Let’s lay the cards on the table early here. Your columnist is an England fan, and thus Australia’s poor start was quite hilarious.
Suffice to say it is not funny anymore, given that the reigning, defending champions have jumped out of the Lamborghini and into the clown car over the last few weeks.
England make a habit of making you believe, then letting you down, with the first innings bowling performance against India just the latest installment of this decades-long cavalcade of disappointment.
Still, now we’re laughing too, and aren’t ODIs rubbish anyway? The Hundred, that’s where it’s at. We can’t lose there.
There’s nine other teams – real, good, functioning cricket teams. Alright, eight plus Bangladesh. And those other nations have actually been good, in various measures, with lots of movement in the rankings. Let’s get into it.
1 – India (-)
A minor chink in the armour this week as India fell over a little when asked to set a target rather than chase one, but they were lucky in that they were facing England, who have the backbone of an octopus and just about as much control over their limbs.
As long as Rohit Sharma is batting like he is, they’ll have a chance, though it will be interesting to see what happens if someone who can bat decides to put them in first.
2 – South Africa (+1)
The Proteas remain the best of the rest with two solid wins, albeit against the teams who (spoiler alert) are currently propping up this ladder.
Their middle order is great, their bowling is great, Quinton de Kock is great, Marco Jansen is great and one could go on. Pakistan almost made them look silly, but luckily for cricket’s greatest chokers, they were facing cricket’s greatest self-sabotagers.
They play New Zealand, then India on Sunday which should be a superb gauge on where we can expect Temba Bavuma’s men to land. He could do with a performance, too, because the captain is their one player who is yet to really get going.
3 – Australia (+1)
Australia’s poor start now looks like a quirk of the draw rather than a terminal decline. There’s still a few issues – notably the cliff that Mitchell Starc appears to have fallen off – but there’s a lot to be said for a side that has so much strike in the batting and, presumably, one of the world’s best white ball bowlers still to return to form.
The game against New Zealand was the best of the tournament so far and, having won it, the Aussies can take a huge amount of confidence that they went in with one of the best and, after a scare or two, came out on top.
4 – New Zealand (-2)
As much as Australia’s poor start can be put down to the draw, so can New Zealand’s strong beginning.
They probably aren’t as good as they were made to look by a beginning that saw them face the worst teams off the top, but then again, their two defeats now are to India and Australia, who are both legitimately good sides, and they were more than competitive in both games.
They’ve swapped places with South Africa more than once in these rankings, so it’ll be fun to see how they face off when that clash comes this week.
5 – Afghanistan (-)
It’s officially not a fluke: Afghanistan are just good now. The way they got rid of Sri Lanka was absolutely no surprise and showed how sensible they are at this level, especially when chasing.
In the past, there would have been collapses, panics and chaos, but this time, it was formulaic. The best way to think about it is that they made Sri Lanka look like Afghanistan. Moreover, they did so without Rashid Khan doing anything amazing at all – alright, that googly, but is it even amazing anymore? – which tells you how impressive everyone else is now.
Their problem will likely be that the top four look locked in, though all Afghanistan can do is keep winning and hoping for someone else to fall over.
6 – Pakistan (+1)
As ever with Pakistan, this is a duality. They lost to South Africa, but definitely could have won and showed all the reasons why they aren’t completely terrible in the process. They did, however, still lose.
They’re better than Bangladesh (who isn’t) and the threat is still there, but it really could do with showing itself sooner rather than later. Everyone else could really do with that being against New Zealand, at least for the sake of jeopardy late in the competition.
7 – Sri Lanka (-)
One step forward, two steps back for Sri Lanka. Defeating England was both timely and funny, but there’s no point knocking off the former champions if you then lose to the former Associates.
Dilshan Madushanka deserves better. He’s currently opening the bowling for the team of the tournament but has often been let down by everyone else. Sadeera Samarawickrama, too, might feel the same way given his consistently superb performances with the bat.
The most annoying thing about Sri Lanka is that it’s all in there. We’ve seen all the parts work individually, but not often collectively. It’s still possible for them to cause some major upsets, but this looks like being a bit of a disappointment in the end.
8 – Netherlands (+2)
There’ll be no disappointment for the Dutch. They belong at this top table and have proven it over and over.
It will be absolutely hilarious if they (or Afghanistan, or both) qualify for the Champions Trophy at the expense of England, especially after going through a qualification process designed to make them not qualify, but which has inadvertently made the Netherlands into a crack ODI outfit that actually respect the format.
That they have done so well while basically not having a top order is double impressive. They have to dig themselves out of holes with their middles swinging for the fences, but it’s going alright. Goed gespeeld, jongen.
9 – England (-3)
What do you do when you lose to Sri Lanka horribly with a clearly old, clearly feeble team? Well, you throw that exact same team in against India, of course.
England actually bowled really well, perhaps the best that they have all tournament, but the batting…the batting. For those of us who emotionally invest in this team, it was like Hobart all over again.
There can be no reproach against Ben Stokes as a cricketer, but that was the worst shot of his otherwise exceptional career, and to see him make it in an essentially meaningless game while Harry Brook is right there on the sidelines being kept out of the team was a little irritating.
Look, it’s the end of a cycle, and what a cycle it has been with multiple World Cup wins. But everything must end, and the sooner England end this, the better.
10 – Bangladesh (-1)
The only good news for England is that they aren’t the absolute worst team at the tournament, at least not while Bangladesh are here. They really have no excuse, either: these are pretty friendly conditions to their players, they have had a good record in ODIs and their lineup is pretty settled.
But it’s not working at all. They look bereft. Not as bereft as England, sure enough, but given that the Tigers at the only team to have actually lost to the reigning champions, they have to remain below them (for now), even those their net run rate is a mite better.