23 matches and not a single thriller? And Tuesday's game where the match was done by half-time reiterated the continued loss of interest in the ODI format despite an ICC Men's Cricket World Cup going on. There have been some interesting battles and surprising results, especially the three upsets featuring a couple of Afghanistan wins, but a heart-stopper has still eluded the tournament. With the semi-final race heating up, the expectation is that not just the general interest in the format and the tournament will increase but the difference in margins between teams will also decrease.
As it stands, India have dominated the group stage so far with an unbeaten run in all five matches they have played and look set to finish at the top of the table. Behind them are the red-hot South Africans with a net run rate that is only skyrocketing after each win and New Zealand, who suffered their first defeat of the tournament against India only. After these three are five-time champions Australia with two wins and as many losses, Pakistan with two wins and three losses and England with just a win and three losses.
Afghanistan by beating Pakistan and England have kept themselves in the hunt but they might be filtered out as far as the semifinal race is concerned given the tough games left for them. On the other hand, both England and Pakistan are on the brink as one loss will end their challenge. But why? How many wins are or should be enough for a team to get through to the semifinals? Let's get into it!
The round-robin format means each team will play nine matches. The format was used in the 2019 edition where teams with 15, 14, 12 and 11 points qualified for the knockouts, so how many wins are enough? The 2019 edition suggests six wins should be enough but to confirm, a team has to get seven wins in the bag. India qualified with seven wins and one extra point in a washed-out game against New Zealand. Australia too had seven wins, for England six wins were enough and the equation became tricky at 11 points with New Zealand and Pakistan both having five wins and a rained-out game each.
Similarly, seven wins will confirm a place in the last four though it might not guarantee a top spot. At six wins, it may come to NRR and hence the teams falling in the negative NRR category like England, Australia and Pakistan will not only have to start winning but also get them early and quickly to have a chance of improving on the net run rate.
Team India is in the most comfortable position with five wins in as many games. One more win and they will have a foot in the door with another one getting them through it. South Africa and New Zealand too, with four wins, have left some breathing space for themselves with a positive net run rate and have suffered just one respective loss each. If they win two games each, they are nearly through to the semis and three wins will put a stamp on it.
Australia with two losses already have some tough games ahead against New Zealand and England and if they win both or even either of them, they should fancy themselves to beat the likes of Netherlands, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The situation becomes even more dreary for England and Pakistan, who don't have room for an error. They play each other in Kolkata on November 11 but before that, they can't afford a single loss. England play India and Australia among tough opponents while Pakistan play New Zealand and South Africa.
Both teams can't be counted out and that makes for an interesting phase in the tournament because if they start winning everything, that Kolkata decider could be a virtual quarter-final because them winning means teams above them have started to lose. Maybe, just maybe there's some life left in the tournament.