England vs Netherlands (Image: englandcricket/X)
Pakistan and England will each have different reasons to play to win and to enhance the net run rate in the World Cup when they meet at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Saturday. And that will possibly make for a great game and offer a visual and emotional treat for the fans, in the magnificent stadium and those elsewhere, watching on one screen or the other.
England’s massive victory over the Netherlands has helped them rise to the seventh spot on the table with the best net run rate among the last four teams, but they have to win their last match against Pakistan to ensure that they make the grade and shut the ICC Champions Trophy 2025 door on Sri Lanka or Bangladesh.
The Champions Trophy will feature eight teams, including the host Pakistan and other the top seven teams in the current World Cup. Bottom of the table and smarting at the position they had driven themselves to with just one win against Bangladesh in their first seven games, England rose to seventh place with the victory over the Dutch.
England’s travails in one-day cricket are far from over. They will first have to ensure qualification for the Champions Trophy by finishing ahead of the Netherlands and at least one other team. Then to find a balance across formats, they will have to rethink their approach in the run-up to the big-ticket events in each format.
England’s batters have let the side down miserably, with only David Malan figuring in the 30 with the most runs in this World Cup. Ben Stokes’ century against the Netherlands lifted his five-match aggregate to 220, while Joe Root, inarguably among the world’s finest bats across formats, has just 216 runs in eight visits to the crease. Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler have a poor tally of 268 runs between them.
Surely, it is not as if the England bowlers have done themselves proud either. Leg-spinner Adil Rashid is the only one with more than 10 wickets in the tournament. The men trusted to do the damage with the new ball have let the side down by not claiming more than 14 wickets in the first powerplay overs in the eight matches so far.
England (Image: Twitter)
Perhaps they are paying the price for having played too few ODIs between winning the 2019 World Cup and landing in India for this edition. Surely, their think-tank could have shown more respect to the format and given the team the opportunity to be in a greater state of readiness for the biggest event in 50-over cricket.
Of course, that argument can be countered by pointing out that Australia and New Zealand have not played many more matches than England and, in fact, South Africa played fewer. But those teams have had a more settled look to them. And their players and coaching staff have made the most of their knowledge of the grounds from their IPL experience.
Yet, this is not yet the time for England’s think-tank to begin a review of its disastrous run in this World Cup in India. They will have to focus their energies on playing the best game against an opposition that, over the last couple of games, has rediscovered its hunger to win.
It is ironic that instead of being a front-runner for a spot in the semifinals, England are now battling to stay in the top eight so as that stay relevant in the ODI format. That hinges entirely on how well each of their cricketers, especially the ones operating at the start of both innings, motivate themselves to bring their A-game to Eden Gardens in the match against Pakistan.
With their back to the wall, England will hope that rain stays away from Bengaluru and New Zealand beat Sri Lanka on Thursday, while Australia defeated Bangladesh in Pune on Friday. That will leave them with a simpler task against Pakistan, of ensuring that they win the battle of the net run rate, should things come to such a pass with a seventh defeat in nine league games.
Pakistan and England will each have different reasons to play to win and to enhance the net run rate in the World Cup when they meet at the Eden Gardens…
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