Every four years, the Cricket World Cup takes place, but this year, thing’s are going to be different. The last World Cup was in Australia & New Zealand while this one will be all the way across the world at the home of cricket, England. The last World Cup had fourteen teams, this World Cup has ten teams. It seems that this World Cup should be even more exciting and dramatic as the format makes everything more competitive. Rather than the teams being divided into pools of two group, every team plays each other before the knockout stages.
For the next three days, we’ll be previewing all ten teams here at Fourth Quarter Sports starting with the hosts England, their rivals and last World Cup’s winners Australia and England’s opening opponent South Africa. All three of these sides are in form as of late, but two of them have unfortunate World Cup records. Will anything change for England or South Africa and can Australia fight to retain their title?
Last World Cup: Knocked out by Bangladesh in group stages. This wasn’t entirely a surprise as after the 1992 World Cup Finals, in which Graham Gooch’s England side lost to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan, England’s morale in World Cups have been rather dismal. Since ’92, the English haven’t been able to cross the quarter-finals, failing to qualify for the knockout stages on three occasions. England will be hoping to rewrite history, praying that their recent form from their 4-0 series win over Pakistan and having home advantage will work in their favor.
World Cup best: Runners up, three times. All 1992 and prior with the first being in the World Cup’s second edition in 1975, in which the West Indies lifted their second and their last title. Then again in 1987 in the subcontinent where Australia lifted their first of five titles. It’s about time England get their name written on the trophy and there’s no better chance than this year.
Strong point: Fearless batting. England’s batting lineup seems never-ending as we witnessed in the series against Pakistan. Everyone from Jason Roy at the top of the order to Adil Rashid at no. ten found runs, contributing to England’s large totals. Also, England’s surprisingly flat, batting pitches will only make opponents’ bowling sides fear them more.
Weak point: Fearless batting. Nope, that’s not a typo. Sometimes, England’s batsmen can get carried away, throwing away the match by losing unnecesary wickets. They also have a similar issue in test cricket of batting collapses which cost them the Ashes and a series against the West Indies. In One-Day (ODI) cricket, England’s openers don’t pose any worry, but rather the middle order. Moeen Ali has been low on runs and Ben Stokes is still trying to find form. But on days where England’s batting doesn’t falter, a win can feel almost guaranteed for the Lions.
Player to watch: He’s new into the side, has played only three ODIs, but he’s quick and he swings the ball: Jofra Archer. He’s taken five wickets in ODIs, but his domestic stats are even more impressive. In domestic One-Day matches, Archer has taken 24 wickets in 17 matches at an average of 31.37 and a blissful economy of 5.23.
Prediction: England’s going to go all the way to win their maiden World Cup title.
Last World Cup: Australia didn’t just win that World Cup, they won their fifth title, the most by any side. Back then, their strength in fast bowling with the likes of Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc in their teams won them the Cup but this year, Australia will rely on their batting.
World Cup best: Champions in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015. The era of Shane Warne and Ricky Ponting was the best ODI cricket’s ever seen. Although after the bans of Steve Smith and David Warner left Australia in a poor state, Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch have led the Kangaroos in back-to-back series wins against India and Pakistan, and Smith and Warner are set to return for the World Cup.
Strong point: The top order batting can win matches for the Aussies. Since Smith’s and Warner’s bans, Khawaja has risen to the occasion with three half-centuries against Pakistan and two centuries against India. Captain Finch also had two half-centuries and a century against Pakistan. Also, since his return, Smith has scores of 89* and 91* against New Zealand XI. There is a concern for Khawaja, however, as in a practice match on May 22 against the West Indies, Khawaja was struck on the head by a bouncer from Andre Russell and was taken to the hospital.
Weak point: In modern ODI cricket, spinners win matches. But Australia doesn’t have convincing spinners in their side, at least not in ODI cricket. Nathan Lyon’s good, but he’s weaker in limited-overs cricket compared to the test game. Compared to England’s Adil Rashid or Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, Lyon nor Adam Zampa are good wicket-taking options as Lyon averages 1.05 wickets and Zampa averages 1.36 wickets per inning.
Player to watch: This could be one hell of a summer for Finch. He bats quickly in the powerplay and him, along with Warner, could be a feared partnership. It’s likely that Australia’s batting will be key this time around as the pitches don’t have much in them for the fast bowlers.
Prediction: Semi-finalists. Australia’s batting will take them to a top-four spot but other teams look too established, firm and strong for a Finals’ spot.
Last World Cup: Oh dear South Africa. Just like England, they have failed to win a World Cup but unlike England, the Proteas have actually come close in recent history. In the last World Cup, South Africa, led by AB De Villiers, had powered their way to the semi-finals, only to lose in the last over to the hands of New Zealand.
World Cup best: South Africa have played in the semi-finals four times. South Africa have lost all four times. South Africa first made the semis in ’92, where they lost to England, then again in ’99, where they famously tied to Australia. This time around, South Africa, of course, would hope to write their name on the trophy for the maiden time. But it will be much harder as South Africa faces injury concerns and will have to play every opponent before the knockout stages.
Strong point: South African fast bowling is one-of-a-kind. Record-breaking Dale Steyn leads the attack along with Kasigo Rabada and Adile Phehlukwayo while Chris Morris makes a comeback to the team. However, the pitches aren’t entirely in favor of the bowlers so South Africa will need to use the experience of Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock to bat well. Hopefully, the leg spin of Imran Tahir will find success for South Africa as well.
Weak point: In South Africa’s last ODI series, in which they won 3-2 against Pakistan, in the two matches they lost, South Africa wasn’t able to bat particularly well. Without AB de Villiers, South Africa is limited on experience, leaving the younger and newer batsmen more vulnerable.
Player to watch: It will be interesting to see how de Kock fills the shoes of ex-captain de Villiers. Also, if he bats well in a match, it’s likely South Africa will win.
Prediction: This World Cup will be so tight. One win or loss can completely shift the table and it’s hard to predict who’s better than who. I feel like South Africa’s injury and lack of experience issues will hinder them and prevent them from making semi-finals. Therefore, my prediction is that South Africa will finish eighth at this World Cup.
England, Australia and South Africa will be three exciting teams to watch at this World Cup and either of these three could move on out of the group stage. England is heavy favorites, however, but Australia and South Africa will be looking to tune their fine form to ensure that changes. England and South Africa kick off their World Cup campaign in the first match on Thursday, May 30 at The Oval in London at 9:30 GMT while Australia will be playing their first match on Saturday, June 1 against Afghanistan in Bristol.
Stay tuned with as at Fourth Quarter Sports as tomorrow, we’ll be previewing four more teams: dark horses Pakistan, evergreen New Zealand, the Bangladesh Tigers and fiery Afghanistan.