What does Sri Lanka’s win over England mean for the race to the Semi Finals? Lets look at what each team needs to do to reach the knockout stage.
New Zealand: 11 pts NRR 1.306 (3 to come vs Pakistan, Australia, England)
Australia: 10 pts NRR 0.849 (3 to come vs England, New Zealand, South Africa)
India: 9 pts NRR 0.809 (4 to come vs West Indies, England, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka)
England: 8 pts NRR 1.457 (3 to come vs Australia, India, New Zealand)
Sri Lanka: 6 pts NRR -1.119 (3 to come vs South Africa, West Indies, India)
Bangladesh: 5 pts NRR -0.457 (3 to come vs Afghanistan, India, Pakistan)
West Indies: 3 pts NRR 0.19 (3 to come vs India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan)
South Africa: 3 pts NRR -0.193 (3 to come vs Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia)
Pakistan: 3 pts NRR -1.933 (4 to come vs South Africa, New Zealand, Afghanistan, Bangladesh)
Afghanistan: 0 pts NRR -1.712 (3 to come vs Bangladesh, Pakistan, West Indies)
While in theory they can still miss out, and none of Pakistan, Australia or England are easy opponents, the only two teams outside of the top 4 who can overtake them are Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and Bangladesh needs to overcome a -0.457 vs 1.306 differential to get there. While a washout would be enough to get them ahead of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka can still overtake them if Sri Lanka can ovecome the -1.119 vs 1.306 net run rate difference. They are close to there but not quite.
Australia have three tough games, two of them against teams currently in the top 4, and the third one against South Africa, who are ranked 1 spot higher than them on the ICC rankings, and, depending on what happens in other games, may be fighting for that 4th and final spot. While South Africa can’t overtake Australia, they can overtake England and even India, and that may be motivation enough for Australia to lose. They’ve probably got there, though. The only teams that can overtake them, even if they were to lose all 3 matches, are Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Starting late is turning in to a massive advantage for the most cricket-mad country in the world, who just need 1 win from their last 4 matches to be certain of qualification, and only 1 of those 4 opponents is currently in the top 4.
A meme has been shown that says that England have struggled against their last 3 opponents, in World Cups at least, with Australia on a 3 game winning streak, India 3 and New Zealand 5 in World Cups. Even if they lost all 3 of those games, though, they will probably still qualify for the semi-finals, and a single win will rule out all but Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Indeed, even if they were to lose all matches they will still probably qualify, as it’d take enormous changes of form for those ranked below them to qualify.
While they are in 5th place, only 2 points behind England, they are a long way from snatching 4th spot, as they not only have to win one more game than England in their final 3 matches, but, due to the tie breaker being number of wins, they actually have to win 2 – barring rain, of course. Amusingly, perhaps, 3 washouts could qualify Sri Lanka, if England lose their last 3 matches. Given that their next 3 opponents are West Indies, India and South Africa, it might be easier to get washouts, as they are 3 very tough opponents for them.
In theory, they can win their next 3 games and finish on 11 points, perhaps even top of the table. But then we have that one juggernaut in their way, in India, and two pretty tough opponents in Pakistan and Afghanistan too. While Afghanistan are easy beats for most teams, for Bangladesh they are a huge bogey team, as Bangladesh have regularly lost to them. While Bangladesh have beaten Pakistan, they don’t usually. And then there’s India, who Bangladesh have beaten, but not often. They might win 1, maybe even 2, but surely 3 is too much to hope for. But they will probably need to win all 3 to qualify. Anything less will rely on other teams.
The only team West Indies can overtake, who are currently in the top 4, are England, and only if England lose all 3 of their remaining games, in which case West Indies and England would be level on points. In that scenario, they’d need to hope that Bangladesh lose at least 1 match, the same for Sri Lanka, and then they’d need to be ahead of the other teams who could be on 9 points. The good news for West Indies is that they don’t have to play any of them. The bad news is that they have to beat India as part of this. If England win or have a washout in any of their remaining games, then they are out. They are also out if they lose or have a washout in any of their last 3 games.
The same as West Indies, South Africa have to win their last 3 matches and have England lose theirs. The good news for South Africa is that they outrank all 3 of their remaining opponents. The bad news is that they outranked Bangladesh by 5 places but still lost to them, and lost to all 3 teams who are ranked ahead of them. They are in a very bad place right now and this just doesn’t seem likely.
The good news for Pakistan is that they can still make it. Better news is that this 1-3-1 start is the exact same start they had in 1992, when they qualified for the semi-finals and won the World Cup. The bad news is that the top 4 have been a bit more dominant this time around, and the only side they can overtake is England. They at least have 1 more game in hand than West Indies and South Africa, and 4 wins in their last 4 will see them finish on 11 points, which should be enough for the semi-finals. The only problem is that two of those sides, South Africa and New Zealand, outrank them, and South Africa at least looms as something of a knockout match. It’s tough but it’s not impossible. They just have to win every match. That might not be enough, depending on other matches, but if England lose their last 3 matches then it definitely will be enough. I think.
The good news is that all 3 of Afghanistan’s last 3 opponents are teams that Afghanistan have beaten regularly recently. The bad news is that even if they win all 3 they will still not make the semi-finals. The question really is whether the motivation to win their first ever World Cup match, having gone winless in 2015, is enough to push them over the line, and also how many of those games they can win. With Bangladesh and Pakistan at least still hopeful of making the semi-finals, Afghanistan may be that banana skin for one or both teams. Even West Indies can still make it, and Afghanistan, who beat West Indies to win the World Cup Qualifier, could play spoilsport there as well.