With four games now played in Pool A of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, it is becoming increasingly likely that New Zealand will finish as pool leaders especially with a forthcoming match against Afghanistan scheduled. For the remaining three qualifying positions, the outcomes of two key fixtures appear most significant in determining not only the quarter-finalists but in the case of the Australians, the venues for those knock-out games.
Australia now face both Sri Lanka and Scotland in their remaining pool games and victory against a Scottish team, which has yet to earn a point, would seem to be a formality. The Australians need to beat the Sri Lankans to almost guarantee a top two finishing position in Pool A and such an eventuality would guarantee playing both their quarter and semi-finals in Australia. Their quarter-final will be staged in Adelaide but should they finish third in the pool, a semi-final against the Kiwis in Auckland is a realistic possibility assuming that New Zealand progress to that stage.
With Australia creating a World Cup record by scoring 417/6 in their last match against Afghanistan and winning by another record- breaking 275 runs, it would appear that the Aussies are finding their batting form after a relatively poor performance when losing to New Zealand. David Warner was close to amassing a double century during the victory against the Afghan team when compiling 178 runs and he was ably supported by Steven Smith and Glenn Maxwell who both just failed to claim their centuries.
While Australia and Sri Lanka compete for the likely runners-up position in Pool A, England will play Bangladesh just a day later and should the English team lose this important match, then they will not be able to secure the fourth qualifying place. Yet Bangladesh may not be the most difficult of opposition teams as their last match proved.
Set to score 319 by Scotland to win the tie, Bangladesh surpassed that total with 11 balls to spare but their bowlers had allowed the Scottish batsmen to score over 100 more runs than during their defeat by Afghanistan just one week previously, with that innings being posted as a World Cup record total for Scotland at the time.
Yet England have proved that they can score runs in this World Cup and the match against Bangladesh may eventually be decided by the performance of their bowlers with a repeat of their display against Sir Lanka almost certainly guaranteed to finish in an unwelcome defeat for England and an early departure from the tournament.
England may secure the required victory against Bangladesh, but their exit from the World Cup may only be delayed as a fourth placing in Pool A seems destined to earn a quarter-final tie with India and that does not appear as a very appealing prospect for an English team struggling for form.