Cricket World Cup 2019: New Zealand's slump exposes major flaw in tournament format

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The Kiwis are in the semi-final on the basis of one heavy win over Sri Lanka.

With the weather we had after the opening week in the 2019 World Cup, it was clear that a handful of results were going to have a disproportionate impact on the final four standing and at least one team was going to make it to the semis owing to a major slice of luck.

It’s Australia, India, England and New Zealand in the semi-finals, a line-up that many predicted before the start of the tournament. However, as the matches unfolded over the course of last month, it became difficult to overlook the impact a solitary result has had on the make-up of the final four.

In the third match of the World Cup, the Kiwis faced Sri Lanka on a greentop in Cardiff – conditions that we didn’t see anywhere else. Blackcaps pacers blew Sri Lanka away for 136 inside 30 overs and chased down the runs in 16.1 overs.

That one result took New Zealand’s net run rate to such a level that even three successive and comprehensive defeats in the business end of the tournament – against Pakistan, Australia and England – didn’t cost them as the other contender for the spot – Pakistan – had themselves been dismissed by the Windies for 105 in an even bigger thrashing.

So the Kiwis didn’t beat a single ‘top’ ranked team – apart from the listless South Africa – and scraped past Bangladesh and West Indies. Yet Pakistan, who beat England, New Zealand and South Africa, didn’t make the cut.

What the format has done is create a scenario where the Kiwis will enter the semi-finals – with five wins from nine games – having suffered three heavy defeats against top teams in crunch games. Hypothetically speaking, if the Blackcaps get to bowl in overcast conditions in the semis and blow the opposition away and then win the final, they will still only have seven wins in the tournament while Australia won seven out of eight in the league phase itself.

And that is the fundamental flaw of the format for this World Cup – the team that was consistent throughout the tournament gets no reward for its efforts while a side like New Zealand that has been average only needs to have two good days at the office to win the World Cup.

As I have mentioned before, an IPL style playoffs would have ensured that such a situation is avoided. The top two teams deserve to be in the final while the lower ranked teams should not hoodwink their way into the title clash, if we are to persist with a 10-team ‘every plays everyone’ format in all future tournaments.

That was my biggest fear at the beginning of the World Cup which has unfortunately materialised – an undeserving team making it to the semis and needing just two good days to win the entire thing. It’s as if the whole of June was one big waste of time.

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Australia will aim to secure the top spot at the end of league phase of the 2019 World Cup when they take on South Africa in Manchester on Saturday.

A win for Australia will ensure they finish on top of the table and take on a weak New Zealand side in the semi-final at the same venue on Tuesday.

For South Africa, it will be a chance to end a disappointing tournament on a high against the defending champions.

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India, who face Sri Lanka at Headingley as the round-robin stage of the World Cup comes to a close, know if they win and the Aussies slip up then they will lead the way and take on the Kiwis.

Whichever side finishes second at the end of the group stage will face England in the other last-four clash.

Sri Lanka have won the toss and elected to bat.

Who will come out on top in Leeds?

Follow the ball-by-ball live commentary below to find out.

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