New Delhi: Pakistan has revived its hopes of reaching the World Cup 2023 semi-finals with a remarkable performance against New Zealand on Saturday. Pakistan, which was facing criticism and mockery till a week ago, chased down a mammoth target of 402 runs with ease, thanks to a sensational century from opener Fakhar Zaman. With this victory, Pakistan has moved up to the third spot in the World Cup points table with 8 points. New Zealand also has the same number of points but has slipped to the fourth position due to a lower net run rate. New Zealand has lost four matches in a row and is under pressure to win its last match. Now both these teams have one match left, and so do Australia and Afghanistan, who also have 8 points each. In such a situation, what are the scenarios for Pakistan to qualify for the semi-finals? Let’s find out.
Before analyzing the semi-final equations of the World Cup 2023, let us look at the points table. India with 14 points and South Africa with 12 points are the top-2 teams in the table and have already secured their semi-final berths. Whereas, Pakistan, New Zealand, Australia, and Afghanistan have 8 points each and are fighting for the third and fourth place in the points table. Pakistan, which has changed the dynamics of the tournament by defeating New Zealand, has the following possibilities:
Victory over New Zealand boosted Pakistan’s confidence
Pakistan beat New Zealand by 21 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern (DLS) method on Saturday. New Zealand had scored 401 runs in 50 overs, with captain Kane Williamson scoring 156 and Ross Taylor scoring 102. Pakistan had the daunting task of chasing the highest-ever target in World Cup history, but they rose to the occasion with a splendid batting display. Fakhar Zaman scored 134 off 97 balls, and was well supported by Imam-ul-Haq (76 off 82 balls) and Babar Azam (54 off 45 balls). Pakistan had reached 200 for 1 in 25.3 overs, when rain interrupted the play, and the match was called off. Pakistan was ahead of the DLS par score of 179 and was declared the winner. With this win, Pakistan improved its net run rate to 0.036 and climbed to the third spot in the table.
What should Pakistan do now?
Pakistan’s next match is against England on 11 November at Eden Gardens, Kolkata. England is the fifth-placed team in the table with 6 points and has a slim chance of making the semi-finals. Pakistan needs to win this match to reach 10 points, and also improve its net run rate further. If Pakistan beats England by about 40 runs or 4 overs, its net run rate will be better than New Zealand’s, which is currently 0.175.
New Zealand faces Sri Lanka challenge
New Zealand is also in the race for the semi-finals, but its form and fitness are worrisome. The New Zealand team has lost four matches in a row, against India, South Africa, Australia, and Pakistan. It has also suffered injuries to key players like Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson and Tom Latham. New Zealand’s last match is against Sri Lanka on 9 November at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. Sri Lanka is the sixth-placed team in the table with 4 points and has no chance of making the semi-finals. New Zealand needs to win this match to reach 10 points, and also maintain or increase its net run rate.
Afghanistan faces tough opponents
Afghanistan is also in the race for the semi-finals and has impressed everyone with its spirited performance. It has won two matches against England and Sri Lanka and has given tough fights to India and South Africa. However, its remaining two matches are against South Africa on 8 November and Australia on 12 November, both at Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai. These are the top-ranked teams in the world, and it will be difficult for Afghanistan to defeat them. If Afghanistan loses its two matches, it will be eliminated from the semi-final contention.
If Pakistan, New Zealand, and Afghanistan all win one match each…
If we assume that all three teams Pakistan, New Zealand, and Afghanistan win one match each, then the net run rate will decide who will qualify for the semi-finals. Afghanistan’s net run rate is currently -0.330, and it is unlikely to improve significantly even if it wins one match. Therefore, it may get stuck in the net run rate calculations. Then the competition will remain between Pakistan and New Zealand. If we talk about Pakistan’s chances, then it will have to win its last match by such a margin that it can surpass New Zealand’s net run rate. For example, if New Zealand wins its match by 10 runs, then Pakistan will have to keep the margin of victory around 50 runs.