As the World Cup 2023 nears its conclusion, the excitement is mounting. The tournament, initially slow, has gained momentum with the approach of the knockout stage. Now, the focus is on which team will grab the last semifinal spot, as India, South Africa, and Australia have already made it through. New Zealand, Pakistan, and Afghanistan are vying for that final position.
The fate of the fourth semifinalist will be decided on the penultimate day of the league stage. Pakistan, led by Babar Azam, faces England in a crucial encounter at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Pakistan’s Path So Far
Pakistan’s World Cup journey has been a rollercoaster. They began with victories over the Netherlands and Sri Lanka but then suffered defeats to India, Australia, and Afghanistan. They recently turned the tables with wins against Bangladesh and the Blackcaps, keeping their semifinal hopes alive.
England’s Rollercoaster Campaign
England, captained by Jos Buttler, is already out of the tournament. However, they still play a crucial role, as their performance can impact their qualification for the 2025 Champions Trophy. Ben Stokes recently lifted spirits with a century against the Netherlands.
What Lies Ahead
The upcoming double-header is pivotal. Pakistan needs a victory over England, while also hoping for Australia’s win over Bangladesh, to keep their semifinal dreams alive.
Pakistan vs England: A Historic Rivalry
These two teams have a long history, having played 91 ODIs against each other. England has won 56 of these, while Pakistan has won 32. Their World Cup encounters are almost evenly matched, with Pakistan slightly ahead.
Key Players to Watch
- Fakhar Zaman (Pakistan): Fakhar has been crucial for Pakistan’s recent successes, especially with his unbeaten century against the Blackcaps.
- Dawid Malan (England): Malan has shown he can bat deep and score big, proving to be a potential threat to Pakistan’s bowling lineup.
- Pakistan: Abdullah Shafique, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Agha Salman, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Haris Rauf.
- England: Jason Roy, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Harry Brook, Jos Buttler (c & wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid.
The match is a must-win for Pakistan to keep their semifinal hopes alive. Given their tendency to thrive under pressure, they could pose a significant challenge to England. However, England, despite being out of the tournament, will look to end on a high note. This match promises to be a thrilling encounter, with Pakistan slightly favored to win.