England’s Cricket World Cup hopes are hanging by a thread as they endure a nightmare defence of their title in India, although there is still a mathematical chance of them going on a run and making an unlikely late push for the semi-finals.
The 2019 champions have lost five of their opening six matches – their latest a 100-run loss to tournament hosts India – to sit bottom of the 10-team table on two points, with only the top four sides progressing beyond the group stage.
England were also thrashed by New Zealand in their group opener, the same two sides who featured in the final four years earlier, before following a lone victory over Bangladesh with a shock 69-run defeat against Afghanistan.
How can England still qualify?!
The round-robin format gives England three more fixtures to accumulate points and move up the table, with victories in the lot taking them to eight points and with an outside chance of still reaching the knockout stage – depending on how other teams perform.
There is a high possibility that net run-rate could determine the final qualification spots, which is calculated by using the average runs per over scored by a team and then subtracting the average runs per over scored against them.
That metric is used when teams remain level on points at the end of the group stage, with the side holding the best net run-rate in that scenario then qualifying, with England (-1.652) in desperate need of improving theirs as it is the worst of all 10 teams.
What happens before England play?
Afghanistan and Sri Lanka face one another on Monday, where the winner will move to six points from six matches, while defeat for Bangladesh against Pakistan on Tuesday would see them become the first side to have their semi-final hopes mathematically ended.
Bangladesh are currently in the same situation as England, holding two points from six matches, so need to win all three remaining matches and hope for a number of scenarios to work in their favour for them to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals.
A victory for Pakistan would take them to six points, with South Africa (10 points) then having the opportunity to leapfrog India at the top of the table when they play third-place New Zealand (eight points) on Wednesday.
India are all-but guaranteed a semi-final place but will mathematically lock in a place in the last four on Thursday with victory over Sri Lanka, while the Netherlands will likely need to build on their shock victory over Bangladesh when they take on Afghanistan on Friday.
What are England’s chances then?
England take on arch-rivals Australia on Saturday, who have won their past four matches and scored 367 runs or higher when batting first in their last three fixtures, with nothing less than a victory required to keep their slim qualification hopes alive.
Victory would take England to four points and give them an outside chance of qualification with games to come against the Netherlands on November 8 and Pakistan on November 11, although Buttler’s side will still need a dramatic improvement to their current net run rate of -1.652.
Even if England do return to winning ways, they would need both Australia and New Zealand to lose all three of their remaining matches to have any chance of finishing in a tie for the final semi-final spots.
Australia and New Zealand both sit on eight points, the highest tally England can reach, so one win for both teams is enough to officially end any hopes for the defending champions.
Should the unthinkable happen and both teams lose all their remaining matches, here’s just one scenario where England could still – via some cricketing miracle – mathematically sneak through on net run rate…
Correct as of October 29, assuming India and South Africa are two of the teams to reach the semi-finals and England significantly improve their net run rate with three big victories:
- Sri Lanka – Beat Afghanistan, lose to India, beat Bangladesh, beat New Zealand – 10 points
- England – beat Australia, beat Netherlands, beat Pakistan – Eight points
- New Zealand – lose to South Africa, lose to Pakistan, lose to Sri Lanka – Eight points
- Australia – lose to England, lose to Afghanistan, lose to Bangladesh – Eight points
- Pakistan – lose to Bangladesh, beat New Zealand, lose to England – Six points
- Bangladesh – Beat Pakistan, lose to Sri Lanka, beat Australia – Six points
- Afghanistan – Lose to Sri Lanka, lose to Netherlands, beat Australia, lose to South Africa – Six points
- Netherlands – beat Afghanistan, lose to England, lose to India – Six points
Inconceivable? Yes. Far-fetched? Yes. Miraculous? Yes. Down-right impossible? Almost certainly. But it currently is, just about, mathematically possible.
What’s at stake if they don’t qualify?
It has come to light that places at the 2025 Champions Trophy will be allocated based on performances in this competition, with hosts Pakistan joined by the seven highest finishers, meaning England need to improve their position over their final three matches.
England head coach Matthew Mott admitted he was not aware of the qualification process until during the defeat against India, telling reporters after that loss: “The ICC do change the rules quite a bit with qualification but to be honest I don’t think it would affect in any way the way we’ve played in this tournament, so it’s not a big deal.
“It’s plenty of motivation for us to pick ourselves back up off the canvas and keep trying to throw punches. It gives us a lot of focus that we need to make sure we can’t just ‘turn up’. We’ve got to win these games.”
Monday’s game at the Cricket World Cup sees Afghanistan take on Sri Lanka in Pune. Both sides have four points from five matches (two wins, three losses) with Sri Lanka ahead of Afghanistan on net run-rate. England are next in action on Saturday, when they face Australia in a must-win match (8am on Sky Sports Cricket, 8.30am start).
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