Cricket World Cup 2023: English pride on the line when they face Pakistan at Eden Gardens

Saturday's match in Kolkata will be the final league fixture for both teams


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England's Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott during practice  - Reuters
England's Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott during practice - Reuters

Published: Fri 10 Nov 2023, 10:03 PM

Defending champion England and unpredictable Pakistan started among the favorites to reach the Cricket World Cup semifinals, but the teams meet Saturday to play for pride above anything else.

England will be hoping to sign off from a forgettable title defense with three wins from nine games after starting with a thumping nine-wicket loss to New Zealand in a rematch of the 2019 final. England's run in India also included a streak of five consecutive losses.

And Pakistan needs a near impossible 287-run win over England in Kolkata to replace New Zealand in the No. 4 semifinal spot on net run-rate.

Pakistan, which has played just one World Cup semifinal — in 2011 — since losing the final to Australia in 1999, was in somewhat of a similar position in the 2019 World Cup. It needed to beat Bangladesh by more than 300 runs in the last league game to knock the Black Caps out of the semifinals, but couldn't achieve the outcome.

England is aiming for back-to-back wins after a 160-run over last-place Netherlands at Pune.

“We’re not playing for what we wanted to be playing for, but a really vital match for us in the grand scheme of things,” England captain Jos Buttler said. as he headed to after England beat the Netherlands by 160 runs at Pune. “It’s great to be heading there with something on the line.”

Pakistan’during a practice session ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match against England. - PTI
Pakistan’during a practice session ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023 match against England. - PTI

Buttler’s team was lurching in last place with solitary win against Bangladesh before Ben Stokes produced a fighting century against the Dutch and kept England’s hopes of 2025 Champions Trophy qualification alive.

Buttler has endured an abject tournament, scoring only 111 runs in eight games. He scored 43 against New Zealand more than a month ago at Ahmedabad but hasn't scored more than 20 in any of his last seven innings.

Dawid Malan is the only Englishman among the top 10 scorers at the World Cup, but his 373 runs in eight games are 192 runs behind New Zealand's Rachin Ravindra, an unexpected star of the tournament, who tops the batting chart with 565 runs.

The rest of the batters — Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook — have struggled and that didn't help the cause in an upset loss to Afghanistan and an eight-wicket defeat to Sri Lanka.

The embattled batting lineup saved its worst for South Africa when chasing 400 at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium, capitulating for just 170 in a heavy 229-run loss.

England bowlers also haven't made an impression on quality batting oppositions like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

Eoin Morgan, who led England to that memorable title in 2019 after the final was awarded on a countback of boundaries, has been a vocal critic of the team's performance and Buttler's captaincy in India.

England needs to finish in the top eight to qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy.

“It would be easy for us to tail off,” Buttler said. “Credit to everyone for still putting (effort) in and showing how much it means to play for England and the pride in our performance.

Of course, the Champions Trophy is something we’re very focused on and determined to make sure we’re there.”

For Pakistan, two heartbreaking outcomes at Chennai’s Chidambaram Stadium have it in an almost impossible position to go past New Zealand’s healthy net run-rate of 0.743.

First Afghanistan put up a slick all-round performance, both with the ball and bat, to outclass Pakistan by eight wickets. Then South Africa snatched a one-wicket victory.

But the return of fit-again Fakhar Zaman ignited spark in Pakistan's lineup as the left-hander scored 81 against Bangladesh in a seven-wicket win. Zaman then hit 126 off 81 balls to earn Pakistan a 21-run victory against New Zealand on DLS Method in a rain-shortened game.

Like England, Pakistan's bowling has been below par. The shoulder injury to Naseem Shah just before the World Cup disturbed Pakistan pace combination, with Shaheen Afridi and Haris Rauf leaking plenty of runs against Sri Lanka, Australia and New Zealand. The spinners – Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Usama Mir – weren't effective enough to take pressure off Pakistan's batting.

Skipper Babar Azam has struggled to score big in the tournament and three of his four half centuries were in a losing cause – against India, Afghanistan and South Africa. It's something the world’s No. 2-ranked will want to fix before he leaves India.

Head-to-Head (ODIs)

Matches Played: 88

England wins: 56

Pakistan wins: 32

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