Each team's World Cup rating as we pass the halfway mark
With every team having played at least five games, now seems as good a time as any to rate each of them on their performance to date, so let's get straight into it.
Afghanistan deserve plenty of applause simply for making the tournament, given where they were at as a cricketing nation just a few short years ago in comparison to some of the teams they beat for a spot at the event. And heading in, there was plenty of reason to expect they could cause an upset or two, with Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi combining for one of the most potent spin bowling attacks of any team. Unfortunately, their batting has struggled and they have failed to be competitive in most matches, though in their recent clash against India they went close to pulling off the kind of upset they seemed capable of heading into the tournament, falling just 11 runs short against arguably the best side in the world.
A tumultuous past year turned into a great lead up to the World Cup when the Aussies beat India in India and then thrashed Pakistan 5-0, and they have carried that form into the game's biggest tournament, winning five of their first six games. They have generally looked dangerous with both bat and ball, and look a certainty to advance past the Group Stage. Their major concern would be that their only loss came against the best opposition they have played against in India, and with a game against England coming up they will be desperate for a victory to prove they can match it with the best sides, and not just the teams ranked lower than them.
Bangladesh have been gradually improving as a cricketing nation for over a decade now, but they appeared to have plateau'd a little heading into the tournament. Despite those fears, however, they have performed well, currently sitting at 2-3 and with one washout and around the middle of the table. They have been one of the more entertaining teams at the event, playing in a number of high scoring games, and have impressed with an opening round victory against South Africa and a dominant run chase against a West Indies team that put up well in excess of 300. Shakib Al Hasan has been one of the players of the tournament, and though it likely won't be enough to earn them a spot in the final four, they have won plenty of fans with their performance so far.
England entered the tournament with plenty of expectations; as the number one team in the world and playing on their home soil, they were the favourite to take home an inaugural World Cup trophy. Despite the fact that they are sitting relatively comfortably within the top four, however, a lot of question marks have been raised throughout the event. They have won four of their six games, and their wins have been dominant, but the losses have come against Pakistan and Sri Lanka and have shown a vulnerability which won't exactly fill their fans with confidence in their ability to compete after the Group Stage is done and dusted.
Plenty believe India deserved favouritism in place of India for this event, and so far they have shown why, going through their first five games undefeated, with one match against New Zealand a washout. The nailbiting victory against Afghanistan on Saturday the sole exception, they have won relatively comfortably against every team they have come across, which includes South Africa and fellow heavyweight Australia. With a batting lineup as good as any in the world, Jasprit Bumrah bowling beautifully and contributors coming from everywhere, they look like the team to beat halfway through the Group Stage.
New Zealand were always going to get off to a strong start to the tournament, with games against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to kick off the event. They disposed of those three teams easily, had their first difficult game against India washed out, and then crept over the line against a South Africa team who was expected to challenge them for the fourth spot in the Final Four. They are undefeated through six games, and with South Africa failing miserably to meet expectations they are virtually assured of advancing through the Group Stage. Kane Williamson is one of the players of the tournament and their pace bowling attack looks extremely dangerous, and they look likely seriously challenge for their first ever World Cup trophy.
Pakistan had a very strange start to the series. In their opening match, they lost in one of the most one-sided World Cup games in history to the West Indies, with their meagre total of 105 being chased down in just 13.4 overs. Then, they faced tournament favourite England, put up 348, and won by 14 runs. Since then they have lost two games and had one washed out, and find themselves at the tail end of the ladder. The victory against England was impressive but seemingly an anomaly, and as expected, Pakistan don't appear to have the talent to challenge for a position in the top half of the table.
South Africa were expected to be fighting with New Zealand for the fourth spot in the Final Four, but from the outset their tournament has been a disaster. They were belted by England on the opening night of the World Cup, and have since lost to Bangladesh, India and New Zealand. Their game against the West Indies was washed out, but even that hadn't started off particularly well, and their solitary victory came against the winless Afghanistan. For a team with such high expectations prior to the tournament and with plenty of talent in their squad, it has been a bitterly disappointing effort, and will go down as yet another failure on the biggest stage by South Africa.
Few expected Sri Lanka to compete for a spot in the Final Four at this tournament. Six games in, they have been one of the toughest to get a read on due to the fact that two of their games have been washed out, but up until their most recent clash it seemed like they might have been lucky to escape with a point each from those games. They were humiliated by New Zealand in their opening match, with their total of 136 chased down with ten wickets in hand and just 16.1 overs bowled, before defeating Afghanistan in far from convincing fashion. After a couple of washouts they were soundly beaten by the Australians, before they suddenly beat England by 20 runs in their most recent clash to completely flip their tournament on its head. On the whole they have looked like an unconvincing team, but the victory against England was a hugely impressive one.
The West Indies weren't particularly highly rated heading into the World Cup, but an incredible batting performance in a warm-up match gave them reason to believe they could be a sleeper. They thumped Pakistan in their opening match, but have unfortunately failed to translate their talent into any further victories. They lost close games against both Australia and New Zealand - the latter loss coming after Carlos Braithwaite nearly put in one of the great innings to chase down the Kiwis' 291 - but their bowling let them down against both Bangladesh and England. The tournament won't be a successful one, but they have demonstrated that there is reason to be hopeful for cricket in the West Indies again. For the first time in a long, long while, their team appears to be on the up.