LONDON: As Pakistan’s players travelled in their team bus from Leeds to London on Sunday afternoon, their eyes and ears were transfixed on what was happening around 120 miles away in Birmingham.
Most of them were following England’s must-win World Cup match against India. The hosts needed to end India’s unbeaten run in a bid to stay alive in the hunt for a semi-final spot.
But the Pakistanis were praying for a different result. They were hoping India would beat England because that outcome would have kept Pakistan very much alive in the race for a last four spot.
However, Jonny Bairstow hit a 109-ball 111 and Ben Stokes smashed 79 from just 45 balls to enable England to record a much-needed 31-run win. In the run-chase, the Indians lacked the sort of intent they had shown in their previously unbeaten run in the World Cup and fell short despite yet another hundred from opener Rohit Sharma.
Despite the fact that Pakistan have won their last three World Cup games — against South Africa, New Zealand and Afghanistan – in a row, Sunday’s Edgbaston result pushed them closer to elimination.
That’s because if England beat New Zealand on Wednesday, then Pakistan would be virtually out of the World Cup even if they win against Bangladesh in their last group game here at Lord’s on July 5.
“There was certainly disappointment among the players because they were hoping that India would beat England,” a source close to the Pakistan team told ‘The News’.
“But that result was out of our hands. The players know that they have to win their next match to have any chance of qualifying for the semi-finals and they will go all out for a big win,” the source said adding that everybody in the Pakistan camp is now keeping their fingers crossed for an England defeat in their last group game against New Zealand on Wednesday. Pakistan’s qualification chances will receive a boost if England lost that match because a win against Bangladesh will see them through.
While Pakistan’s hopes continue to hang by a thread, England’s victory on Sunday has knocked West Indies and Sri Lanka out of the tournament.
Australia, currently are the only team to have qualified for the semi-finals. Five teams – India, New Zealand, England, Pakistan and Bangladesh – are vying for the remaining three spots.
India and New Zealand should make it to the last four even if they fail to win in their remaining games because of a superior net run rate. That leaves England, Pakistan and Sri Lanka to battle it out for the one remaining semi-final slot.
England have a simple equation. They are in if they beat New Zealand on Wednesday. If they lose, the home team will need India to beat Bangladesh and Bangladesh to prevail against Pakistan. Such a scenario would mean England will qualify with 10 points while Pakistan and Bangladesh will crash out with nine points apiece.
Wednesday’s game at Chester le Street is unlikely to be affected by rain but even in case of a washout, England will qualify because of their better net run-rate, compared to Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Both Pakistan and Bangladesh, who meet on Friday, need at least 11 points to qualify. Pakistan need to beat Bangladesh and hope New Zealand beat England. Bangladesh need to win their last two games against India and Pakistan and then hope England lose on Wednesday to qualify.
Pakistan will still have a mathematical chance to reach the semis even if England beat New Zealand.
But the Pakistanis are unlikely to overcome New Zealand in net run rate as they will need to beat Bangladesh by 220 runs. That’s not all. They will also need England to beat New Zealand by a similar margin on Wednesday.
There is a big possibility that Pakistan might end up ruing their catastrophic seven-wicket defeat against West Indies. That loss dealt a lethal blow to their net run rate and even four World Cup wins have failed to help them improve it.