England have kept their World Cup hopes alive with a sound thrashing of South Africa in their penultimate Super Six match. The victory was so quick that the BBC barely managed to cover it after the commentators had to fly across India and apparently were delayed en route to the ground by their taxi driver not knowing the way! By the time coverage started South Africa were already 69-9 and were subsequently bowled out for 77. England chased the runs in 9.3 overs and finished the match before lunch could even be taken.
Not only did England need to win the match, but the emphatic manner in which they did so has kept them in touch of New Zealand and the West Indies on Net Run Rate. The White Ferns play the West Indies next and England will have to not only beat New Zealand in their final match, but do so in a way that they have a better Net Run Rate than whoever wins the New Zealand v West Indies match. (They must also hope that Australia beat the West Indies afterward.) England’s NRR is still the lowest of the three teams, but they have a chance to drag New Zealand’s down with a win over them in the last match.
The best case scenario for England in the New Zealand v West Indies match is technically a tie, which would give England a chance to finish second outright. But that is, of course, very unlikely. Amongst more likely outcomes, England must hope for New Zealand to win, but narrowly. If New Zealand win by a margin under eighty runs or about 14 overs, their NRR will actually drop from it’s current position of 1.712 and could go as low as 1.25 if the match is very close. That would leave England, with a NRR of 1.08, very much within striking distance; in such a scenario England would only need to win by about ten runs to advance. But that is a near best case scenario; if New Zealand win fairly comfortably against the Windies it would still leave England with a lot to do.
Of course, the West Indies might beat New Zealand which would make things more interesting. England could then go above the White Ferns on points instead of having to worry about NRR, but would need Australia to beat the West Indies just to be level on points with the latter. Once again then NRR would come into play, but in this case England would have to hope that whatever they did would be enough to top the West Indies instead of having a clear target as they would against New Zealand. Not only is it easier to deal with the clear target, since England would actually be able to affect New Zealand’s NRR they may not have to do as much if New Zealand win.
England will then be cheering for New Zealand tomorrow, but even if they win there is a third possibility. New Zealand could beat the West Indies, England could beat New Zealand and the West Indies could beat Australia. This would be almost the worst of both worlds for England as in such a scenario all three of the West Indies, New Zealand and England would be level on six points and England would need to get their NRR above both of the West Indies and New Zealand. It would be all but impossible to work out the required scores ahead of time, so England would not only have to beat New Zealand comfortably they would then have to simply hope that it would be enough to go above the Windies as well.
England have a daunting task yet to make the final (and then they would still have to beat Australia), but they are at least still in with a shout after the solid performance today.