WC gets more exciting as group stage nears end

Pallab Bhattacharya

Even ten days ago, there was a strong buzz in cricket circles that the current World Cup by the time it reaches the stage it is in today, there would be a number of dead rubber matches with four semifinalists along predictable lines. But it certainly hasn’t turned out that way. On the contrary, the competition is getting more exciting as it progresses inexorably towards the grand finale.

Sri Lanka's chances of making it to the semifinal suffered a body blow on Friday after losing to already-out-contention South Africa. The Lankans required a win to move level with fourth-placed England with eight points in the race for a last four slot. But they remain in the seventh spot in the points table with six points.

Sri Lanka, which bounced back in contention after shocking England a week ago, now need to beat West Indies and India in their next matches to entertain any hope of sneaking into the semifinals. And, the Lankans would also hope other results go their way. Apart from must-win situation in their next two matches, Sri Lanka’s chances of making it to the semifinal would depend on England losing to India and New Zealand, Pakistan losing to Afghanistan and defeating Bangladesh.

Sri Lanka’s defeat against South Africa means music for Bangladesh, Pakistan and England which are also vying for a semifinal berths. India’s victory over England on Sunday will enhance Pakistan’s prospects for a semifinal entry. Pakistan have seven points from as many matches and are in sixth position. Pakistan play Afghanistan, which are already out of the World Cup, and Bangladesh in their remaining group league matches. If Pakistan beat Afghanistan, the former will replace England in the final qualification place.

Each of the next few matches in the run up to the semifinal is full of possibilities for all the teams barring Australia, which are already in the last four, and India which stand on the cusp of another last four berth.