Pakistan’s run in the CWC 2019 ends: was NRR unfair to Pakistan?

Pakistan went into their last stage match against Bangladesh (BD) at the home of cricket, Lords, on Friday. Despite having almost negligible chances to qualify for the semi final, Pakistan played positive cricket and ended the tournament on a high (Beating BD by 94 runs). On paper, Pakistan had to beat Bangladesh by 300+ runs to overcome the net run rate (NRR) deficit against New Zealand. As impossible as it sounded, all the Pakistani fans were hanging off the cliff by virtue of the mathematical calculation. Pakistan and New Zealand tied on the leaderboard with 11 points each with NZ progressing to the next round on the basis of the net run rate (0.175 vs -0.45).

Looking at the backend, Pakistan started off dismally in the tournament but made a comeback that won them commendation from nearly every critic. Out of the 9 scheduled matches, Pakistan lost only 3 of them and came back strong to win 4 consecutive matches. 1 match faced a washout (Pak vs SL) and regrettably cost valuable points to the team. The mortifying loss against West Indies dented the net run rate beyond repair and that is largely the reason that unfortunately barred Pakistan from going ahead to the semi finals. Pakistan could never catch up on the run rate after the loss and it was left on the total points scored to let Pakistan progress to the next round. Despite equal points on board, Pakistan still failed to go ahead as the NRR rule in the CWC dictated the qualifier in case of tied points.

Some analysts and fans criticised this NRR system across the world. It was considered flawed and unfair for the format of the game. New Zealand performed below par against the top teams compared to Pakistan and they were also defeated in the stage games by Pakistan. Therefore, it was being suggested that rather than NRR, a head-to-head system should have been implemented in case of tied points. Michael Holding, former WI cricketer, current commentator and analyst, was the first one to highlight the NRR rule.

“Pakistan should be in the semi-finals if they beat Bangladesh. NRR should be the last thing to consider. If points & wins are equal then the result between both teams should be the deciding factor. Since Pakistan beat New Zealand they should be in semi-finals,” said Holding.

Mickey Arthur, Pakistan’s head coach joined in the bandwagon and has asked ICC to reconsider the NRR rule for qualifiers after Pakistan won their match against BD last night.

“The best four teams qualified, but it feels nice that we beat two of them [England and New Zealand],” explained Arthur. “But if I’m honest, I would certainly have liked them to consider head-to-head because then tonight we’d be in the semi-final”.

This proposition looks fair when we go in detail and compare the world cup run of the two teams in question, Pakistan and New Zealand.



New Zealand







Wins against

Eng, SA,NZ, Afg, BD

SL, WI, SA, Afg, BD

Wins against top 6 sides


Eng, NZ, SA



Washout point

Against no.8 ranked team (SL) Against no.2 ranked team (Ind)
Head to head Won


A lot of critics have put forth the counter argument that every team was aware of the round robin format and the NRR rule before the start of the tournament, therefore the critique on the rule has been referred to mere whining.

But looking at the comparison, it does seem unfair. The scheduling of the matches put this rule under further scrutiny where NZ had 4 of their 6 initial matches against comparatively weaker sides; Afg, BD, SL and WI. Whereas, Pakistan didn’t face Afg or BD until their 7 matches. (Yes Pakistan were dismally folded against WI on 105, we know that) and if anyone is to put that into the argument, then again another flaw can be highlighted where just one bad game comes up to ruin the chances for the team for the entire tournament. ICC might want to look into the matter and may be consider better qualifying rules for upcoming tournaments.

Let us know about your thoughts on this. Do you support NRR rule or a head-to-head for such tournaments?

Image courtesy: Cricket blog

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