Cricket World Cup 2023: Intriguing clashes on Super Saturday as teams battle for semifinal spots

Pakistan, New Zealand, and Australia in contention but luckless England play for lost pride

By Ayaz Memon

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Fakhar Zaman  appears to have rediscovered his form. - PTI File
Fakhar Zaman appears to have rediscovered his form. - PTI File

Published: Fri 3 Nov 2023, 9:21 PM

Saturday’s double-header makes for one of the most important days of the World Cup. Three of the four teams in action are striving for places in the semi-final.

Technically so far, only India has made the cut, though realistically South Africa is in the knock-out stage too. That leaves two places still to fill which Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Australia are all eyeing.

Ironically defending champions England, among the favourites when the tournament started, are out of the running after a disastrous tournament. But in playing for pride against Australia, could end up playing spoiler to the aspirations of their arch-rivals.

Let’s look at how the Pakistan v New Zealand game could play out.

After a flying start, winning four matches on the trot and looking like the most dangerous team in the first half, New Zealand have suddenly run out of steam, losing three successive matches to be precariously placed in the points table.

Stalled on 8 points for a while now, the Kiwis desperately need a move on. Another defeat will not necessarily shut the door on them for a place in the semis but will leave them on tenterhooks, take things out of their control and be dependent on the results of other matches.

New Zealand's Rachin Ravindra has been scoring runs consistently. -AFP
New Zealand's Rachin Ravindra has been scoring runs consistently. -AFP

Twenty-three-year-old Rachin Ravindra has been easily the best batsman in his team, scoring runs consistently, in style and at a great clip. He did not do much in the previous match and will be looking to make amends today.

For Pakistan, a win will not guarantee them a knock-out place, but will get them a step closer, improving not just their points tally, but also their Net Run Rate which becomes crucial if there are multiple teams tied on points.

Pakistan, who started the tournament well and then suffered a major slump, have raised themselves from the floor, as it were.

The win against Bangladesh previous game was hugely significant. Fakhar Zaman, who has the approach to win a match off his own bat, showed excellent form on his return to the side, and spearhead Shahin Afridi was exceptional with the ball. A big knock from Babar Azam is the boost Pakistan still need.

Shahin Shah Afridi, the rangy left-arm fast bowler, appears to have rediscovered his mojo and bowled with skill and hostility against Bangladesh. Wickets in his opening spell will put New Zealand under deep pressure

England's David Willey (L) celebrates with teammate Moeen Ali . - AFP
England's David Willey (L) celebrates with teammate Moeen Ali . - AFP

England vs Australia is always a fascinating contest.

Things have gone haywire for England from the start, and the defending champions now find themselves playing for the crumbs that personal pride can provide.

Why and how a team that looks so magnificent on paper should have fared so miserably is worthy of a treatise. But that can wait till the tournament is completed. For the present, the looming question is whether they can get even a solace win.

In a team where almost everyone has bombed David Willey has made at least some impact with his left-arm bowling and late-order batting. Having announced he will retire from international cricket after the World Cup, he will be looking to sign off in success.

Beating old nemesis Australia affords England this opportunity. A win doesn’t get them anything more than brownie points, but in this hard-up situation, beating the arch-rivals would be some salve to deep wounds.

But it won’t be easy given how Australia made a surge in the tournament after starting with two defeats. The top order is now looking vulnerable with Warner hitting peak form, Head making a sparkling return to the side, Smith getting runs and Josh Inglis showing up in the lower order.

Australia's David Warner has been in supreme  - AFP
Australia's David Warner has been in supreme - AFP

The bowling too has come along well. The pace trio of Starc, Hazlewood and Cummins, hasn’t been devastating like say India’s or South Africa’s, but they’ve bowled with high efficiency. Leg spinner Zampa has done the star turn with his control and variations.

Two unexpected setbacks have rocked the Aussies in the past couple of days. Glen Maxwell, a maverick all-rounder who was in outstanding form, suffered a freak accident and will miss the match. White-ball specialist all-rounder Mitch Marsh, also in form, has flown back home for personal reasons in an emergency. Their absence leaves the Aussie talent imbalanced and vulnerable.

David Warner, however, has been in supreme form and forms a dangerous opening pair with Travis Head. Warner’s Knowledge of Indian conditions and a liking for English bowling make him perhaps the most pivotal figure in the match.

Saturday's matches

New Zealand v Pakistan

Venue: M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore

9.00 am

England v Australia

Venue: Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad

Time: 12.30pm

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