The 2019 Cricket World Cup in reverse

8 days in, and 10 matches:

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The home favourites prove that they deserve the hype: England started the tournament in dominant fashion. Jason Roy and Bairstow combine to overpower two of their main rivals for the trophy - India and New Zealand. There is a lot of cricket left to play but, with two dangerous teams out the way and a healthy run rate, England are in a good place

Pakistan are also on two wins versus un-fancied Bangladesh and minnows Afghanistan. Worryingly, they needed every over to chase down Afghanistan and they are likely to struggle when they meet stronger opposition later in the tournament

The other undefeated team, South Africa have started with a statement win against Australia. The batting line-up looked extremely strong even without AB de Villiers, who retired from International cricket last year. They set the Aussies a target of 325 with the vast majority of the runs coming from their new top order

Meanwhile New Zealand are off to a terrible start: two losses and the worst net run rate in the competition. The batsmen look hopelessly out of touch with only Tom Latham reaching 50 in the first two games

16 days in, 19 matches:

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Pakistan show no signs of slowing down. They are now the only undefeated team in the competition with two further wins, this time against much stronger opposition in New Zealand and South Africa. They are joined at the top by India who also have 4 wins and a single loss at the hands of mighty England

Both teams feature two seemingly invincible batsman in Babar Azam (311 runs from 4 matches) and Rohit Sharma (328 from 5 matches) and strong bowling attacks to limit opposition scoring

Suffering an injury to Jason Roy, England have faltered. A defeat to Australia is not a huge shock but most were surprised to see them all out chasing a modest total from Sri Lanka's batsmen. Lasith Malinga was the star with the ball whilst the considerably younger Avishka Fernando continued to make an impact in his debut World Cup. He has already scored 203 runs at a strike rate of 106, including 49 from 39 in the match against England

24 days in, 29 matches:

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If any team is set to disrupt the top four, it is South Africa. The top-six, especially Faf du Plessis, look strong and they are only two points behind Pakistan. They have yet to play England and India, however, so it's not going to be easy. New Zealand also have a chance, after a supreme Kane Williamson innings vanquished South Africa and they were lucky enough to score a washout against table-toppers India

Afghanistan look rooted to the bottom of the table, although West Indies have also looked poor so far. Perhaps the return of Andre Russell can help them to restrict the opposition rather than rely on big-hitters to stage unlikely (and ultimately unsuccessful) comebacks

Inexplicably, Fernando has now been dropped by the Sri Lankan team. Rumours abound

32 days in, 39 matches:

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The tournament is almost over and we still have the same top four. India, England, and Australia look safe as a top three. However, Pakistan have had a washout against Sri Lanka and that has allowed New Zealand to catch them on points. Unfortunately for the black caps, Pakistan only need a win against the West Indies and they are all but certain to make it through. Not even Kane Williamson return to form is likely to help New Zealand pass them on Net Run Rate

Mathematically, Sri Lanka and South Africa could qualify but they need other results to go their way. Sri Lanka need to beat New Zealand and hope that Pakistan lose. Meanwhile, South Africa can count themselves unlucky. After starting the tournament so well with a victory over Australia they have continued to perform well throughout the tournament. Sadly, as the third victim of a washout against un-fancied opposition (West Indies) they are now all but eliminated unless they can produce something special against England in the final match of the group stage.

The trend of teams dropping their young stars continues: this time Shaheen Afridi is the victim, despite 16 wickets in his first 5 games for Pakistan. Could they come to regret this?

Final week and the final six matches:

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Drama!

New Zealand put the pressure on, with a strong performance against Sri Lanka, and Pakistan couldn't cope. Colin Munro and Martin Guptill produced one of the partnerships of the tournament: 137 runs in just 16.1 overs. Exactly what the Kiwis needed to break into the top four…

But Pakistan still only needed to beat the West Indies, one of the weakest sides in the competition. Even a modest victory would have been enough to once again overtake New Zealand on NRR. Instead, they choked, failing to deal with a barrage of short balls delivered by the West Indies bowling unit. Dropping Shaheen Afridi still seems like madness but even he would not have helped, defending just 105 runs

India disappeared for a week after securing special treatment to allow them to rest up before the final stages. They now face a problem of plenty: Shikhar Dhawan hit a match winning century on his return from injury, but Rahul has multiple fifties in big games at the top, after kick starting the tournament with a ton, and he no longer looks as comfortable in the middle order

Australia complete the formalities against Afghanistan. England finish with a dominant performance against South Africa and rightly go into the semi-finals as the favourites to lift the trophy