England lost another Cricket World Cup match by a big margin Sunday, and its odds of making the quarterfinals are fading. Pakistan did the opposite, winning for the first time in three matches to improve its chances of reaching the final eight.
Nine days after losing to New Zealand by eight wickets, England returned to the same venue at Wellington and lost by nine wickets to Sri Lanka despite posting a challenging total of 309.
At Brisbane, Australia, Mohammad Irfan used his height to full effect to take four wickets as Pakistan defended a low total against Zimbabwe to get its tournament campaign back on track with a 20-run victory.
The only good news for England was Joe Root's 121 runs. But after embarrassing losses to Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka — with a win over second-tier Scotland sprinkled in — the English find themselves sixth of seven teams in Pool A.
They have two more matches to make amends and sneak into the top four of the group — against third-place Bangladesh and first-time World Cup entrants Afghanistan, currently fifth in the group.
For the Sri Lankans, who reached 312-1 in the 48th over of a comfortable chase, Lahiru Thirimanne was 139 not out and veteran Kumar Sangakkara was unbeaten on 117.
Thirimanne rated it one of his best innings, adding he was fortunate to have Sangakkara at the other end.
"At the moment I think he's No. 1," Thirimanne said of Sangakkara. "I mean, he is batting really well. Not only is he rotating the strike, but hitting the boundaries as well."
England captain Eion Morgan said "we certainly lost it with the ball."
"I thought we had enough runs," he said. "I was happy at halftime."
Zimbabwe was happy at the halfway mark in Brisbane, too, after restricting Pakistan to 235-7.
Pakistan's gamble to drop experienced batsman Younis Khan in favour of Rahat Ali to bolster the bowling attack paid off on the fast, bouncy wicket at the Gabba, after coming under question when the 1992 champions slipped to 4-2 after winning the toss and batting. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq went in at that stage and stuck around for 42 overs, scoring 73 runs before he was out trying to lift the run rate. Wahab Riaz was unbeaten on 54 after a late onslaught at the end.
The 2.16-meter (7-foot-1) Irfan had Zimbabwe reeling at 22-2 in reply, and returned in his second spell to snuff out a dangerous partnership, finishing with a career-best 4-30. Riaz chipped in with 4-45.
"The team fought really well — special credit goes to the bowlers," Misbah said. "Really started well, right from the start — kept the pressure up, kept taking wickets. That's the key."
Zimbabwe wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor said his team had been confident of reaching 236 but struggled against Irfan early, and senior batsmen didn't make the most of their starts.
"Credit to Misbah, he was the glue of their innings. He created partnerships — partnerships we didn't have," Taylor said. "That was the difference."
There will be an on off-day from competition on Monday, the first since the tournament began on Feb. 14. Play resumes with one match Tuesday at Canberra, Australia, where Ireland plays South Africa. Both teams have four points in Pool B.
The World Cup is set to be trimmed to 10 teams from its current 14 in 2019, when the eight top-ranked teams will automatically play along with two others from a qualifying tournament that will involve mostly Associate, or second-tier sides. That means teams such as the United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Afghanistan, and Ireland are not guaranteed of appearing in the tournament in four years.
After India's nine-wicket win over the UAE in Perth on Saturday, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the lower-ranked teams need to play against top teams, but said India is playing enough already.
"I don't see India playing any more games. I don't see even a few days off where we can play any more cricket than we play," Dhoni said. "It's a difficult one. Yes, the Associate nations, if they can get a few more games in a better scenario in good facilities, it will be good for them. But please, not India. India can't play any more games."