoubtable Ben Stokes (220) and Joe Root (216), but if they are to secure an ICC Champions Trophy spot the 36-year-old Malan might have to step up once again.
Pakistan’s hard-hitting opener Fakhar Zaman has made such a significant impact since returning to the playing XI that it is hard not to think that Pakistan’s campaign would have really continued into next week if he had earned selection throughout the tournament.
Fakhar only made 12 against Netherlands in Pakistan’s tournament opener to fall out of the side, but has made his mark with back-to-back Player of the Match performances since being recalled.
The 33-year-old smashed a quickfire 81 against Bangladesh that breathed life into Pakistan’s semi-final hopes, then pummelled the New Zealand attack for 126 not out from 81 balls in their rain-affected clash.
England squad: Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali, Gus Atkinson, Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Ben Stokes, Brydon Carse, David Willey, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Mohammad Rizwan, Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim. (UNI)