The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup begins at The Oval on May 30 with hosts England facing South Africa. Adopting the 50-over one-day format, 10 teams will battle it out over the course of six weeks to determine who will be world champions.
Australia are the holders after beating co-hosts New Zealand in the 2015 final. But this tournament is significantly different with just 10 teams taking part rather than 14.
Instead of two groups of seven, all 10 teams will play each other once in the round-robin phase. The top four go through to the semi-finals with the winners contesting the final at Lord’s on July 14.
Can England Finally Triumph?
England are favourites to claim a long-awaited first world title, and home advantage really is an advantage with visiting batters often struggling to deal with the swinging ball.
Captained by Eoin Morgan, England have a consistent squad which currently heads the ODI world rankings. In Jos Buttler they have one of the most destructive hitters in world cricket while Adil Rashid is a matchwinning leg-spinner. And Ben Stokes is capable of turning any match with bat or ball.
Counting against them is a dismal history in the competition. When England last staged the event in 1999, they crashed out in the pool stages with Zimbabwe qualifying at their expense. Four years ago, defeat to Bangladesh saw them again fail to make the knockout phase.
The early departure of the hosts is a killer for crowds and TV audiences, and the new format guarantees England play at least nine times. But the move has hurt less established cricketing nations. The top eight in the world rankings qualified automatically with Afghanistan and West Indies coming through the World Cup qualifier played last March in Zimbabwe.
England have been runners-up three times in 11 previous tournaments. Morgan is a cool captain assisted by Test skipper Joe Root. However, the loss of Alex Hales after his positive drugs test is a blow with the fall-out likely to reflect poorly on all parties.
The recently-qualified Jofra Archer could add pizzazz to what is a slightly samey attack. He gets a chance to earn a spot in the final 15-man squad, although he could end up replacing England’s one genuine quick Mark Wood whose ankle is causing concern.
Can they deliver with the pressure on? How would they react after an opening defeat? All things considered, England are unbackable even at a best price of 5/2 with Royal Panda.
The Other Contenders
On paper, India have the most exciting ODI outfit in world cricket. Virat Kohli is the game’s top batsman, and Jasprit Bumrah showed last summer just how dangerous he can be in English conditions. It’s hard to argue with Michael Vaughan’s assessment of him as “the best all-round seamer across all formats and conditions right now”.
There are 11 survivors from the squad which reached the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy in England. The biggest change is in the spin department which comprises leggie Yuzvendra Chahal and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav. Both are in the top 10 of the ODI rankings headed by Bumrah.
Despite his advancing years, MS Dhoni remains a force to be reckoned with while openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan are prolific runscorers. Even the pace support for Bumrah is more than adequate with Bhuvneshwar Kumar excelling in the Champions Trophy.
Personally, I would make India favourites but 3/1 with Unibet is too short for me. Especially when you can make a case for any of the top six in the betting.
Previous Cricket World Cup winners
Only a fool would write off Australia and a 3-2 home series win over India has boosted confidence. The return of David Warner, who has plundered runs in the IPL, and Steve Smith after ‘Sandpapergate’ adds further strength.
Usman Khawaja was named Man of the Series against India but there are huge doubts over the batting in these conditions. They were thrashed 5-0 by England at the start of last summer as Tim Paine assumed temporary charge. Aaron Finch has steadied the ship, but the 4/1 available with bet365 looks prohibitive.
New Zealand and South Africa are both available at double figures. The Black Caps rarely fail to give a good account of themselves but a thumping 4-1 home series defeat to India over the winter suggests Kane Williamson and his men might struggle. On the other hand, I make South Africa lively challengers.
Pakistan can never be underestimated and they won the 2017 Champions Trophy in England. But key bowler Mohammad Amir was omitted from their provisional 15-man squad and needs to impress in this month’s five-match series against England to earn a reprieve. WIthout him, the Pakistani pace attack lacks experience with the 14/1 from bet365 not overly tempting.
Chris Gayle is back for one last hurrah for the West Indies with Shimron Hetmyer a star in the making. Andre Russell’s all-round excellence has been on show at the IPL while the pace attack shows promise. However, they look two or three high-quality players short of being genuine contenders and their price of 18/1 with Ladbrokes makes little appeal. Plus you can expect Afghanistan to give them plenty of problems.
Sri Lanka’s recent form has been woeful. They were thumped 5-0 in South Africa after a 3-0 series defeat in New Zealand. That followed a 3-1 home series defeat at the hands of England. Test captain Dimuth Karunaratne replaced Lasith Malinga after the South Africa whitewash making him the country’s fourth one-day skipper in less than a year. Karunaratne last played in an ODI at the 2015 World Cup. For a team in disarray, even odds of 50/1 with Ladbrokes seem short.
Bangladesh and Afghanistan complete the field. In Rashid Khan, Afghanistan have the best all-rounder in ODI cricket. The 20-year-old could turn the ball on glass, both ways, and he is currently third in the bowling rankings.
Fellow spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman Zadran took 4-43, including Gayle, as they beat the West Indies in the final of the World Cup qualifier. While the Afghans won’t reach the knockout stages, as suggested by their outright odds of 100/1, they will certainly fancy their chances against the Windies and Bangladesh.
Having dumped out England in 2015, Bangladesh will be seeking another upset here. Vice-captain Shakib Al Hasan is number two in the all-rounder rankings and Tamim Iqbal remains a destructive batter. In saying that, they were well beaten in all three of their recent one-dayers against New Zealand and, like Afghanistan, a couple of wins in the group phase is probably the best the 100/1 joint-outsiders can hope for.
Cricket World Cup Recommended Bets
Boasting the most dangerous attack in the World Cup, South Africa can go a long way. Kagiso Rabada has bowled superbly in the IPL and performed well on previous trips to England, while the old stager Dale Steyn has lost little of his menace.
Also look out for 23-year-old paceman Lungi Ngidi who took 4-51 against India last February before excelling in the IPL. Injury ruled him out of this year’s competition but he will be fresh for the World Cup.
Add leg-spinner Imran Tahir, currently one place above Rabada at four in the world rankings, and you have one serious bowling line-up. The batting is also strong, despite AB de Villiers’ retirement, with captain Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock both in the top five of the rankings. Hashim Amla is steady at the top while David Miller supplies the fireworks in the middle-order.
In January, they beat Pakistan 3-2 at home before marmalising Sri Lanka 5-0 in March. The Oval should favour the Proteas quicks and the 7/4 with the best bookies about them beating England in the opening match is massive.
Against South Africa is their World Cup record. The ‘chokers’ tag has followed them since the 1999 semi-finals when Allan Donald and Lance Klusener’s brain-fart with the scores tied sent Australia through. This came after Australia stayed alive in the Super Six with skipper Steve Waugh telling Herschelle Gibbs, “You just dropped the World Cup.”
Australia accounted for them again in the 2007 semis, but they should have beaten New Zealand in the last four in 2015. After a couple of missed run outs, Grant Elliott launched Steyn for six off the penultimate ball to send Auckland wild.
Perhaps this is the year South Africa get it right. The pressure is off to some extent and coach Ottis Gibson knows one-day cricket in England as well as anyone. At 10/1 with bet365, who go half the odds each-way the first two, they look the value pick.