South Africa may have to win all of their remaining group-stage matches to earn a place in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals and Faf du Plessis' side face two tricky challenges this week.

The Proteas lost their first three games at this tournament, belatedly getting a point on the board with a washout against West Indies before picking up their first win thanks to a comfortable triumph over Afghanistan last week.

But things certainly do not get any easier for South Africa over the coming seven days, as they take on an unbeaten New Zealand and a mercurial Pakistan, who desperately need a win themselves following Sunday's resounding defeat to fierce rivals India.

Virat Kohli's side look the strongest all-round outfit in the competition and they should pick up another victory against Afghanistan, who also face hosts England in a tough week for the only team yet to claim a point.

 

FIXTURES

Monday 17 June:  West Indies v Bangladesh (Taunton) - 1030 BST start

Tuesday 18 June:  England v Afghanistan (Old Trafford) - 1030

Wednesday 19 June:  New Zealand v South Africa (Edgbaston) - 1030

Thursday 20 June:  Australia v Bangladesh (Trent Bridge) - 1030

Friday 21 June:  England v Sri Lanka (Headingley) - 1030

Saturday 22 June:  India v Afghanistan (the Rose Bowl) - 1030, West Indies v New Zealand (Old Trafford) - 1330

Sunday 23 June:  Pakistan v South Africa (Lord's) - 1030

 

THE WEEK'S BIG GAME

With over half their matches played and only three points to their name, South Africa can ill-afford any slip-ups. Their first assignment of the week comes against the Black Caps on Wednesday, in a repeat of the thrilling semi-final from four years ago that saw New Zealand squeeze through. If the Proteas can dish out a first defeat of the tournament to Kane Williamson's side, they will go into Sunday's clash against an erratic Pakistan with renewed hope of securing a top-four finish.

STANDINGS

1. Australia - 8pts from 5 games, Net Run Rate +0.812
2. New Zealand - 7pts from 4 games, NRR +2.163
3. India - 7pts from 4 games, NRR +1.029
4. England - 6pts from 4 games, NRR +1.557
5. Sri Lanka - 4pts from 5 games, NRR -1.778
6. West Indies - 3pts from 4 games, NRR +0.666
7. South Africa - 3pts from 5 games, NRR -0.208
8. Bangladesh - 3pts from 4 games, NRR -0.714
9. Pakistan - 3pts from 5 games, NRR -1.933
10. Afghanistan - 0pts from 4 games, NRR -1.638

 

LEADING RUN-SCORERS

1: Aaron Finch (Aus) - 343
2: Rohit Sharma (Ind) - 319
3: David Warner (Aus) - 281

 

LEADING WICKET-TAKERS

=1: Mohammad Amir (Pak), Mitchell Starc (Aus) - 13
2: Pat Cummins (Aus) - 11

The ICC will look into why Sri Lanka failed to fulfil post-match media duties after Saturday's Cricket World Cup loss to Australia.

Sri Lanka won the toss put Australia in to bat but Aaron Finch's explosive 153 fired his side to an imposing total of 334-7 at The Oval.

Mitchell Starc then took four wickets as Sri Lanka's initially strong start petered out into an 87-run loss that leaves them with a single victory from five matches.

And with their chances of qualification for the semi-finals now fading fast, Sri Lanka did not send any representatives to a post-match news conference.

An ICC spokesperson said the body will be "taking it up with them".

Sri Lanka are next in action against England at Headingley on Friday.

Australia captain Aaron Finch claimed his side could have passed 350 in a win against Sri Lanka that moved them top of the Cricket World Cup's group-stage table.

Opener Finch blasted 153, the joint-highest score of the World Cup so far, as well as equalling his own ODI record tally, as Australia racked up 334-7 at The Oval on Saturday.

And with Mitchell Starc in fine form, taking 4-55 including removing dangerous opener Kusal Perera for 52, Australia had their fourth win from five games as Sri Lanka fell short by 87 runs.

A semi-final spot is now in sight for Australia, with Finch's side next in action against Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

"It was nice to get a couple away early, it's key to my batting and if I'm getting drives away it's a good sign," said Finch after collecting his award for player of the match.

"It's a nice wicket, I've been working on getting my balance spot on from ball one. I've been out first ball a few times so it's key for me to do that.

"We lost some wickets when I was trying to take the game on, maybe a bit too much at times, but the first partnerships were key to getting our score.

"They bowled excellently, we could have got over 350, but they put the pressure on superbly at the end."

Steve Smith made 73 as the duo put on 173 for the third wicket to take the game away from Sri Lanka.

"He gets off strike so easily and scores boundaries so easily," Finch said of Smith. "He just hits the ball in the gap and it's a great skill early in the innings."

In response Sri Lanka were 115 without loss and seemingly on track to chase down a massive score but they were pegged back by Starc as well as Pat Cummins, who took 2-38, and Kane Richardson, whose 3-47 included the scalp of captain Dimuth Karunaratne.

"Finch and Smith batted well, but we came back strongly," said the Sri Lanka skipper, who made 97.

"We started well, but the middle order couldn't capitalise. They had to handle pressure and keep the momentum going.

"Starc and Cummins are world class, we knew what they could do, we had to keep a plan but we didn't.

"We lost couple of games to the rain, now we need to win a couple of games."

Sri Lanka's next game is against hosts England in Leeds on Friday.

Australia captain Aaron Finch smashed the joint-highest score of the 2019 Cricket World Cup before the competition's leading wicket-taker Mitchell Starc returned 4-55 in an 87-run victory over Sri Lanka at The Oval. 

Australia captain Aaron Finch smashed 153 against Sri Lanka at The Oval to record the joint-highest score of the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

Finch, who has also made the most runs in this tournament having accrued 343 in five innings, blasted five sixes and another 15 fours in a 132-ball knock as Australia piled on the runs.

The opener was eventually dismissed when he skied a slower ball from Isuru Udana straight into the air to give Dimuth Karunaratne a simple catch at cover.

That total meant the Australian emulated England opener Jason Roy's World Cup knock against Bangladesh one week ago, while Finch also equalled his own best ODI score having made an unbeaten 153 against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates in March.

Finch had put on 80 with David Warner (26) in their opening stand before he combined in a third-wicket partnership worth 173 alongside Steve Smith (73), with Australia moving beyond 300 in the 45th over.

Sri Lanka will hope to finally take the field for a third time at the Cricket World Cup, needing to spring a surprise against holders Australia to bolster their chances of progressing to the semi-finals.

Dimuth Karunaratne's men have completed just two of their four scheduled matches, having to settle for a share of the spoils after games with Pakistan and Bangladesh were abandoned without a ball bowled due to rain.

Robbed of those opportunities to gain momentum, they now face the daunting task of taking on Australia, who have garnered six points from their first four contests.

A Sri Lanka win at The Oval would move them level with the defending champions but the omens are not good. Sri Lanka have won just two of the nine World Cup matches between the sides.

Australia also won the last ODI series these teams contested, claiming a 4-1 triumph in Sri Lanka back in 2016.

Marcus Stoinis will again be missing from the Australia attack with a side strain, while Sri Lanka fast bowler Nuwan Pradeep has recovered from a dislocated and cut finger on his bowling hand.

Pradeep took 4-31 in Sri Lanka's sole win over Afghanistan and they will hope for a similar impact at The Oval, where Australia have lost their past four completed ODIs – including against India last Sunday.

TOURNAMENT SO FAR

After bouncing back from a 10-wicket defeat to New Zealand in their opener with a 34-run victory over Afghanistan, Sri Lanka have seen their top-four hopes dented by the weather.

Australia started by easing past Afghanistan and holding on for a 15-run win over West Indies. They were comfortably second best in a 36-run loss to India and were not overly convincing as they got back to winning ways against Pakistan at Taunton.

WHAT THEY SAID

Sri Lanka captain Karunaratne: "Australia have a really good bowling line-up and top order with bat in hand. We need to take early wickets and have to get through the early overs with the bat, that will be the crucial part."

Australia skipper Aaron Finch: "I don't think we've gone anywhere near our best, which is still a good thing; that we've got six points on the board while not playing anywhere near our best cricket."

OPTA FACTS

- Finch and David Warner have put on 2,444 ODI runs together as a partnership (52 innings, averaging 47). They compiled 146 runs together against Pakistan last time out, a sixth century partnership for the duo in ODIs.

- Lasith Malinga needs four more wickets to become the fourth bowler to reach 50 scalps in World Cups, after Glenn McGrath (71), Muttiah Muralitharan (68) and Wasim Akram (55).

- A five wicket-haul for Mitchell Starc (31 wickets) would see him leapfrog Shane Warne (32), Shaun Tait (34), Brad Hogg (34) and Brett Lee (35) as Australia's second highest wicket taker in World Cup history, behind only McGrath (71).

Newcastle Knights chief executive Philip Gardner has hit out over an "inappropriate" approach for Kalyn Ponga after Michael Cheika reportedly contacted the full-back over a potential code switch.

Ponga has two and half years left on his contract with the Knights, but the Queensland Maroons star is in demand.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has made no secret of his admiration of the Australia-born 21-year-old, who made his New Zealand Maori debut this year.

Wallabies boss Cheika is said to have been in touch with Ponga in a bid to lure him to rugby union, leaving Gardner distinctly unimpressed.

"It's not surprising that rugby union have identified Kalyn as a talent they wish to get their hands on," Gardner said.

"What does come as a surprise is that an official from their code would personally phone our talent despite the fact he has several seasons left to run on his contract.

"It is inappropriate for any contact to be made from rugby union – or anyone else for that matter – and it is extremely disappointing.

"The reality is Kalyn is under contract for another two and a half years with the option for a third year.

"Kalyn is a superb talent and quality person. He is a player we see being part of the Knights fabric for years to come. I can assure not only Knights supporters, but fans of the game, we will be doing everything in our power to sign Kalyn long-term when the time is right."

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg also spoke out over the interest in Ponga.

"Kalyn is a wonderful talent and a fine ambassador for rugby league and the Knights, and it is not surprising that there would be interest in him at the appropriate time." Greenberg said.

"The nature of this interest is certainly unorthodox. Kalyn has a significant period remaining on his contract and it would be disappointing to see any contact made to any player under these circumstances."

Australia will play at the 2020 Copa America after accepting an invitation from CONMEBOL.

The Socceroos are set to feature during next year's tournament in Argentina and Colombia, Football Federation Australia (FFA) confirmed on Friday.

The 2019 Copa America, which kicks off in Brazil on Friday, includes guests Japan and Qatar and Australia will follow suit for the first time in 12 months.

"The Copa America is a highlight of the football calendar and we can't wait to get there," said Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold.

"We crave these opportunities as players and coaches. The experience we will gain from playing in this tournament will be incredible and I know by speaking to our players, they are equally excited about being part of one of the world's most prestigious football tournaments.

"Our planning for the FIFA World Cup Qatar has already started. We are building depth amongst our playing group, as evidenced by our performance in Korea Republic last week and playing in this tournament provides another layer of incentive for our players to put themselves up for selection for the national team.

"It will be a big couple of months as we start June next year with World Cup qualifiers and then head straight to the Copa America."

Australia – whose Asian Cup defence came to an end in the quarter-finals in January – faced South American nation Peru during last year's World Cup in Russia.

Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Jamaica, Haiti and Qatar have all accepted invitations in the past.

FFA chairman Chris Nikou added: "We are ecstatic that our Caltex Socceroos will be participating in this prestigious competition for the first time in our history.

"We have been working hard over the last six months to improve our international relationships. This week we held fruitful final discussions with our colleagues at CONMEBOL in Paris and we are delighted we have been able to accept this invitation."

Barbadian-born Jofra Archer wouldn't make the West Indies Cricket World Cup squad, according to Windies skipper Jason Holder.

Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani re-signed with Rugby Australia (RA) and the Brumbies, extending his deal until the end of 2020.

Kuridrani, a veteran of 58 Tests, last featured for Australia in late 2017, having suffered a pectoral injury in 2018.

The 28-year-old signed a one-year extension with RA and the Brumbies, who are top of the Australian Conference in Super Rugby.

"I am very pleased to have signed this extension to my current contract. Canberra has been my home for a long time now and I love playing for the club in front of our fans who have always been very good to me," Kuridrani said.

"It's a good group of players and staff here and we are like one big family. Canberra is a beautiful place to live and I and am looking forward to making some more happy memories with both the Brumbies and the Wallabies."

The Fiji-born Kuridrani made his Super Rugby debut in 2012 and has gone on to feature 119 times for the Brumbies.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika praised Kuridrani's form ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

"Tevita has been in strong form so far this season and I'm pleased he's staying in Canberra with the Brumbies after the World Cup," he said.

"He got the chance to get a full preparation this year and it's showing. I know he's very hungry to earn a Test jersey again this season so I am looking forward to him being at his best in 2019."

England captain Eoin Morgan insists Jofra Archer is ready to face familiar faces of the West Indies.

At the 1992 Cricket World Cup, Pakistan produced an impressive and unlikely turnaround in their fortune to secure glory.

Imran Khan's cornered tigers played more like kittens when bowled out by England for 74 in Adelaide, only to be saved by rain. Defeats to India and South Africa followed, leaving a team minus key bowler Waqar Younis through injury and led by a patched-up captain on life support.

However, the resuscitation began with a 48-run triumph over Australia at the WACA, signalling the start of a five-match winning streak that climaxed with the final in Melbourne. From seemingly certain to miss out on the knockout stages, they rallied to be crowned champions.

This year's edition of the tournament has reverted to a similar structure to the one used 27 years ago - and, once again, Pakistan find themselves in a precarious situation.

Wednesday's 41-run defeat to Australia leaves Sarfraz Ahmed's struggling side sitting on three points after four games. Their top-four hopes are not yet over, but Pakistan missed a glorious opportunity at Taunton, particularly after their last match - against Sri Lanka - was washed out.

Make that several opportunities actually, as catches went down in the field and promising partnerships in their run chase were curtailed by poor shot selection. This was a game where Pakistan once again showed their Jekyll-and-Hyde nature when the situation called for consistency and control.

They won the toss and bowled first in seam-friendly conditions yet had to wait until the start of the 23rd over to get a breakthrough. The recalled Shaheen Afridi was too often off target and while both Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz had their moments, Australia's openers managed to put on a partnership worth 146.

Amir eventually made the breakthrough, picking up the first of his five wickets as Pakistan improved considerably in the second half of the innings, bowling their opponents out for 307 with an over to spare.

After Fakhar Zaman fell early in the reply, the rest of the top five all made starts only to perish in frustrating fashion. Babar Azam (30) looked in glorious touch before falling into Kane Richardson's short-ball trap, Mohammad Hafeez (46) only found a fielder with a full toss from Aaron Finch and Imam-ul-Haq (53) gloved what would have been a wide through to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.

Sarfraz revived a flagging chase with the aid of some lusty blows from the lower order – Hasan Ali made 32 from just 15 deliveries, while Wahab once again relished a battle against Australia, making 45 – but the innings was summed up by the final wicket, the skipper run out by Glenn Maxwell's direct hit at the non-striker's end following confusion over a single.

"We conceded too many runs first 20 overs, except for Amir the other bowlers did not bowl well, 270-80 was par," Sarfraz said at the presentation ceremony, before going on to confirm they were not much better with the bat.

"If we want to win, the fop four have to make runs. Imam made fifty, Babar made 30, but the top four must score runs."

The talismanic Imran found a way to bring his troops together in '92 and Sarfraz must oversee a similar recovery, starting with Sunday's huge clash against India at Old Trafford.

Their rivals will relish the opportunity to push Pakistan closer to the exit door in a campaign that, bar a stunning and unexpected win over hosts England, has yet to suggest they have what it takes to be crowned champions again.

Australia captain Aaron Finch was relieved his side survived a Pakistan revival at Taunton.

A gripping match saw Australia put 307 on the board before bowling Pakistan out for 266, but until the late stages the contest was firmly in the balance.

And that was reflected in Finch's verdict as he acknowledged some big hitting down the order from Pakistan had given his bowlers a headache.

Pakistan looked to be sinking at 160-6 but it was a different story at 264-7 after Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz and captain Sarfraz Ahmed led a big-hitting rearguard action.

Mitchell Starc made a key double breakthrough at that stage though, firstly when Australia used a DRS review to show Riaz nicked a delivery through to Alex Carey, and then when bowling Mohammad Amir for a duck.

Glenn Maxwell threw down the stumps to run out Sarfraz and win the match, with Australia thankful they avoided another defeat after losing to India last time out.

Finch agreed Pakistan had put his players under pressure, saying: "They certainly did. It's always tough when you've got guys like Hasan and Wahab coming out and swinging.

"When they start to get on a roll it can be tough to stop. We just had to bowl our best ball, whether that was a length ball or whether it was a yorker. You had to commit to that ball 100 per cent. We saw that if your execution is slightly off on a small ground like this you go for six.

"We didn't bat out 50 overs, which was really disappointing. When you go in with the extra batter you stack the batters to do that job.

"We probably tried to go a little bit too hard too early and ended up probably 20-30 runs short."

Sarfraz said his bowlers came back well after disappointing opening spells allowed Australia to start well, with David Warner going on to make 107 and Finch 82.

"We conceded too many runs in the first 20 overs. Except for Amir the other bowlers did not bowl really well," Sarfraz said at the post-match presentation.

Amir took 5-30 but had little support, while Pakistan were left to lament a number of batsmen failing to convert reasonable starts into big innings.

"If we want to win, the top four have to make runs," Sarfraz said.

Pakistan face India next, and already face a battle to stay in semi-final contention.

A win over India would lift spirits and Sarfraz said: "We will try our level best."

Man of the match Warner admitted Australia should have gone on to reach 340 or 350 after their strong start.

"Credit to the way Pakistan bowled," Warner said. "Their second spells were fantastic. They hit their lines and lengths and made it hard for us. They bowled very straight lines to me and gave me no width."

Assessing the tense finish, he added: "It was probably a lot closer than we expected but I thought it was a great game."

David Warner dazzled with the bat before Australia rode their luck in a gripping match to beat Pakistan at Taunton.

The opener made a fine 107 from 111 balls to help Australia lay the platform for a 41-run victory, which meant a sparkling 5-30 performance from Pakistan paceman Mohammad Amir went unrewarded.

Warner's dismissal came in the early stages of an Australian collapse, as they slumped from 189-1 to 307 all out, and Pakistan also displayed a self-destructive streak in the Somerset gloom.

A middle-order collapse saw Pakistan 160-6, but their tail showed plenty of gumption. They had Australia worried until Mitchell Starc took two wickets in three balls and Glenn Maxwell ran out Sarfraz Ahmed to kill the contest, Pakistan all out for 266.

Australia captain Aaron Finch was dropped on 26 by Asif Ali off Wahab Riaz, and by going on to reach 82 he made Pakistan pay. Finch was eventually caught off Amir, aiming to hoist over midwicket but instead thrashing the ball high into the off side, with Mohammad Hafeez taking the catch.

Steve Smith and Maxwell went cheaply before Warner perished, mistiming an intended blow straight down the ground to be caught by Imam-ul-Haq, dashing in from the boundary to deep point.

Australia were still well placed at 242-4 in the 38th over, but a combination of rash lower-order batting and the admirable guile of Amir meant the innings ended with a whimper.

Pakistan lost Fakhar Zaman to a third-ball duck, slashing at Pat Cummins and caught at third man by Kane Richardson.

They rebuilt well, with Imam sharing in partnerships of 54 for the second wicket with Babar Azam and then 80 for the third wicket with Hafeez.

A clatter of four wickets in five overs had Pakistan flailing at 160-6, Cummins taking 3-33 in his 10 overs, and at that point it was hard to see past a crushing Australia win.

Yet Hasan Ali thrashed three sixes in a 15-ball 32 that showed Pakistan were not finished, and Wahab Riaz plundered 45 before a DRS review showed he feathered Starc through to Alex Carey.

Starc bowled Amir before Maxwell finished off the job, and Australia, rattled just minutes earlier, could enjoy the victory moment.

What does it mean? 

If this is all these two teams have, only the most optimistic supporter would predict they will win this tournament. Australia folded as a batting unit after Finch and Warner showed how the Pakistan attack could be unpicked, and with the ball they looked to be lacking ideas in the closing stages. Pakistan came rattling back into a match that looked lost, as they gorged on bowling ripe to be attacked. It made for an entertaining spectacle but both sides left room for improvement.

This is not a vintage Australia team

Bowling is a problem for Australia and captain Aaron Finch admitted in a post-match interview his attack needed to back themselves more in the closing stages. This was a match that almost swung out of Australia's grasp and into the hands of Pakistan, and even if Australia reach the semi-finals, as they well may, there look to be stronger sides in this World Cup.

Aaron Finch will expect Australia to respond like champions when they face Pakistan in what could be a shortened Cricket World Cup match on Wednesday.

India ended the world champions' 10-match winning ODI run with a 35-run victory at The Oval on Sunday.

Australia will be without Marcus Stoinis (side strain) when they look to hit back against the ICC Champions Cup holders at Taunton.

Pakistan were left frustrated when their match against Sri Lanka last Friday was washed out after defeating favourites and hosts England at Trent Bridge.

A brilliant performance in Nottingham last Monday halted an 11-match losing streak and gave another demonstration that Pakistan are a major threat, despite enduring such a poor run heading into the tournament. 

With showers forecast after a dry and cloudy start, it appears unlikely a full match will be possible.

 

TOURNAMENT SO FAR

Australia eased to a seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan and beat West Indies by 15 runs before coming unstuck against India, making 316 all out in reply to 352-5 in a run-fest at The Oval.

Pakistan started with an embarrassing seven-wicket thumping at the hands of the Windies after being dismissed for only 105, but beat favourites England by 14 runs. They were unable to follow that up with a victory over Sri Lanka, as no play was possible in Bristol last Friday due to rain.


WHAT THEY SAID

Australia captain Finch: "I think Pakistan are obviously a very dangerous side. We've seen consistently throughout, especially ICC tournaments, that they win a lot of games and they get themselves in a position to win the tournament. And they had a great Champions Trophy. So regardless of what kind of form Pakistan go in with, they're always incredibly dangerous."

Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed: "Our morale is very high, we have momentum. So hopefully we'll do very well against them tomorrow. We can't control the weather, but definitely if the match is shortened, the plan changes."


OPTA FACTS

- Australia have won 14 of their last 15 ODI clashes with Pakistan, including their last eight in a row and most recently a 5-0 series whitewash in the United Arab Emirates.

- Steve Smith has reached 50 in seven of his last eight Cricket World Cup matches.

- Pakistan and Australia have met four times before in World Cup matches in England, winning two apiece.

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