Joe Root expects emotions to run high against India on Sunday, in a game England will be treating like a World Cup quarter-final.
A heavy defeat by Australia at Lord’s was England’s third setback of the tournament and leaves their hopes of reaching the knockout stage precariously balanced.
Winning their last two group games would do the trick, but seeing off both India and New Zealand would require a sharp improvement from a side who have mislaid the spark which saw them begin the competition as world number ones and red-hot favourites.
The pressure is rising sharply around the group – from pundits deconstructing their defeats, to rival nations eager to edge them in the standings and, surely, from within their own dressing room too.
Moreover, when they walk out at Edgbaston this weekend there is every chance the majority of the crowd, gleaned in large part from Birmingham’s large British Asian community, will be roaring on their opponents.
“I personally think we have to be very calm about how we approach the next couple of games because the games themselves might get quite emotional, especially with the atmosphere at Edgbaston,” said Root.
“I strongly believe we are more than capable of qualifying for the semi-finals – when that happens it doesn’t really matter how you get there, that’s when the tournament really starts to kick in.
“It is almost like we see these two games as quarter-finals, which in a way should serve us really well.
“You still have to win big games at some stage in the tournament if you are going to go on and win it. Ours have just come a bit sooner than expected.
“It would be silly to sit and mope about that and get all caught up in it – we have two opportunities now to go and qualify. If we embrace the challenge that is in front of us and play anywhere near our potential we are more than capable of getting in the semis.”
Root can at least approach the game feeling fully fit for the challenges ahead, a luxury not all of his team-mates can claim.
Jason Roy’s availability is the most clear and present issue and a final decision could go all the way to the wire.
The explosive opener tore a hamstring against the West Indies and has been sorely missed over the past three games, with his stand-in James Vince emphatically failing to impress.
Roy is said to be making “good progress” by the England and Wales cricket Board, but he will take part in both practice days before any verdict is reached.
Jofra Archer, England’s leading wicket-taker with 16, is still struggling with tightness in his left side and is also a concern. He passed a morning fitness test to face Australia but looked short of his best and the ECB said he would “continue to be assessed”.
The final area of concern is Adil Rashid’s right shoulder, a problem he has been managing throughout the tournament.
The leg-spinner attended the opening of a new urban cricket centre at Leyton cricket Hub on Wednesday, as part of the governing body’s South Asian Action Plan, and allayed concerns.
“It is getting better every day. I’m seeing the physio every other day getting a massage done or a strength session,” he said.
“There is no pain bowling because the injections are still in there.”
As for the prospect of a hostile crowd – at the same ground where his close friend Moeen Ali was memorably booed during an India game in 2014 – Rashid was pragmatic.
“People will enjoy themselves, have some fun and banter. We will not be fazed by that,” he said.
“It is disappointing sometimes, but it happened. The crowd get involved but it does not bother us. We played India last summer at Edgbaston and we enjoyed it and did our job.”
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India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun said his team are not worried about the colour of their kits ahead of their Cricket World Cup match against the West Indies at Old Trafford on Thursday.
After the West Indies game India play England at Edgbaston on Sunday, a match where they are likely to wear orange away shirts rather than their traditional blue.
It’s understood the orange choice of colour has angered followers in India, and although Arun tried to play the row down he did stress his team ‘bleed blue.’
“We bleed blue, right. Blue is going to be predominantly the colour and that’s it,” Arun said.
Pakistan batsman Babar Azam has termed his match-winning ton against New Zealand in the 2019 ICC World Cup as the best innings of his ODI career so far.
The 24-year-old registered his maiden World Cup ton and 10th overall of his one-day career at Birmingham on Wednesday to help Pakistan chase down a stiff target of 238 runs with six wickets to spare.
The right-handed batsman had to survive a testing spell from Mitchell Santner on a rank turner of a pitch and then went on to play the anchor role to perfection to help keep Pakistan’s semi-final hopes alive at the World Cup.
“Yes, I agree this is my best innings,” Babar told broadcaster Star Sports after Pakistan’s hard-fought win.
“The wicket was difficult and turned a lot in the second half. The plan was to go through to the end and give my 100 per cent.
“When we started, the plan was to see out (Lockie) Ferguson. But when Santner came on, the plan became not to give wickets to him and cover up later when the fast bowlers come on.”
Babar’s innings also came in for praise from his skipper Sarfraz Ahmed who credited a team performance for Pakistan’s six-wicket win.
“The way we played today, it was a great team effort,” Sarfraz said.
“All the bowlers did really well and in the end Babar and Haris (Sohail) – one of the finest batting I’ve ever seen.
“Credit goes to Babar and Haris, the way they played on this pitch.”
The remarkable parallels between Pakistan’s 1992 and 2019 World Cup campaigns were maintained on Wednesday with both sides having notched three wins and a no-result apiece at the same stage.
That 1992 side led by Imran Khan went on to clinch the World Cup leading to suggestions from Pakistan fans that Sarfraz’s men might be able to do the same. The Pakistan skipper, however, is not reading too much into the parallels.
“When the World Cup starts, people think that way (comparing with 1992 side). But we’re not thinking like that,” he said.
“Our focus is the next match. We are very confident and hopefully we’ll do well,” Sarfraz added.
With the win over the Kiwis, Pakistan are now just one point behind hosts England who currently occupy the fourth and final semi-final spot. The Men in Green will next face Afghanistan in another must-win clash on Saturday before taking on Bangladesh in their final league match on July 5.