England’s crucial 20-run win over New Zealand at The Gabba on Tuesday has kept their semi-final qualification hopes alive and also set up a fascinating race for qualifying into the last four stage, where net run rate could be crucial in deciding the top two finishers in Group 1.
As of now, table-toppers New Zealand, second-placed England and third-ranked Australia are now tied on five points each. All three teams have one match left to play in Group 1 with only net run rate separating the trio. No one from Group 1 is confirmed as qualified for the semi-finals.
New Zealand ahead in the race
Group 1 toppers New Zealand have the edge over other qualification rivals, thanks to their excellent net run rate of +2.233, which was set up by that 89-run hammering of Australia in their opening game at Sydney Cricket Ground.
That net run rate is almost as good as a point for the Black Caps, meaning it is very much an advantage for them in the qualification race. The Kiwis would need to lose to Ireland in their final match at Adelaide Oval and by a significant margin to give Australia and England the opportunity to deny them a top-two finish.
So, how are final Group 1 matches stacked up?
If all three of New Zealand, England and Australia win their final matches against Ireland, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan respectively, then it will come down to net run rate for deciding first two spots.
Australia’s net run rate of -0.304 puts them on the back foot in the race, but Aaron Finch’s side play a day before England, so can lay down a marker and put the pressure on if they manage a large margin of victory over Afghanistan at Adelaide Oval on Friday.
Playing on Saturday means England will know exactly what they require to qualify when they face Sri Lanka on Saturday. Should Australia fail to catch England (+0.547) and New Zealand (+2.233) on net run rate then both of those sides will know that victory by any margin in their respective final matches will send them into the semi-finals.
What about Ireland, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan?
Ireland are mathematically still in with a chance, but it is the slimmest of opportunities, with the Irish needing a huge margin of win and then two other results to go their way to finish in the top two. The big aim for Andrew Balbirnie & Co will be to finish in the top four and seal an automatic qualification spot for the next ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
Sri Lanka, the 2014 champions, could yet qualify. A win over England, the 2010 champions, in the last game of the group would see them into the semi-finals should one of 2021 runners-up New Zealand or defending champions Australia have lost their final game.
Afghanistan are the first team to be mathematically denied a semi-final spot, with their loss to Sri Lanka on Tuesday leaving them on just two points from four games.