The 2019 Cricket World Cup has been a bit of a fizzer in a lot of ways. Out of the first 26 games played, 4 were washed out, and another 2 were rain affected, and, of those 22 games that were played, only 11 were decided by less than 50 runs or won with less than 10 overs to spare, as we have seen that the top 4 (India, England, New Zealand and Australia) are a long way ahead of the bottom 6, but we kind of knew that pre-tournament. It was supposed to be that 4 of the top 5 (including South Africa) would make the semi-finals, with most people predicting it was out of New Zealand or South Africa for that 4th and final spot, though some had Australia missing out instead. But, in spite of all of that, we’ve still had a few matches that didn’t go according to plan.
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5. Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan
Match 7 of the World Cup was meant to result in an easy Afghanistan victory. While Sri Lanka were, technically at least, ranked 1 spot higher than Afghanistan (9th versus 10th), the form said that Afghanistan were well and truly favourites, but then Sri Lanka got off to a great start and, when the score was 1/144 after 21 overs, and the run rate was up around 7, 350 or even 400 was on the cards and all of the predictions of an Afghanistan victory were looking silly. But then came the collapse of all collapses, as Sri Lanka lost 9 for 57 to be 201 all out, bowled out inside 37 overs, and suddenly Afghanistan were back in charge. While they were busy celebrating, though, this batting-heavy outfit suddenly figured out how to bowl, and, after a quickfire 34 off 4.3 overs suddenly they were reduced to 5 for 57 and were suddenly in danger of losing. They looked the goods after a stand of 64 between Gulbadin Naib and Rashid Khan but once Gulbadin was out for 23 the rest fell within 31 runs of each other and suddenly Afghanistan had lost by 34 runs. It was frustrating as they still had 8 more overs to get, a low run rate, and there was no scoreboard pressure, but overconfidence cost them big time as Sri Lanka won a match they had no business winning.
4. Bangladesh beat West Indies
8th beating 7th doesn’t sound like an upset and Bangladesh had beaten West Indies 3 times a month before, but that was before West Indies found some incredible form with a warm-up win over New Zealand and then a big win against Pakistan, as well as all but beating Australia, though Bangladesh had already beaten South Africa – before crashing back down to earth with losses to England and New Zealand, and later they would lose to Australia too. There was a chance for Bangladesh when West Indies got off to a sluggish start but once they had 321 runs on the board it looked like any thought of an upset was gone. But don’t tell Shakib al Hasan as the most in-form player in the entire tournament reeled it in with ease as he managed an absurd 124 off 99, taking Liton Das along for the ride, as Bangladesh ended up reeling in their highest ever chase with almost 9 overs to spare.
3. Pakistan beat England
There’s an argument that, this being Pakistan, it doesn’t count as an upset, but this really, really does count, as the world’s 6th best team beat the world’s best, and this just after Pakistan had lost badly to West Indies. Somehow, Pakistan worked out how to bat and compiled a massive 348 runs, though it never looked enough against this English batting line-up and when Joe Root and Jos Buttler were each scoring centuries in a 130 run partnership for the 5th wicket it looked like it’d be all over, until England lost wickets at just the wrong time and fell 14 agonising runs short as the last paid of Rashid and Wood couldn’t score quickly enough. There was no one moment to point to either – they just didn’t quite do enough, as Pakistan turned from minnows to world beaters in the space of a week.
2. Bangladesh beat South Africa
Had this come after South Africa had lost to India, England and New Zealand, it wouldn’t have been such a big upset, but this came when South Africa were in great form, with a big warm-up win over Sri Lanka and dominating a match against West Indies, while Bangladesh had lost badly to India and had been losing to Afghanistan and Ireland. To see Bangladesh, who usually don’t bat very well, go all the way to their highest ever ODI score of 330 against arguably the world’s best bowling line-up (at least in English conditions) was shocking, as Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim both batted 2 spots higher than they usually do (3 and 4 instead of 5 and 6) and both batted incredibly well in their 75 and 78. But it still looked like South Africa would chase it and needing 100 runs off the last 10 with wickets in hand it looked like the Proteas would get there, except that they didn’t. Wickets at just the wrong time and an inability to take risks when required saw them fall 21 runs short, and even then it looked like that might mean that they’d miss the semi-finals. Foolishly, lying commentators claimed dishonestly that this was “not an upset”, but of course it was. 8th ranked versus 3rd is always an upset. A team nobody picked to be anywhere near the semi-finals against a team who was supposed to be fighting for the last semi-final spot, yeah, nah, obviously a massive upset.
1. Sri Lanka defeated England
Nobody picked Sri Lanka to win this, not even Sri Lanka, and, when we saw Sri Lanka struggle to get a decent run rate going while losing far too many wickets, most of us turned off our TV sets and went off to do something else, but then they managed to bat out their overs. 232 never looked close to enough but that first wicket, albeit one which was “umpire’s call”, was a nice start, then England slowed down far too much. It was a hint of a hope, but not really. It looked for all the world like England were going to win right up until they didn’t. Even with 9 wickets down, when Mark Wood edged it behind – had he not got out that ball, we were sure that Ben Stokes would get the last 21 runs easily, probably in the next over. Don’t forget that this is 9th ranked versus 1st ranked too. Sri Lanka had beaten England in their previous 3 World Cup encounters, but the form in between was much different. This is our winner. While it probably won’t be enough to see Sri Lanka make the semi-finals, unless England win at least 1 of their last 3 matches then it might give a hint of a hope for the other teams, like Pakistan, South Africa and even Bangladesh, and that makes this extra big. It wasn’t just 9th beating 1st, and a massive comeback in a match that Sri Lanka were always losing, but this was a result that could make the race for the semi-finals interesting. It might not, if England go on to beat New Zealand, India and Australia, but if they lose all 3 then it might.