2015 World Cup update #14: Two upsets and prospects for the knockout round

Yesterday’s two games both produced upset results. The first one was Pakistan defeating the highly favored South African team in a low scoring game. Pakistan batted first and scored just 222, a target that the powerful batting line up of South Africa should have had little difficulty chasing. But the Pakistani bowlers were on fire and apart from a score of 77 by the SA captain AB de Villiers, the other batsmen couldn’t seem to stick around long enough to have an impact in the rain-affected game and they were all out for 202 in just 33.3 overs.

South Africa have been fighting a reputation of coming in to World Cups as favorites to win and then somehow managing to blow it. Unfortunately for them, the pattern seems to be repeating itself this time too. Their batting has been erratic, going from piling up winning scores of 339, 408, 411 while also collapsing to 177 and 202. If there is any pattern at all, it is that they seem to be at their worst when batting second and chasing a score.

The second upset saw Ireland involved in another thriller, defeating Zimbabwe by just five runs in the very last over. Ireland batted first and scored 331/8 off their 50 overs. Zimbabwe got off to a rocky start, being 77/4 before recovering and taking the score to 300/6 off 46.4 overs. They made a valiant effort at the challenging task of scoring 32 runs off the remaining 20 balls and managed to get to 325/8, leaving them needing just seven runs off the last six balls. But Ireland managed to get the last two wickets for just one run to squeak through.

If any team deserves to get an award for producing exciting matches, it has to be Ireland. Apart from when they were hammered by South Africa, all their other games have been close.

So where do things stand right now in the tournament in terms of qualifying for the knockout quarterfinal round?

Of the seven teams in group A, New Zealand is definitely in and Scotland is definitely out. Sri Lanka and Australia are very likely in while Afghanistan is very likely out. The fourth spot is thus between England and Bangladesh and will almost certainly be decided by the game between the two teams on Monday. Today’s game between Australia and Sri Lanka in Sydney will be particularly important for the latter, to see if they can beat the favorites on their home turf.

Of the seven teams in group B, India is definitely in and Zimbabwe and UAE are definitely out. Of the other four, South Africa is very likely to be in. This leaves the last two spots to be fought over by Pakistan, West Indies, and Ireland. The key game in deciding this will be the one between Pakistan and Ireland on March 15, the very last game of the preliminary round. Whoever wins that will definitely go through to the next round while the loser will likely be tied on points with the West Indies and the net run rate tie-breaker will come into play.

An interesting feature of the tournament so far is that even the strongest teams have shown vulnerabilities to varying extent so that means that anything can happen in the knockout rounds. The favorites Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa that all promised solid batting strength have all had collapses at some point, with scores of 151, 152/9, and 177 respectively. When it comes to bowling, the first two have been more consistent. The highest score yielded by Australia has been just 231, while the maximum against New Zealand has been 233, while South Africa has yielded scores of 307 and 277. Given that all three teams have shown good fielding skills, the bowling strength could be the deciding factor.

I notice that the British odds maker that I have been following has changed the odds. Before the tournament started, they were giving Australia the best chance of reaching the final with SA close behind, India and NZ in joint third place, and England fifth. Today, they still make Australia (10/11) the top favorite but now slightly edging New Zealand (evens), with South Africa (7/5) next, India (9/5) at fourth, and Sri Lanka fifth at 9/2. If you are a betting type, India might be a good choice to chance your money. They have been quietly showing strength while attention has been elsewhere.


  1. usagichan says

    So Mano, can you explain why after Pakistan scored 222 South Africa were given a target of 233 to win? My maths skills are not up to the arcana of the Duckworth-Lewis method…

    Just watching bits of another cracking match going on now -- Sri Lanka trying to chase down a formidable 377 set by Australia. It’s a great World Cup so far (and a real shame that they are cutting the number of spots for Associates next time).

  2. sundoga says

    They are? Damn. One of the best things about this season has been seeing the “other” teams, not just the big guys in the sport.

  3. jockmcdock says


    the philosophy behind the DL method is that of resources. Pakistan went out to bat believing (or hoping) that they would bat for 50 overs. After the rain came in, the game was reduced to 47 overs. SA gained an advantage because they knew before going out to bat that they had 47 overs available whereas Pakistan did not. So, SA are required to score more runs.

    A more extreme example mightn make things clearer. Suppose the rain came in after 25 overs and Pakistan had scored 100 runs. It rains for quite some time and the umpires decide to make it a 25 over match. SA have 100% resources (10 wickets and the “full” 25 overs) whereas Pakistan lost about 50% of theirs.

    How do they calculate the required runs? It used to be quite easy (at least, that’s my understanding). Tables were, and still are, publicly available. Here’s one from 2002


    If you look in the first column, a 47 over innings represents 97.1% of resources available to Pakistan at the start of their innings. SA knew before they batted that they had 47 overs, so their resource are 100%. The ratio of these two are multiplied by GA, an average computed somehow/somewhere/somewhy. It’s supposed be an average one day score, but which teams and which matches are included? Don’t ask me.

    So, by my reckoning, the required score should be 225 x 100/97.1 = 231.72 or 232. Achieving this score would result in a tie, so 233 was required to win.

    [I may be wrong in what I’ve described. If so, I apologise, but it won’t be the first time I’ve talked out my **** and it almost certainly won’t be the last]

    I said “used to be”. The DL method has been adjusted over the years. Under certain circumstances, it could and did could give bizarre totals to be achieved. The current version is computerised (it may be available on he web -- haven’t checked).

    I also think it’s a pity we’re not going to see the “small” countries competing in future. They’ve given some of the big boys a bit of a shake in this tournament. I think it’s also retrograde. If we want cricket to become popular in the UAE, Afghanistan, Holland, USA etc, we need such teams taking part in these competitions.

    Mano, tough luck about today. Your guys played well, but some of our bowling at the end was just fantastic. And it was good to see Pup get a few runs. And what can you say about Sangakkara? Three 100s in a row! What happened to Chandimal? I heard and read “cramp”, but if that had been the case, the physios would have worked on him and got him back out there. I hope can quickly recover.

  4. jockmcdock says

    Can I edit my post? I forgot to include one important factor…the first team score!! Duh!!

    I can plead exhaustion as I’ve been up all night to watch the game, because it was a big one for both teams. And I’m not in my twenties anymore.

    My apologies.

  5. Mano Singham says


    Tell me the text that you want replaced and what the replacement text is and I will do so.

    Thanks for taking on the major task of explaining the D-L method. You are a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

  6. Mano Singham says

    I agree that they should not be reducing the number of teams, if they want to increase the global popularity of the game. The less-fancied teams have provided a lot of the excitement so far. Teams also get better the more they are exposed to games at the top level.

    Of course, the tournament format will have to change in order not to have it it go on too long. But that seems like a technical issue and a small price to pay for broadening the appeal.In this tournament with 14 teams in two groups of seven, it took 42 games to get the eight quarterfinalists. If they have 20 teams in four groups of five, it would take 40 games.

    I think the tournament organizers feel that it is the games between the top eight Test playing nations that are the most interesting to spectators and so they have devised a system where they have games between them in the preliminary rounds while still enabling all eight to qualify for the quarterfinals. Splitting them up into four groups would reduce such games to just one in each group. But this tournament has shown that other teams can produce upsets and exciting games too.

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