After losing four games in a row, New Zealand were down, but not out. The spirited Kiwis went into their last league game against Sri Lanka in Bengaluru with the aim of winning big, and did exactly that to surge ahead in the semi-finals race of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. On Thursday, November 9, the Kane Williamson-led side put on a dominant display to beat the Lankans by five wickets and with more than 26 overs to spare. (Highlights | Match Report | Scorecard | Full Coverage)
New Zealand are in a three-way fight for the fourth and last semi-final berth with Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Kiwis' handsome victory on Thursday has kept them on the fourth spot in the points table (10 points) and lifted their net run rate from 0.398 to 0.743.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are at the fifth and sixth spots, respectively, with eight points apiece. Pakistan's NRR is 0.036 and that of Afghanistan is -0.338. While NZ's group-stage games are done and dusted, Pakistan and Afghanistan have one game each left, against England and South Africa respectively.
This means that the task at hand for both Pakistan and Afghanistan is nearly impossible. Pakistan need to win by at least 287 runs if they bat first. If the Men In Green bat second and restrict England to 150, for instance, they need to chase down the target in a mere 3.4 overs. As for Afghanistan, the equation is even more daunting, as they need to win by at least 438 runs to surpass New Zealand's NRR.
Pakistan have typically been an unpredictable side in ICC events, and it is best to expect the unexpected from them. But beating England, who brushed aside Netherlands' challenge in their previous game, by such a gigantic margin seems too outlandish a task even for them. And hence cricket lovers expecting another India vs Pakistan clash in the 2023 ODI World Cup will most likely face disappointment, as Babar Azam's men are on the verge of league-stage elimination.