Forecast of rain during the New Zealand vs Sri Lanka game in Bengaluru would have instilled hope in Pakistan faithfuls of their side making the semi-finals of ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. But bright sunshine and a rampaging Kiwi outfit washed away those hopes, and what remains is a seemingly impossible task at hand. Pakistan need to win by a 287-run margin if they bat first (or chase down a target of 150 in 3.4 overs) against England in Kolkata on Saturday, November 11, to reach the last-four stage. (Match Blog | Streaming | Preview | Scorecard)
Even though England's title defence has already ended, the Jos Buttler-led side is fighting to qualify for the ICC Champions Trophy 2025. And beating the defending champions by such a gigantic margin is a herculean task. Now, Babar Azam and Co. have no choice but to accept that challenge if they are to entertain any thoughts of advancing in this World Cup and taking on India again.With that, here's a look at three key battles that could shape the outcome of the PAK vs ENG game at the Eden Gardens:
Shaheen Shah Afridi Vs Dawid Malan
Pakistan's strike fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi has made a name for himself as one of the most skillful and dangerous fast bowlers in world cricket, and he has repeatedly demonstrated that in the 2023 ODI World Cup with his lethal spells. Shaheen can strike with the new ball as well as the old one, and will look to capitalize on early swing when he takes on in-form England opener Dawid Malan. The 36-year-old southpaw has been his side's most reliable batter, and with back-to-back half-centuries in their previous two games, looks in the mood to finish his World Cup campaign on a high.
Mohammad Rizwan Vs Adil Rashid
Pakistan wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Rizwan has had a splendid World Cup so far, compiling 359 runs at an average of 71.80, including an unbeaten 131 against Sri Lanka in Hyderabad. He has been the most consistent batter on display for the Men In Green, and if at all his team have to enter the semi-final, they will need Rizwan to play the innings of his life. But standing in his way will be the evergreen Adil Rashid, who has yet again been England’s go-to option to slow down opposition attacks and pick up wickets, especially in the middle overs. Rashid has claimed 13 wickets in eight games and will no doubt be gunning for Rizwan's scalp on Saturday.
Ben Stokes Vs Haris Rauf
After missing the first few games due to a hip injury and a tepid run upon return, talismanic England all-rounder Ben Stokes finally came into his own in the World Cup with a half-century against arch-rivals Australia, followed by a glittering ton against Netherlands. Renowned as a crunch performer, Stokes would be raring to guide his side to a Champions Trophy berth with a scintillating performance. But to do that, he will have to surmount the challenge posed by Pakistan speedster Haris Rauf. The right-arm pacer enjoyed the conditions in Kolkata last time, where he returned figures of 2/36 against Bangladesh, and would be motivated to do well at the venue again, hopefully with Stokes' dismissal.