The four top teams are storming away from the bottom six, as the semi-finalists of the Cricket World Cup seem all but certain.
India maintain their unbeaten run as Australia and South Africa beat New Zealand and Pakistan to improve their chances of qualification. Afghanistan remain the only hope to a change in the qualifiers.
England, yet again, struggled against both Sri Lanka and India. To hear more about England’s troubles, head over to The One Short Podcast on either Spotify or the Sports Gazette, where we were joined by Nick Friend, from The Cricketer Magazine.
Australia win two record breaking matches
After a slow start to the World Cup, Australia have hit their stride. They have now won four matches in a row.
Earlier this week, Australia annihilated the Netherlands. This was the largest margin of victory in men’s ODI World Cup history. While setting 400 to win, Glenn Maxwell scored the fastest World Cup century ever, from just 40 balls, beating Aiden Markram’s record set earlier this tournament. David Warner tonned up too, with fifties for Steve Smith and Manus Labuschagne.
Dutch all-rounder, Bas de Leede, was dispatched for 115 from his ten overs, the most expensive figures ever in men’s ODI cricket, including 28 runs from his final over. Adam Zampa, on the other hand, took figures of 4-8, his third 4-fer in a row.
Just a few days later, Australia were involved in a thriller in Dharamsala. Travis Head scored a hundred on return to the side; proving yet again the selectors were correct in including him in the squad, despite his injury. He and Warner put on a 175-run opening stand. Australia’s middle order then folded again, before fireworks from Maxwell, Josh Inglis and Pat Cummins steered them to 388.
New Zealand started well as Rachin Ravindra scored his second century of the competition to take the game deep. However, Cummins took the crucial wicket with nine overs remaining. Jimmy Neesham fired 58 from 39 to push New Zealand to within touching distance, thanks to some wayward bowling during the final overs. But Neesham was run out on the penultimate ball and Starc held his nerve to give Australia a five run victory.
Australia are now in a commanding position to qualify for the semi-finals, after a poor start to the tournament.
Netherlands bounce back to claim their second victory
The Dutch recovered from their pummelling by Australia to beat Bangladesh. Their second win of the competition came by 87 runs and leaves England propping up the table.
Captain, Scott Edwards, scored a crucial second fifty of the tournament. Combined with Logan van Beek’s 16-ball 23, the skipper’s crucial knock helped the Netherlands to almost 230. Paul van Meekeren then ripped through Bangladesh’s middle order to claim 4-23, while Bas de Leede took the key wickets of set batters as usual, to pick up another handy 2-fer.
The Dutch are due to play Afghanistan, England and India in their final three matches. Winning just one of these would be a success but they will be looking to target two victories with England’s lack of form.
South Africa almost stumble but are still on track
A comfortable victory over Bangladesh was almost spoiled by a thriller against Pakistan.
Quinton de Kock scored a run-a-ball hundred before exploding to 174 off 140 to help South Africa to 382 against Bangladesh. De Kock now has 431 runs in the World Cup and is the current leading runs-scorer. A century by Mahmudullah was the thorn in the South Africans’ side. Wickets were spread around as they cantered to a 149-run victory.
Three days later, Babar Azam and Saud Shakeel hit fifties as Pakistan set 271 to win. South Africa got off to a good start. Markram’s 91 seemed to be paving the way to victory before a cluster of wickets brough Pakistan back into the game. However, Maharaj flicked Nawaz off his pads for four to launch the celebrations as South Africa won by one wicket.
South Africa have been known as a team who have struggled during chases in the past. This victory impressively shows that they can avoid the pressure of the run chase. They are not just a one trick pony but bigger games are still to come.
Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka to keep their qualification hopes alive
Azmatullah Omarzai blasted 73 from 63 to chase down 241 against Sri Lanka. He combined with Hashmatullah Shahidi and Rahmat Shah, who also made fifties, in an impressive and composed chase that leaves Afghanistan next in line for qualification, if any of the favourites slip up.
Fazalhaq Farooqi took 4-34 as they contained Sri Lanka to 241. None of the Sri Lankans made 50, a testament to the Afghan attack.
If Afghanistan can turn over either Australia or South Africa, as well as the Dutch, they leave themselves in a fantastic position to qualify for the semi-finals.