Where: Eden Gardens, Kolkata
When: Friday, November 11
What’s At Stake
The fourth and final spot in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals has come down to a shootout between two teams. Pakistan and New Zealand are still alive and eager to join hosts India, South Africa, and Australia, who have all qualified for the last four of the 2023 Cricket World Cup.
New Zealand is clearly in the driver’s seat. Their dominant win over Sri Lanka has left Pakistan with a serious problem. The Blackcaps have 10 points with all their games played. Pakistan has eight points, so they must win their final match against England to have a chance of progress.
The tiebreaker for progression at this World Cup is net run rate (NRR). New Zealand already held a significant NRR advantage over Pakistan before their final pool-stage match. They then thumped Sri Lanka with 160 balls to spare, pushing the gap between them and Pakistan even wider.
The simple maths is not in their favor. Seeing another battle between Pakistan and India would be epic – especially in the knockout stages – but they would have to beat England in an entirely improbable way to get there. They need to win by a margin of 287 runs at least, and if they are chasing, they need to dismiss England for 50 runs and chase the target in two overs or 100 runs in three overs.
This has been a frustrating World Cup for Pakistan. They lost four matches in a row in the middle of the tournament to the three semi-final qualifiers and then a disastrous defeat at the hands of Afghanistan. Winning just one of those matches – as they would expect to have done – would have made this a simple ‘win and in’ scenario.
Don’t expect changes for Pakistan as they play their strongest side, looking for a miracle of a win.
England has been the biggest disappointment in this tournament. The defending champions have had a miserable group stage and have no chance of progressing after falling to multiple heavy defeats. There are questions about several of their players going forward, with this potentially being the final one-day international for Ben Stokes and a couple of his teammates.
Going nearly a month between group-stage wins is embarrassing, but a win over Pakistan might help salvage some sense of pride.
The Bazball cricket brand that England currently plays in all formats is as risk/reward as it gets. It is worth noting that the style has been more effective against Pakistan than just about any other team, with England winning 14 of the completed 18 matches in the format between the two sides since 2015. This is a team that England knows how to beat.
Jos Buttler has had a miserable torment with an average of just under 14 runs and a high score of 43. He is in no form at all, but wouldn’t it be just like Buttler to roar back with a big innings here? He is 6/1 to do so, which I think is a value bet in a group of England batters that have all underperformed to some level. Fakir Zaman is 7/2 to be Pakistan’s top batsman, and that also feels like value if he can get back to his pre-tournament form with the pressure essentially off in this one.