James Nixon | 5:55am BST 24 May 2019
It’s less than a week to the start of the Cricket World Cup and with all the squads now announced, it’s time to discuss the chances of the three favourites.
England will never get a better chance than this one to win the World Cup for the first time. As if their form, players and leadership wasn’t enough of a reason to respect them, the fact they’re on home soil is the icing on the cake. They’re certainly the team to beat according to the cricket betting markets but they’re also the team to beat according to good old common sense.
No side can compete with their Top 7 where Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Jos Buttler and skipper Eoin Morgan are their most effective players, though in truth, any one of those seven would get into just about any side in the world.
The batting power, improvisation and skill doesn’t stop there, either. With the likes of Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid in the side, they bat all the way down to 10, at the very least.
There’s probably no sport where home advantage counts as much as it does in cricket so it’s a big bonus they’re on home soil and in conditions they know so well.
A good seam attack and batsmen who enjoy playing on quite flat pitches where they can play through the line of the ball, are therefore invaluable assets to the side.
A raucous home support at grounds like Edgbaston and Old Trafford will certainly help their cause, too.
As if a win percentage of 63% when batting first wasn’t impressive enough, how about the 74% when they’re chasing? No total seems to be big enough when they’re batting second and they seem to be at their most dangerous when knowing what their target is. They’ll chase whenever they win the toss, so opposing teams would be wise to put England in first.
Where’s the Star Death Bowler?
There’s plenty to like about their bowling attack but they might just be lacking a specialist death bowler who can bowl all of the fashionable variations: the Yorker, the slow Yorker, the ball out of the back of the hand and the full-length delivery outside the off stump. There are other sides you’d back above England to defend nine off the last over.
Winners the World Cup before last, winners in the Champions Trophy in 2013, finalists at the Champions Trophy in 2017; those last two played in England. Led by the inimitable Virat Kohli, they seem to have all the bases covered to go very deep indeed.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been statistically the most effective opening partnership in ODI cricket over the past four years. Particularly punishing on anything short and wide outside the off stump or anything heading towards leg stump, they can take the game away from you in a flash and love scoring big hundreds rather than getting to their landmark and then just getting out. No-one in history has more ODI double-centuries than Sharma.
Your reward for getting one of them out? Virat Kohli arrives at the crease, the Number 1 ranked batsman in the world, no less.
England isn’t the first place in the world you’d think of where spinners are particularly effective but it promises to be a warm, dry summer and that will play into the hands of the spinners.
And there’s no shortage of quality twirlers in the India side. Kuldeep Yadav caused England’s batsmen no shortage of problems last summer over here, Yuzvendra Chahal is a class act and the spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja is a big threat with his darts and ‘straight ones’ that bring LBW and bowled into the equation on almost every delivery. The hard bit is deciding who plays alongside Yadav.
Even if they’re not taking bundles of wickets, their ability to keep things tight in the middle overs is priceless.
Jasprit Bumrah’s Variations
What England wouldn’t give to have this guy in their team. Now he really is a world-class death bowler who seems to bowl six different balls an over at the death and makes lower-order batsmen wonder what’s just hit them. Even proper batsmen struggle to get him away in the final overs thanks to his variations.
India missed a trick by not picking the exciting Rishabh Pant in their squad. He would have been perfect as an aggressive number four who can turn the game back India’s way when they’re behind or kick a team when they’re down.
It means that either Kedar Jadhav, KL Rahul or Vijay Shankar will bat there and none of those three are in the same class as other Number 4s in the tournament. Rahul is an excellent batsman coming off the back of an impressive IPL but he’s an opener who might be asked to bat there, rather than a natural in that position.
The defending champions have been through quite a lot over the last year, mostly due to the Sandpapergate affair. Though results have been much better of late, we’ll have to wait and see whether the recalls of Steve Smith and David Warner are the best decision they made… or the worst.
A trio of pace bowlers in Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Nathan Coulter-Nile will be the envy of many. Games are often won and lost in the first 10 overs and right there are three bowlers perfectly suited to English conditions, who can make huge dents in opponent’s scorecards.
Smith and Warner
Warner reminded us all in the IPL in March/April just what Australia missed for the past year. Smith wasn’t quite as impressive in that tournament but few players in world cricket can compete with either of their ODI records. With a point to prove, these two could pile on tonnes of runs and get them in no time.
Marcus Stoinis, with his accurate medium pace bowling and big-hitting, is one of cricket’s most under-rated players. Glenn Maxwell’s off-spin gets plenty of batsmen in a muddle while only a handful of players in world cricket can clear the boundary like he does or improvise as many shots, making it a nightmare for bowlers to know where to bowl. Their presence in the side provides plenty of balance and means that even if the top order gets out cheaply, those two can provide a serious rescue act.
Smith and Warner.
Only time will tell whether calling them up was a master-stroke or a shocking one that ruined team morale. Skipper Aaron Finch did a good job of getting his side to win without them since being appointed six months ago and now has the task of integrating them in a side where there will inevitably be some animosity towards them. Not only by players who felt let down by them and their actions in Cape Town but also by those who are about to lose their places to them.
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