Overview: Pakistan striving for the nearly unachievable
Here we are, then: a final group stage encounter at Eden Gardens, and most likely a final World Cup encounter for both of these teams. In terms of title defenses, it was England’s worst-ever experience, on par with other fizzle-outs in cricket as well as maybe all of sport. For example, consider France’s 2002 FIFA World Cup campaign or Lleyton Hewitt’s Wimbledon first-round departure the following year. Between their only two World Cup victories, England’s campaign was marred by six losses, many of which were hammerings. One of those losses was so bad that it might have prevented them from winning the 2025 Champions Trophy.
England’s cricket strategy has been high-risk, high-reward for the past eight years or so; after seeing such success with white-ball cricket, the dangers seemed to finally catch up this time. It seems like that style calls for players to fully commit, and that calls for confidence, which can only come via performance.
Things swiftly got out of hand once the outcomes started to go wrong, first with a crushing defeat against New Zealand and then with an upset victory against Afghanistan. When South Africa made three substitutions and foolishly decided to field first, they were penalized severely for their panic. They would travel the nation for the following two weeks, losing to every team they faced, until they managed to achieve their second victory against the Netherlands with a really decent performance. Shot selection might be even more perplexing than team selection at times.
However, they have the opportunity to end a miserable tournament on something of a high note against Pakistan. It is possible that several members of current England team won’t don an ODI shirt in the future, especially not during a World Cup, thus it makes sense that Pakistan will be their final opponent before they are most likely to be parted ways. Since the 2015 World Cup, England has won 14 of the 18 ODIs that have been played, including a then-world record total of 444 at Trent Bridge. This English team has outperformed all others against Pakistan. This is your last chance to play the classic hits.
In Pakistani cricket, hope is the last thing to go, therefore players continue to dream despite the almost overwhelming odds against making it to the semi-finals. It’s not ideal for Babar Azam’s team to be in this situation, even though England hasn’t played well in the competition. To qualify, they must defeat England by roughly 290 runs. Their campaign has been a dismal reflection of their 2019 tournament; they have lost just enough games to trail New Zealand in net run rate (NRR). They needed to beat Bangladesh in an equally unlikely match to win the championship that year. It’s unlikely to happen now, just as it didn’t happen then.
Pakistan will be displeased that a number of their players lost form at the same time, which resulted in their worst-ever World Cup performance, losing four straight games and forcing them to depart the competition. Similar to 2019, they dropped one game that they should have won (Afghanistan in 2023, West Indies in 2019) and never quite had the focus to keep an eye on an NRR that was negative for the most of the competition. In order to surpass New Zealand at this point, a miracle and a persistent dedication to forward-thinking cricket are needed, something that Babar, in all his years leading Pakistani cricket, has quite bluntly failed to instill in his team.
In the worst case scenario, he may accomplish what Pakistan did four years prior and emerge as the greatest of the rest. Based on the facts of their cricket playing, the evaluation won’t precisely be unjust.
England: LLLLW (first most recent of last five completed ODIs)
Fakhar Zaman and Jos Buttler in the spotlight
Jos Buttler’s abrupt lack of form and confidence at this World Cup has been one of England’s low points, as perplexing as it was untimely. Taking the captaincy should have marked the pinnacle of his ODI career for a man who was so instrumental in winning the trophy four years prior. Rather, this tournament has been its lowest point. The most destructive batter in England opened the tournament with a 43 against New Zealand, and he failed to reach even half of that total in any of his next seven innings. In contrast to career averages of 39.79 and 117.16, his average and strike rate versus Pakistan, his favorite ODI opponent, have soared to 65.25 and 150.86, respectively. Even though the World Cup is over, he still has the opportunity to guarantee his team’s return to Pakistan in a few years, and if England wins, they will automatically qualify for the next Champions Trophy.
While he was using his skill so effectively against New Zealand, Fakhar Zaman will be acutely conscious of the inconvenient timing of his decline in form. When he scored three straight hundreds just half a year ago, he appeared to be the most potent opening for any team in this World Cup. It was the kind of form that he had consistently maintained throughout this cycle, but which somehow escaped him when it counted most. At the beginning of the competition, Fakhar appeared to be a shell of his former self, as he lost his first game. Up until then, he’d averaged 22 in World Cup matches, for a man built for the big moment. In the two games after his comeback, he would eventually put an end to that with scores of 81 and 102*, but it would be too little, too late. Fakhar might have one more World Cup game left in him at the age of 33, which would free him up even more. And Fakhar will always be interesting to watch when he is free.
Team news: Probably no changes
Despite a middle-order wobble that threatened to topple the team, England gave the Netherlands anything close to a flawless performance. It’s unlikely that that team will see major changes.
England’s starting lineup is Jonny Bairstow (1), Dawid Malan (2), Joe Root (3), Ben Stokes (4), Harry Brook (5), and Jos Buttler (capt/wk) (6). 7 Mohammad Ali Eighth Chris Woakes Adil Rashid, 10 Gus Atkinson, and 9 David Willey
Despite their bowlers being severely tested against New Zealand, Pakistan is predicted to select a lineup identical to the one that managed that almost miraculous victory in the DLS while down 402 runs.
1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, Pakistan 6 Ahmed Iftikhar, 7 Salman Agha, Eighth Hasan Ali 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Mohammad Wasim Jr., 11 Haris Rauf