Title defence is history. In order to salvage its reputation and confirm a Champions Trophy spot, Wednesday’s all-European clash between England and the Netherlands becomes a must-win affair for Jos Buttler and Co.
In fact, the Champions Trophy 2025 qualification - wherein the top eight teams from the World Cup league standings will participate - makes it an intense affair rather than a battle for the wooden spoon.
Ever since being annihilated by New Zealand in the tournament opener, never has England appeared to have a settled combination. From including four allrounders in the opener to going in without an allrounder midway through the tournament, England and its tactics have been bemusing, to say the least.
No wonder then that heading into the last week of the tournament, the defending champion is languishing at the bottom of the points tally. Should it defeat the Netherlands and Pakistan in its last two fixtures only then will it seal the Champions Trophy berth.
The Champions Trophy qualification will be the biggest motivating factor for a team that’s looked out of sorts in every department of the game.
For the Netherlands as well, making it to the Champions Trophy will be the biggest objective. With the Dutch army set to face India in the last league encounter over the weekend, Wednesday offers itself the best chance to make a strong case not just for itself but for the whole Association nations ecosystem.
After all, no team has featured in a Champions Trophy since 2004 and the Netherlands’ last appearance in the mini-World Cup was in 2002.
Captain Scott Edwards will be hoping for its top-order - which has been the biggest let-down - to come good against a lacklustre bowling unit.
If the Netherlands can get off to a good start, it can hope for an encore of its stunning win against South Africa last month.
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