Who will make the Champions Trophy semi-finals?

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    As Australia prepare to take on England for their must-win match today, let’s look at the permutations and combinations for the teams.

    Which four teams will make it to the semi-finals next week? Australia is in Group A with England, New Zealand and Bangladesh. South Africa, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are in Group B.

    It’s puzzling. After nine days of rivalries in Groups A and B, only England has qualified. But none of the other teams is out of the competition as I write this on Friday.

    Rain affected Australia in different ways. They were lucky to escape defeat against New Zealand but were unlucky not to beat Bangladesh. So call it even Stevens.

    Group A
    A win over England will put Australia straight into the semi-finals. Bangladesh’s victory over New Zealand last night means they will make it in should Australia stumble.

    Group B
    What a topsy-turvy turn around for the teams in Group B so far! Look at this: India beat Pakistan who beat South Africa who had earlier beaten Sri Lanka who defeated India. A full cycle.

    All four teams have won one match and lost one with India having the highest Net Run Rate (NRR) of +1.272 and South Africa second with +1.000. Sri Lanka is slightly ahead of Pakistan but both have negative NRRs.

    But the way Sri Lanka chased India’s massive total of 6-321, they stand a fair chance in case they beat Pakistan on Monday and South Africa or India lose by a big margin in their match on Sunday.

    The India-Sri Lanka match on Thursday was fascinating with a surprise ending. Indian batsmen excelled to total 6-321 after their openers Shikhar Dhawan (125 from 128 balls with 15 fours and a six) and Rohit Sharma (78 off 79 balls with 6 fours and three sixes) put on 138 runs in 24.5 overs.

    Then MS Dhoni smashed 63 runs off 52 balls with seven fours and two sixes.

    When Sri Lanka lost their first wicket at 11, a big win for India appeared likely. Then Kusal Mendis joined left-handed master hitter Danushka Gunathilaka and put on 159 magnificent runs in 23.1 overs.

    Mendis smacked 89 runs off 93 balls with 11 crisp fours and Gunathilaka 76 off 72 deliveries belting 7 fours and 2 sixes. Both were run out through brilliant throws by the Indians.

    The match was in balance then but intelligent batting by skipper Angelo Mathews (unbeaten 52 off 45 balls with six fours) and Kusal Perera (47 retired hurt in 44 balls with five fours) took Sri Lanka to a memorable victory.

    The gallant Lankans won by seven wickets with eight balls remaining and Mendis named man of the match.

    A win target of 322 runs is their joint largest in ODIs. They had chased down the same target against England at Headingley in 2006. In winning this match, Sri Lanka also completed their ninth successful 300-plus chase away from home, a record. India is second with eight.

    After the match an elated skipper Angelo Matthews said:

    “It’s one of the top wins, to beat India. It was a fantastic wicket. The bowlers did brilliantly to restrict India to 321. It’s a very chaseable target. I tried to hit as many balls in the nets as possible, it makes you feel good and that helped me come back from injury.

    “Wasn’t easy for Gunathilaka to walk into the side and bat like how he did. Kusal [Mendis] is a great player and Kusal Perera also batted really well. Those partnerships were crucial. It’s a must-win game for all of us in the group.

    “Not many people expected us to win and that took a lot of pressure off us. Turning point? I thought the second-wicket partnership. They set us the platform.”

    Now let me be a Nostradamus and predict the semi-finalists. England will meet South Africa or Sri Lanka in one semi-final. And Australia will lock horns with India as Steve Smith and Virat Kohli resume their verbal rivalry.

    Kersi Meher-Homji
    Kersi Meher-Homji

    Kersi is an author of 13 cricket books including The Waugh Twins, Cricket's Great All-rounders,Six Appeal and Nervous Nineties. He writes regularly for Inside Cricket and other publications. He has recently finished his new book on Cricket's Conflicts and Controversies, with a foreword by Greg Chappell.