And so the semi-finals are set: England vs. Pakistan and India vs. Bangladesh. The smart money would be on an England vs. India final at the Oval next Sunday, but that same smart money was probably on Australia, New Zealand and South Africa qualifying for the semi-finals so really it’s all up in the air at this point. Which is fine. Cricket can be so predictable some times, and the unpredictability of this tournament has been a real joy. Sure, a lot of that uncertainty was caused by the weather, and yeah today’s match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan was really the only close match (and it was only close because teams were so deeply flawed) but I am able to look past that. We could have yawned and watched Australia storm through their group but instead we got rain and a fine England performance. I’ll take it.
Another interesting note is that there are three Asian teams in the semi-finals. The first time that’s ever happened in a major tournament since the 2011 World Cup (Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan) and the first time it’s ever happened outside of Asia. And of the semi-finalists, only India has won this particular tournament (2013) when they beat England by five runs in Birmingham. The final note of interest regarding the four squads in the knockouts is that this is Bangladesh’s first semi-final ever. Ever. If that doesn’t speak to the uniqueness of this tournament than nothing will.
It’s a shame that many pundits will tut-tut this trophy because of all the rain affected results, but I have said before, and will say again, rain is part of the game. It always has been, it always will be. It affects not just home many overs teams are able to play but how the pitch behaves after it rains, or teams hurrying up to get their overs in before the cloud bank over the terraces reaches them, or teams slowing up and praying for that same cloud bank to roll in and dump buckets. It’s another subplot in a game we love because of its subplots. And while I understand why Australian fans would feel justifiably aggrieved that their side is going home early, the rain wasn’t the reason their bowlers couldn’t silence the English batsmen who were playing a dead rubber, and the rain isn’t why Kane Williamson got run out three times which sent New Zealand packing, and the rain didn’t make South Africa do this:
South Africa run out from Champions trophy
— Diplomatic Doctor © (@psycho_sif) June 11, 2017
So quit blaming the rain. That totally didn’t work for Milli Vanilli, and it doesn’t apply here either. The big teams in this tournament had their chances and flubbed their lines, while the teams that moved on won the matches they needed to. That’s the difference. Not the rain.
That said, the forecast for the final is still holding at 80 degrees F and dry. Fingers crossed.
It’s going to be odd tomorrow to not have a game to follow, with the first semi-final not being until Wednesday when Pakistan play England in Wales. The Welsh ground has provided the most entertaining matches so far, and I am betting that it won’t disappoint. But as mentioned above, this isn’t the kind of tournament where you want to be betting on anything. Part of me wants to see an England win so the home side gets the chance to play in the final in their backyard, but I have also always had a soft spot Pakistan and how they never fail to entertain, win or lose. And the same is true for the second semi-final on Thursday. I adore India and admire their passion for the game but gosh it would be something to see Bangladesh pull off a shocker. I guess what I am trying to say is that I’ll be happy no matter who wins, and that’s a nice spot to be in for a neutral.