World Cup 2019: New Zealand sneeze, Pakistan catch cold


ICC World Cup 2019: England beat New Zealand to reach first semifinals since 1992; result means Pakistan must beat Bangladesh by 316 runs to advance.

Shared News| Updated: July 4, 2019 9:45:32 am
England celebrate the wicket of New Zealand’s James Neesham at Riverside Ground on Wednesday (Reuters)
“If Pakistan bat first, they need to score 400,” Andy Zaltsman, BBC Radio’s numbers guy and a renowned comedian, set up the scenario for Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team against Bangladesh to get ahead of New Zealand on net run rate.

That’s doable, one thought and waited for him to continue on the radio. “Then they have to get Bangladesh out for 14.”

Mike drop. The radio crackled with laughter. It was that kind of listless day at the cricket in the pretty backdrop of Durham. A tree-ringed arena, almost out in the woods as it were, cars lolling in the background on the highway on a sunlit afternoon but the cricket, barring a phase when England lost a few quick wickets, was a yawn.

Once England went over 300, triggered by another stirring opening partnership between Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, and especially after Kane Williamson was run out, having backed up too far (the ball brushed the fingers of bowler Liam Plunkett before going on to the stumps) and Ross Taylor ran himself out, going for a highly-risky second run, the chase petered out. Chasing 306 for victory, the Black Caps were bowled out for 186.

Some Pakistani fans and former players were unhappy with India’s crawl in the end overs against England and certainly wouldn’t have been pleased with New Zealand, who dozed almost all the way through.

The Kiwis have had three successive losses, and the last two, in particular, were one-sided yawns.

But at the end of the day, they were more or less assured of a semifinal berth, such is their advantage over Pakistan on net run rate. To put it in numbers, if Pakistan bat first, they have to beat Bangladesh by 316 runs to overtake New Zealand. Bowling first, they have no chance. For the record, Bangladesh have won their last four encounters with Pakistan.

Tame ending

As the match meandered towards a tame ending, a streaker came on late in the chase, stood around talking to Tom Latham and dawdled around for at least five minutes as the sentry hesitated in tackling him. Understandable, that. Off they went to fetch a jacket and slowly escorted the nude talent out of the arena.

Towards the latter stages of the match, it seemed like one of those football games where both teams have secured semifinal spots and are meandering along towards a draw or some such scenario. Passing the ball in their own half, occasionally hitting long shots, and the crowd keeping itself entertained with chats and beers. Perhaps, some at Chester-le-Street might have binge-watched Netflix shows.

After a point, all that remained of interest was who would meet whom in the semis and where. If Australia defeat South Africa, they would most likely play New Zealand in Manchester. If India beat Sri Lanka, they are likely to travel to Edgbaston to face England in the semis.

The beer stalls at the ground made brisk business but even there was some moaning on. With Bira 91 from India the associated brand with the ICC, the bar can only sell the Bira lager. Unless you want a cider or something else, the Indian beer is what you get. A number of staging venues had protested that the wholesale price of the official beer might force them to sell it for £7 or £8 – something the fans won’t like and would affect their business. So, a month before the tournament, the organising committee held talks and decided to subsidise.

The Times newspaper reported that the organisers are prepared to sacrifice profits by “offering a subsidy, with £250,000 expected to come from the ICC and £250,000 from the ECB as tournament hosts” so that the price of the beer is kept affordable in the stalls.

Meanwhile, the match meandered on. It raises questions about the competitiveness of New Zealand. The team that was touted as “not a dark horse but one of favourites” by South African player Chris Morris, a view supported by his captain Faf du Plessis, has suddenly dipped in the last week or so.

It’s puzzling to an extent. In their first of the last three losses, they had actually fought well with the bat after Taylor and Williamson fell. Jimmy Neesham, who bowled really well to peg back England before the end overs, and Colin de Grandhomme had scored runs, raising hopes that New Zealand will no longer have to depend on their main two batsmen.

But in the next two losses, the batting unit has failed as a whole. Martin Guptill’s form continues to be poor, though it took an acrobatic effort from wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, diving full stretch to his left, to remove him here. They have the bowlers – even in the loss to Australia, Trent Boult had taken a hat-trick with three crunching yorkers and the other bowlers have combined well but they have been let down by their batsmen.

England, on the other hand, have recovered well from their losses and survived the outrage from the media and some former cricketers to deliver two big wins in a row to enter the final four. Roy’s recovery from injury couldn’t have come at a better time as they look a different batting unit when he is around. Bairstow, who got into a tiff in the papers with Michael Vaughan claiming some former cricketers want the team to lose, has walked the talk with couple of powerful hundreds. And in the last two games, they replaced Moeen Ali with Plunkett, who has kept things really tight with his mixture of slower cutters and they seem to have a better handle on the middle overs.