Cricket World Cup: Joe Root calls for calm heads as pressure mounts on England
Pakistan move to within a point of the hosts after victory over New Zealand
England’s hopes of reaching the Cricket World Cup semi-finals took another blow when Pakistan beat New Zealand by six wickets to move to within a point of the tournament hosts.
It was the Kiwis’ first defeat of the World Cup and the architect of the Pakistan victory on Wednesday was Babar Azam.
His century enabled Pakistan to overhaul New Zealand’s modest total of 237-6 in which Jimmy Neesham made an unbeaten 97.
The result leaves the Kiwis in second and moves Pakistan to sixth, level on seven points with fifth-placed Bangladesh who boast a superior run rate.
The two nations clash on 5 July and before then Pakistan play Afghanistan on Saturday.
Assuming they beat the pointless Afghans they will move ahead of England, heaping more pressure on the hosts’ shoulders ahead of their do-or-die match against India at Edgbaston on Sunday.
Keep calm and carry on
The England squad woke on Wednesday to a barrage of criticism in the press after their tame defeat to Australia.
It was England’s third loss at the World Cup and one that leaves them requiring to beat India and New Zealand to have any hope of qualifying for the last four.
Yet despite the brickbats, Joe Root told BBC Sport that the worst thing to do now is panic.
“We have to stay calm, look at the things we know will make us a better team and will put us back to our best,” explained Root. “We must trust that when we do that, we are the best team in the world.”
England were the favourites a month ago but their inexplicable disintegration in the last week has left them on the brink of a humiliating elimination.
Yet Root told the BBC that he still believes England have a good chance of winning the title.
“Things change very quickly in tournament cricket,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to prove a few people wrong and play in the way we know we can against two strong opposition.
“If we win these last two games, you could argue that we’ll be in the best possible position when the semi-finals start.”
The absence of opening batsman Jason Roy has been a major factor in England’s woes in the last fortnight, and the hamstring he injured against the West Indies is still undergoing treatment.
In his absence James Vince has come to the crease but he’s looked horribly shorn of form.
“Jason is making good progress from his hamstring injury,” said a team spokesman. “He is being assessed every day… a decision on whether he’ll be fit will be made when we train on Friday and Saturday.”
Writing in The Times, former England opener and captain Michael Atherton echoed the words of Root in warning against panicking.
“It is a time for calm heads and rational thought,” wrote Athers. “Jason Roy’s absence has hurt England more than anyone imagined… but they have little option but to wait until he is ready and hope he can find form quickly when he is.
“Out of form though he is, Vince should play if Roy is unfit to take his place against India, rather than move key batsmen around.”
Root agrees, saying: “Just because James hasn’t scored runs, doesn’t make him a bad player. If Jason isn’t fit, I’m sure Vincey will be determined to go out and get a big score and bat very strongly.”
ICC Cricket World Cup fixtures
All matches are live on Sky Sports.
- Thursday 27 June: West Indies vs. India (10.30am)
- Friday 28 June: Sri Lanka vs. South Africa (10.30am)
- Saturday 29 June: Pakistan vs. Afghanistan (10.30am); New Zealand vs. Australia (1.30pm)
- Sunday 30 June: England vs. India (10.30am)
- Monday 1 July: Sri Lanka vs. West Indies (10.30am)
- Tuesday 2 July: Bangladesh vs. India (10.30am)
- Wednesday 3 July: England vs. New Zealand (10.30am)
- Thursday 4 July: Afghanistan vs. West Indies (10.30am)
- Friday 5 July: Pakistan vs. Bangladesh (10.30am)
- Saturday 6 July: Sri Lanka vs. India (10.30am); Australia vs. South Africa (1.30pm)
- Tuesday 9 July: 1st place vs. 4th place (10.30am; Old Trafford, Manchester)
- Thursday 11 July: 2nd place vs. 3rd place (10.30am; Edgbaston, Birmingham)
Cricket World Cup final
- Sunday 14 July: 10.30am at Lord’s, London