England’s defeat to Sri Lanka on Friday was an upset for ages! It was unimaginable, given the host’s form and Lanka’s woes. However, it couldn’t have come at a better time and couldn’t have been bigger than this.
England were the red-hot favourites this World Cup. They seemed invincible. Barring an odd game or two, they dominated every time they came out on the field. In fact, they had the best win-loss ratio in ODI cricket since the 2015 World Cup.
A semi-final spot was almost certain, but, they have been rocked. That semi-final spot may still be up for grabs but it’s not guaranteed.
Before Friday’s England-Sri Lanka match, it seemed the current top four teams — England, India, Australia and New Zealand — would go to the semi-finals with the only possibility of the positions getting interchanged. However, Sri Lanka’s win has now thrown the points table wide open now.
Not everything is a given. Cricket has yet again proved to be unpredictable. Now, there are various possibilities, especially with the earlier washouts giving the teams an additional point.
Tough games ahead
England now have three tough games ahead of them. They next face Australia, India and New Zealand in their last three games of the group stage. They will need to win at least two of the three matches to ensure a berth in the top four.
But, it won’t be easy. They might have had the better of them in the recent past, winning bilateral ODI series against each one of them. But their World Cup record against these three sides isn’t that great. The last time England beat any of these sides in a World Cup game was back in 1992.
Since then, they’ve lost three games against Australia and two against India (and a tie). Meanwhile, they last got the better of New Zealand in a World Cup fixture way back in 1983. Since then, they have a 0-5 record in World Cups against the Kiwis.
England may have beaten tougher teams like South Africa, West Indies and Bangladesh, but, they have come down crashing against the likes of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who have been below par in the other games.
England can bounce back
Hence, it has left England hanging at the moment. Though they don’t need to panic. They have the ability and have shown that they can bounce back hard after a defeat. They’ve been the best ODI side for a reason and they can do it.
However, the fact remains that there is a possibility that England, of all teams, may not make it to the semi-finals. They may end up not qualifying, which shall be the biggest non-qualification (for knockouts) of all time in the history of World Cup cricket.
Moreover, that possibility has given a fresh lease of life to the other teams. Barring South Africa and Afghanistan, all other teams are still in contention and anything can happen as we move towards the second half of this World Cup.