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England under threat, Pakistan charging: The race for CWC semis hots up

Joe Root, Sarfaraz Ahmed

London, June 29: Sri Lanka's hopes of reaching the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 semifinals were severely dented on Friday as they lost heavily to South Africa, one of three teams already eliminated.

A nine-wicket defeat at The Riverside leaves Dimuth Karunaratne's side facing an uphill battle to make the last four, with 10 fixtures remaining in the group stage.

We take a look at how the qualification picture is shaping up ahead of a massive weekend.

ALREADY THROUGH - Australia

The defending champions have improved as the tournament has gone on and look capable of claiming a sixth World Cup title. Mitchell Starc - the leading wicket-taker when they triumphed in 2015 - is again the most prolific bowler in the competition, while David Warner leads the run-scoring charts after returning from his year-long suspension.

ALMOST THERE - India, New Zealand

India could yet be denied a place in the semi-finals if they fail to pick up a point in their remaining fixtures, but that seems highly unlikely.

WC Special | Schedule | Squads

Virat Kohli's men are the only unbeaten side in the competition and need only a solitary point from games against England, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to guarantee their progression.

Like India, New Zealand also have 11 points. The fact they finish the group stage with games against Australia and England may mean a few Black Caps fans are a little nervous, but it would be a huge surprise if Kane Williamson's side do not reach the last four. They may well already have enough points.

BATTLING TO STAY ALIVE - England, Pakistan, Bangladesh

Hosts England started the tournament as favourites, yet they are now in serious danger of an early exit, having lost successive matches against Sri Lanka and Australia. If England win their last two games they will definitely qualify, but India and New Zealand represent challenging opposition.

Should England slip up, Pakistan are poised to pounce. Sarfraz Ahmed's side have astonishingly matched their streak of results at the 1992 event they ended up winning and will fancy their chances of taking maximum points from games against Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

Pakistan and Bangladesh both have seven points from as many games, one point fewer than England. The Tigers' task is made tougher by the fact they face India on Tuesday, but they cannot be counted out with Shakib Al Hasan enjoying a wonderful tournament.

RANK OUTSIDERS - Sri Lanka

The 1996 champions look to have blown their chance by losing to South Africa. They must now beat West Indies and India, and hope a series of other results go their way. An abysmal net run rate does them no favours.

OUT - South Africa, West Indies, Afghanistan

Few would have anticipated the Proteas being eliminated prior to the final week of the group phase, but their performances prior to Friday had been miserable, while West Indies peaked in their opening game against Pakistan and have since fallen away badly. Afghanistan face Pakistan and the Windies at Headingley looking to avoid the indignity of finishing the World Cup without a point.

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Story first published: Saturday, June 29, 2019, 1:10 [IST]
Other articles published on Jun 29, 2019
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