One result, three outcomes. That is how England’s 31-run victory over India in the World Cup round-robin league match on Sunday should be viewed.
The match sent out three important signals for the race for three of the four semifinal berths in the coming days. One, it heightened the hosts chances for the last four stage; second, it ensured the elimination of Sri Lanka from the competition dashing their faint hopes for a semifinal slot and third it made things more difficult for Bangladesh and Pakistan eyeing semifinal entry.
Had India, with 11 points from seven matches and two more outings in hand, beaten England, they could have clinched the semifinal spot on Sunday itself and would now have to wait for one more point from the encounters with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Four emphatic wins had put England into a position where qualification for the semi-finals felt like a formality. However, nine days and two defeats later the hosts and pre-tournament favourites were suddenly in real danger of facing a group stage exit. So, England badly needed a victory against India, which has put them in the fourth spot in the points table with 10 points from 8 matches. England have only one match left against New Zealand in their last group match on Wednesday.
The Kiwis are placed third in the points table with 11 points and a win for England will take the hosts to the semifinal. If England do not win against the Black Caps, they will have to wait for results of Bangladesh and Pakistan in their remaining matches. Pakistan was hoping for a favour from India if the latter had defeated England. But Pakistan now need to win against Bangladesh at Lord’s on Friday and hope New Zealand beat England on Wednesday.
A win against Bangladesh would take Pakistan’s tally of points to 11 and a defeat against New Zealand would leave England stranded at 11 points. If the England-New Zealand match is washed out by rains and points shared, the hosts will have the same number of points as Pakistan, provided they beat Bangladesh—11. But as of now, England have a better net run rate than Pakistan.
If Bangladesh win next two matches, their haul of points would go up to 11. As of now, Bangladesh too have a better run rate than Pakistan. Bangladesh would be hoping for New Zealand defeating England. A loss against England does not lead to the exit of the Kiwis if Bangladesh manage to win against Pakistan but lose to India.
The defeat to South Africa on Friday last put an improbable qualification beyond Sri Lanka’s control and England's win on Sunday against India sealed their fate. But it was Sri Lanka’s 20-run win over England, on June 21 which had truly opened up the competition for the semi-final spots. The Sri Lanka-West Indies match on Monday is just going through the motion of completing the formalities as both teams are out of the running for semifinal spots.