The preliminary round-robin stage of the ten nations in the tournament ended yesterday. India, Australia, England, and New Zealand ended up qualifying for the semi-finals. Since each team played nine games, with two points for a win, one point for a tie or no decision or abandonment, and zero for losing, the maximum points a team could earn is 18. These four teams had 15, 14, 12, and 11 respectively. The top three positions were filled by the pre-tournament favorites.
India will play New Zealand on the 9th and Australia plays England on the 11th. The final will be on the 14th. I will naturally be cheering for New Zealand to win because not only do they tend to play the game in a good spirit, the other three nations form a cartel that is using their financial muscle to squeeze the other nations to the detriment of the game worldwide. I would love to see them get their comeuppance on the field.
Pakistan, always the wild card, came fifth and almost made it into the next round. They can consider themselves unlucky. They started poorly, winning only one of their first five games before winning their last four. They obtained the same number of points as New Zealand but lost out on the run rate tie-breaker. The games abandoned due to rain could well have cost them. Their abandoned game was against Sri Lanka, which they were quite likely to win, thus getting two points instead of one. New Zealand’s abandoned game was against India, which they may well have lost and got zero instead of one point.
Sri Lanka ended up sixth, which in my opinion was higher than they deserved since I think Bangladesh, West Indies, and South Africa fielded better teams than they did. Sri Lankan cricket needs a top-to-bottom careful examination of what is not working for them both on the field and off. The only bright spot seems to be that they have found a good captain.
The biggest disappointment has to be South Africa who ended up seventh in the rankings. They have a well-deserved reputation as being a very good team that simply cannot get it together to win the big tournaments. Usually they get close to the final before losing but this tournament was an utter disaster from the get-go, where they were one of the first teams to be eliminated from semi-final contention. They won only one of their first seven games, losing five, with the other abandoned. It was only in the last two games, where they decisively beat Sri Lanka and Australia, that we saw the kind of play of which they are capable.
Bangladesh and West Indies ended up ranked eighth and ninth respectively and must be disappointed as to why they did not end up higher because they fielded pretty good teams.
The Cinderella team of Afghanistan lost all nine of their games and ended up last but they played well and almost pulled off a sensational upset by getting close to beating India. They also narrowly lost to West Indies, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, possibly due to their lack of experience in finishing close games. They must be disappointed at not winning a single game but they can hold their heads high.