A case for last round matches to be held together
England shouldn’t have got the time advantage over Australia in close group race for semis
When England step out on the Sydney Cricket Ground to face Sri Lanka on Saturday, they will know exactly what to do to qualify for the semi-finals. First, they have to win. Even a slender margin will do, considering their present net run-rate (0.547) is already enough to pip Australia (-0.173). Having squandered the opportunity to carve a huge win over Afghanistan on Friday, Australia now have to depend on Sri Lanka to do them a favour by beating England.
It should have been a three-way face-off on one day. Like in other sports. Instead, cricket fans are being robbed of the thrill because the International Cricket Council (ICC) slotted the last round of Group 1 on two different days. They have not followed the same logic with Group 2 though. Sunday will witness all six teams playing their last match, with India slated to take on Zimbabwe in MCG in what is to be the final tie of the group league phase. But why didn’t the ICC adopt at least a similar strategy with Australia’s group?
Pressure makes the mind do many things. Had all the matches been slotted on the same day, England would have been under pressure to win, or who knows if Australia would have been even better against Afghanistan. “We'll stay here and watch that game, hoping for a bit of an upset,” said Matthew Wade later, before owing up to the mess they had created. “We put ourselves in that situation, been trying to chase a bit of run rate but it hasn't gone our way.”
England, on the other hand, have all the time—nearly 20 hours to be exact—to plan out their game. And they had no qualms in admitting the scheduling did play out in their favour after all. “I think it does play to our advantage. See what happens today, and then we can adapt to whatever tomorrow requires. I guess we're pretty confident with whatever we need to do, we've got the skills and firepower to do it,” said Alex Hales, their top-order T20 specialist.
England won’t have to overthink this time. But net run rates can be such a knotty affair that even a run or a wicket can change it ever so slightly. T20 has crunched the game to a manageable format that can now afford to have concurrent games to decide the best team in a standoff. But it remains to be seen if the ICC is open to making the T20 World Cup a truly fair tournament by not giving away time advantages like this.