As ICC Men’s ODI World Cup crosses the halfway stage with each of the ten teams having played at least five matches each, the tournament has been kept alive by a few surprises amidst what has largely been a flurry of one-sided victories.
While hosts India remain unbeaten, New Zealand and South Africa – who have only lost one game each so far – look like the other favourites to make it to the semi-finals.
Barring the thriller at Chepauk between South Africa and Pakistan on Thursday, close contests have eluded the tournament and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the top four in the points table almost looks decisive after the end of twenty six matches.
Some would be looking at the remaining fixtures to try and displace one of those three teams and Australia to sneak into the top four, while defending champions England and Pakistan would both be hoping for a miracle.
Here’s a look at how the ten teams have fared at the tournament so far:
Points table after five matches each
|Position||Team||Played||Won||Lost||Net Run Rate||Points|
It was always going to be tough to stun India in a World Cup at home. So far, they have looked like the team to beat with both the batting and bowling shaping up well.
Mohammad Siraj would be expected to better his bowling performances but that is the only evident concern so far.
The only real challenge for the remaining fixtures is what the team combination will look like if Hardik Pandya remains unfit. Will the team add to batting depth with Shardul Thakur, go in with the attacking option of three pacers in Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Siraj?
Before the start of the tournament, skipper Jos Buttler said, “We are not defending anything.”
Little did Buttler know that his statement would become a prediction of his team’s campaign instead. The defending champions’ performance in India has been a shocker, to say the least. In the process, they have also been upset by Afghanistan in stunning fashion.
It is also telling that none of their four defeats at this World Cup have been narrow. Buttler himself has managed a meagre 95 runs in five matches – with 43 coming in one innings against New Zealand. None of their batters or bowlers feature in the Top 15 run-getters. Reece Topley, who was their best bowler with eight wickets in three matches has also been ruled out with injury.
England have a history of making bold selections. But in retrospect, choices like recalling Ben Stokes, Willey, and Gus Atkinson against South Africa instead of Liam Livingstone, Sam Curran, and Chris Woakes showed a lack of consistency in selection.
They find themselves in a precarious position now, needing to win all four of their remaining pool matches to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals.
Barring the upset by Netherlands, South Africa have appeared to be one of the more fearsome teams in the tournament so far. Almost every batter in the top six is in great form, and none of their bowlers have ended up wicketless in any of the five matches.
Quinton de Kock is the tournament’s top run scorer with three centuries. Heinrich Klaasen also seems to be in his element, scoring 288 runs in just five innings. Pacers Gerald Coetzee and Marco Jansen are the team’s top wicket-takers.
Tabraiz Shamsi turned up against Pakistan with a four-for and Keshav Maharaj will also be looking to climb up in the wicket-takers list. The win against Pakistan by the barest of margins will exorcise some ghosts (and some labels) as they head towards the business end of the group stage.
For a side that is playing in only its third World Cup, the Afghans have created plenty of happy memories and some history in the process. The Hashmatullah Shahidi-led side have cause not just one upset but two – defeating defending champions England and then Pakistan.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz has been the batter to watch out for for Afghanistan, having scored 224 runs in five matches. Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmad will both hope to climb up the wickets column as the tournament closes out.
In the remaining fixtures, Afghanistan will be backing themselves against Sri Lanka and Netherlands before they take on tougher opponents Australia and South Africa.
Pakistan started the tournament well, winning their first two matches but since then, have lost to India, Australia and also Afghanistan. In fact, their chances of making the semi-finals are on a knife-edge after their eight-wicket defeat to Afghanistan and most recently, South Africa.
Shaheen Shah Afridi has 13 wickets in six games in India and is the joint leading wicket-taker so far, but has failed to make an early impact, rendering his strength in powerplay bowling ineffective.
Haris Rauf has leaked runs, conceding 306 in six games for ten wickets while the spinners have lacked bite on the slow and turning pitches of India. Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, Mohammad Nawaz and Iftikhar Ahmed have just eight wickets in six matches between them.
Hasan Ali, who was called in as Naseem Shah’s replacement, has picked up eight wickets in five matches but is not igniting the same intimidation as the trio of Afridi, Rauf and Shah did.
Captain Babar Azam has scored three fifties in the World Cup so far but they haven’t been very fluent. Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan have showed grit but more is expected from the batting line-up in largely batting friendly conditions.
After a reality check early in the tournament against India and South Africa, Australia have bounced back well to win three on the trot.
Their key performers have been Adam Zampa, the joint leading wicket-taker of the tournament so far, with 13 wickets in five games. David Warner scored his second successive century to score 332 runs in five matches with opening partner Mitchell Marsh also finding his groove.
Glenn Maxwell is starring with both the bat and the ball and delivered with the fastest World Cup ton against Netherlands.
Although their fast bowlers haven’t been able to shine so far, with no Australian pacer featuring in the Top 15, one can expect them to improve in the remaining matches.
A nearly flawless campaign so far, having lost only to unbeaten India, the Kiwis have lived up to the favourites tag. With injuries to Kane Williamson and Tim Southee, they are still not at their full-strength squad but managing to win four out of five games has ensured that they are in a comfortable position in the points table.
In Williamson’s absence, Daryl Mitchell has stepped up to lead the charge with the batting while Rachin Ravindra and Devon Conway have done well at the top of the order. New Zealand have also been one of the best fielding sides of the tournament.
They have very few creases to iron out in bowling as Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson have all been picking wickets.
The Dutch stunned South Africa, one of the tournament title favourites, which gave them a first win of the 2023 event and first in their history over a Test-playing nation at the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup.
Netherlands fast bowler Logan Van Beek insisted that the Dutch are capable of pulling off another upset in the games to come.
“Why not? We’ve come here to reach the semi-finals. That’s our goal,” he said during a press conference.
“It’s been pretty clear throughout the whole preparation phase. And the South African win just gave us that extra belief that on our day we can still beat a good team.”
However, while these upsets are what are adding life to this World Cup, it looks unlikely that Netherlands will be able to cause another one. They were defeated by big margins by Australia and Sri Lanka and with the next four encounters against the likes of England, subcontinental giants India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, the chances are grim.
At this point though, the World Cup is begging for some more shockers, so Netherlands playing spoilsport for other teams would be ideal.
For Shakib Al Hasan and Co, his on and off fitness and inability to fire is costing Bangladesh, among other things. In the absence of Tamim Iqbal, the pressure to lay the foundation is on Litton Das and Tanzid Hasan, with the former expected to do the bulk of heavy-lifting.
Although Mehidy Hasan has been doing well with the ball, too much is being expected out of him in the batting department. Amidst the gloom in the batting order, Mahmudullah’s inclusion against South Africa ended up being a timely one as he became the only Bangladesh batter to score a hundred in a World Cup.
Meanwhile, the spin department has been able to deliver, but with both Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed not firing, the pacers are lagging behind.
Sri Lanka are heavily and understandably reliant on now-skipper Kusal Mendis. Sadeera Samarawickrama has shown great panache in tackling spin as well. They have also received a shot in the arm with the experience of Angelo Mathews. But, the side are lacking the batting firepower to take on the big teams along with their ineffective bowling.
They had already been plagued by injuries before the World Cup, starting with frontline pacer Dushmantha Chameera and primary spinner Wanindu Hasaranga being ruled out.
In the middle the tournament, skipper and all-rounder Dasun Shanaka and pacer Matheesha Pathirana were also ruled out. It can be argued that Chameera and Hasaranga could have helped Sri Lanka effect a different result against Pakistan.