The pool stages of the Cricket World Cup have motored past the halfway stage and we’re beginning to gather an increasingly clear picture of the eight teams that will make up this year’s quarter-final line-up.
But there is still much to play for at the tournament in Australia and New Zealand, with a scattering of surprise nations in the race to mix it up among the game’s elite in the knockout stages.
Here’s a look at the upcoming schedule for the 2015 World Cup and an examination of two matches that’ll be key in determining the sides remaining in the competition come the quarter-final stage.
ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Fixtures
Pool Matches – Predicted winners in bold
Mar. 4 Pool B: Pakistan v UAE, Napier (d/n) (1 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 4 Pool A: Australia v Afghanistan, Perth (d/n) (6:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 5 Pool A: Bangladesh v Scotland, Nelson (10 p.m. GMT, Mar. 4)
Mar. 6 Pool B: India v West Indies, Perth (d/n) (6:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 7 Pool B: South Africa v Pakistan, Auckland (d/n) (1 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 7 Pool B: Zimbabwe v Ireland, Hobart (d/n) (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 8 Pool A: New Zealand v Afghanistan, Napier (10 p.m. GMT, Mar. 7)
Mar. 8 Pool A: Australia v SriLanka, Sydney (d/n) (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 9 Pool A: England v Bangladesh, Adelaide (d/n) (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 10 Pool B: India v Ireland, Hamilton (d/n) (1 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 11 Pool A: SriLanka v Scotland, Hobart (d/n) (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 12 Pool B: South Africa v UAE, Wellington (Westpac Stadium) (d/n) (1 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 13 Pool A: Bangladesh v New Zealand, Hamilton (d/n) (1 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 13 Pool A: England v Afghanistan, Sydney (d/n) (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 14 Pool B: India v Zimbabwe, Auckland (d/n) (1 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 14 Pool A: Australia v Scotland, Hobart (d/n) (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Mar. 15 Pool B: West Indies v UAE, Napier (10 p.m. GMT, Mar. 14)
Mar. 15 Pool B: Pakistan v Ireland, Adelaide (d/n) (3:30 a.m. GMT)
Remarkably, despite the moribund displays put in by England at this competition so far, the Three Lions still have a chance at making it through to the quarter-final stage. But if they are going to get there, it’s imperative they get the better of Bangladesh when these two meet at the Adelaide Oval.
England have been emphatically beaten in three of their matches against the Test-playing nations and the pressure will be squarely on Eoin Morgan’s men heading into this one.
As we can see here courtesy of the Cricket Australia Twitter account, the criticism of this team has subsequently been pretty scathing:
All is not lost, though. If England can beat the Tigers and follow it up with a win over Afghanistan they’ll almost certainly qualify for the quarter-finals; as the old adage goes, in knockout format anything can happen from that point.
Bangladesh are certainly no mugs, however. They have an array of classy players in their squad and the bowling talents of ShakibalHasan will surely cause problems aplenty for an England team that has struggled with spin at this tournament so far.
The all-rounder is a fine batsman too and, according to cricket commentator HarshaBhogle, should be moved up the order as part of a rejig:
But England, as poor as they’ve been, should have too much for Bangladesh. The batting skills of Moeen Ali and Joe Root have been rare bright spots at this World Cup; expect one of those men to relish what should be a high-pressure occasion and help the Three Lions move into the quarter-finals of the competition.
Prediction: England win
Pakistan vs. Ireland
The two sides vying for the final qualifying spot in Pool B look set to be Ireland and Pakistan; they meet in the final match of the pool stages in Adelaide on March 18.
Ireland got their campaign off to a flyer, winning the opening two games of the tournament. In those two games they showcased remarkable fortitude to topple the West Indies and the United Arab Emirates; as such, you suspect they’ll take a fearless streak into some tough challenges still to come.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan paid tribute to the Irish effort as they eventually got over the line against the UAE:
The men in green boast an excellent blend of batsmen in their squad. At the top of the order there’s the composure of men like Ed Joyce and William Porterfield, while a little further down in the batting they can call upon the power of players like Kevin O’Brien.
That flexibility is definitely something Pakistan will be wary of, but they’re a team that also seem to be heading in the right direction. They turned in a much more balanced display against Zimbabwe to pick up their first win of the tournament and, looking ahead, they should still have enough to reach the quarters provided they beat Ireland.
WahabRiaz looks as though he could be the talismanic figure this team needs too, especially if his performance against Zimbabwe is anything to go by, per Cricket Record:
Pakistan will be the favourites for what will surely be an epic occasion, but there’s something special about this Ireland team. They’re a balanced outfit who make the opposition scrap for every single run; against the 1992 winners, that edge will see them take a narrow victory and a place in the quarter-finals of this gripping competition.
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