We enter week 75 of the Cricket World Cup – lol, jk, but also seriously – and everything is not what it seems.
England are rubbish, Afghanistan are great. It’s cricketing bizarro world. Well, except for Pakistan, who remain resolutely committed to their bit at international tournaments.
Australia’s useless bunch of flogs are winning matches. Does that mean hot take merchants were a little hasty in writing them off? Bosh! Flimshaw!
The only constant in life is India being really, really good. Guess who’s top of our Power Rankings?
1 – India (-)
Stop the count. India are so good they’re just messing about aiming at individual records. They lose Hardik Pandya, the one dude that everyone says they can’t afford to lose, and Mohammad Shami comes in to take five wickets. They have R Ashwin on the bench.
It’s currently Rohit Sharma’s world, which we merely inhabit, and he might not even be their best batter, the way that Virat Kohli is playing.
2 – New Zealand (-)
Losing to India is less than ideal, but the current form suggests that everyone is going to lose to India, so New Zealand shouldn’t worry too much about it.
There’s ample scope for improvement and they’re already all-but guaranteed a semis place based on their 4-1 record, not to mention that everyone else who might challenge is in the process of falling over or getting up after previously having dined on concrete.
NZ are second on form, but they’re a little bit high ceiling, low floor as a team, which does tend to make them good at group stages and less good at beating the best of the best.
Were they to play a semi against South Africa or Australia, they’d start as second favourites, and, if England somehow picked themselves up into anything approximating form, New Zealand would be underdogs there, too.
They’d love that though.
3 – South Africa (-)
The general gambit around South Africa has been to point their middle order at the ball and ask them to repeatedly shell it out of the park. It’s not a million miles away from the style that delivered England the World Cup in 2019, or indeed, from what England should be doing right not but aren’t.
The Saffers, that afternoon against the Netherlands aside, have been exceptional. They look like they have the highest ceiling of anyone – assuming England and Australia don’t drastically improve – and given the way that they play, the potential for it to periodically fall over is baked in.
The format of this World Cup allows you to fall a few times, and the way they bounced back from that defeat against England suggests that it was more blip than choke.
Then again…chokers are chokers until they don’t choke, right? The jury on that front remains out.
4 – Australia (+2)
It’s not long ago that Australia were in the gutter, but now you’d be very surprised if they didn’t make the semis at the very least.
In part that’s because England have been so bad and Pakistan even worse, with the additional logic that everyone beneath that will probably fall over at some point as well.
The thing with the Aussies is that they’ll have nights like Friday, when their batting absolutely blew Pakistan out of the water, and they’ll have enough of them to win plenty of games on that alone. The bowling, too, is coming together with Adam Zampa’s return to form a particular plus point.
It’s not yet clear how that will translate into games against good teams – they’ve lost by miles to India and South Africa – but it’s increasingly looking like it should be plenty to secure a semi-final, at which point, anything is possible.
What we’ve learned across four games thus far is that they’re not quite as good as the best, but a lot better than the worst. Netherlands next, so that should be fine, but New Zealand will be a better gauge.
5 – Afghanistan (+2)
It’s not a surprise anymore, is it? Afghanistan are just good now, and that’s to be celebrated for a side that has done everything the hard way.
We’ve always known that they had talent, especially with the ball, but now they’re getting the batting side too.
The way they knocked off Pakistan’s total was a proper, never in doubt, seasoned pros kind of chase. Previous Afghanistan teams would have panicked on several occasions, but this one reset, bedded in then sped up.
They’ve now shown that they can beat good teams with world class players in multiple ways. In the past, they could threaten via their best players, but would lose because of their worst. Now, that floor has been raised and they’re a genuinely good team.
6 – England (-1)
How far can England actually fall? On the official standings they are bottom after their worst even World Cup defeat to South Africa, and even if they won out from here, that net run rate is going to be a massive issue.
Then again, winning out from here would involve defeating India – good luck – and Australia, which would be a minor miracle at this stage.
They say that boxers can look old overnight – that’s certainly happening here. The punch off the top, once provided by Jason Roy, is gone and Dawid Malan isn’t that kind of player. The middle overs clampdown is gone.
Jofra Archer was in the extended squad as injury cover, but when Reece Topley went down, wasn’t able to come in. A fit Archer would be useful about now just for the X factor.
It’s really, really bad and this team deserve all they get at the moment.
7 – Pakistan (-3)
Just when you’re planning to demote England yet further, Pakistan do what they do best: collapse. They can’t just lose, right? It has to be a disaster.
The India performance was poor, but that was against India. Australia was worse, but that, too was against a good team. Now what? This is a disaster.
Of course, being Pakistan, they could well turn this into a few riderless horse wins at the backend, but all the whispers are that the implosion is only just getting going.
8 – Sri Lanka (+2)
The big problem Sri Lanka had was playing alright but not winning – and against the Netherlands, they played alright and won.
They have often relied on the top order of Kusals Pereira and Mendis to get them into the game, so a win in which neither got anything is encouraging, as is the form of Sadeera Samarawickrama, fast emerging as one of the breakout stars of this tournament.
With the ball, they’re always going to have spin options, but Kasun Rajitha and Dilshan Madushanka taking wickets off the top with pace is also a very positive sign.
England next, anyone?
9 – Bangladesh (-)
One game since our last rankings, and one defeat, this time to India. No shame in that, and the Tigers have basically beaten the one team they should beat and lost to everyone else, whom they shouldn’t.
They were even resting players against India – sure, Shakib was injured, but one suspects that in a more competitive fixture, he might have played. Their upcoming games against Netherlands, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will matter more.
10 – Netherlands (-2)
The Dutch drop back, with the feeling that their race might be somewhat run by now. Their defeat to Sri Lanka was a bridge too far, and they can’t really keep relying on their middle order to dig them out of big holes.
Still, it’s all wins from here anyway.