Just one day left before the biggest cricketing festival of the year starts and one more preview to do! The World Cup kicks off tomorrow with England opening up against South Africa and you can check out our preview of those two teams along with Australia here. West Indies will play Pakistan first on Friday, May 31 in Nottinghamshire, Sri Lanka will have to face New Zealand the following day in Cardiff and India are pitted against South Africa in Southampton on Wednesday, June 5. You can check out yesterday’s preview of Pakistan and New Zealand along with Afghanistan and Bangladesh here. Also, at the end of this article, I’ll reveal my predictions for Round One’s games.
Last World Cup: After their group stage was a roller-coaster ride, West Indies were thrashed by New Zealand in the quarter-finals, who scored 393-6, beating the Windies by 143 runs thanks to Martin Guptill’s 237(163)*. In the group stages, they lost to Ireland and India by four wickets, to South Africa by 257 runs, who scored 408-5 against them. However, there were some positives. The Windies dismantled Pakistan, beating them by 150 runs. At one point in that match, Pakistan went from 1-4 to 25-5 and Jerome Taylor bowled 3-15 in his seven overs. The West Indies also beat Zimbabwe by 73 runs with Chris Gayle scoring 215(147) in the Windies’ 372-2.
World Cup best: No matter how good this West Indian side can be, none will ever come close to that of the ’70s. In 1975 and 1979, Clive Lloyd lifted the World Cup trophy twice, both in England.
Strong point: After seeing the West Indies put 421 past New Zealand in a warm-up game, it’s clearly the batting. This time around, West Indies have a confident batting lineup with Chris Gayle, Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer. In his last eight innings, Hope has scored three centuries and two half-centuries, providing the Windies security in the middle.
Weak point: Although the pace bowling can be expensive at times, they are usually reliable. But as of late, the lack of a match-winning spinner may cost the West Indies. Without Sunil Narine in the side and Davendra Bishoo struggling to find form, captain Jason Holder will have to place faith in off-spinner Ashley Nurse.
Player to watch: Hope. His scores speak for themselves and his One-Day International (ODI) average of 51 is on par with the likes of Virat Kohli and Babar Azam.
Prediction: Their batting will win them some matches, their bowling will lose them some. They can beat any opponent on their day, but being dark horses, a guess in the ballpark would be a ninth-placed finish for me.
Last World Cup: It was the last World Cup of famed Sri Lankan duo Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardena but they didn’t make it any further than Pakistan or the West Indies, losing to South Africa in the quarter-finals. Sri Lanka beat South Asian rivals Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the group stages, but their most impressive win was against England, in which they chased 310 with just losing one wicket.
World Cup best: The sight of Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto handing the World Cup trophy to Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya in Lahore in 1996 will remain evergreen for cricketing fans. It was their first World Cup and they went on to beat Australia in the finals. Since ’96, Sri Lanka came close by placing runners-up in 2011 in India.
Strong point: Even though they have struggled to perform as of late, Sri Lanka is known to be a good batting side. The experience in the Sri Lankan team resides with the batting in names such as Angelo Matthews or Thisara Perera. In 2017, they successfully beat India in the Champions Trophy in 2017 after chasing down 322 after losing just three wickets.
Weak point: Oof…where do I start? Lasith Malinga’s getting old and the other fast bowlers are rather inexperienced. The spinners are unconfident. But the worst part of it all is the fielding. Sri Lankan fielding in recent times can feel like a joke. You can expect to place a bet on Sri Lanka dropping some crucial catches in the coming weeks.
Player to watch: The captain, Dimuth Karunuratne. Forget about his limited captaining experience, he’s only played 18 ODIs for Sri Lanka and has been made captain. His average is only 20.53 and in 18 innings, he’s only found two 50+ scores. Karunaratne is going to have to step up to the occasion and provide Sri Lanka a way to win, especially after his side lost both of their warm-up matches to South Africa and Australia.
Prediction: Even Afghanistan is capable of defeating this depleted Sri Lankan side. They’re going to need a miracle to win even a single match. The competition’s on a whole other level. It looks like Sri Lanka might end up having to settle for tenth place.
Last World Cup: Although India played some good cricket in 2015, Australia, who went on to be champions, proved to be too strong for them as India were knocked out in the Semi-finals.
World Cup best: Not sure which side would be scarier to face: Kapil Dev’s India which won the World Cup in 1983 or MS Dhoni’s India which won in 2011.
Strong point: Unlike Sri Lanka, where it was difficult to pinpoint which problem was the worst, with India, it’s hard to pinpoint which part of the team is the best. But I’m going to go with what will win India the World Cup if they do: spin. Indian spinners are thriving and now captain Kohli has to choose between three successful spinners to play: Ravindra Jadeja, Kuldeep Yadav or Kedar Jadhav.
Weak point: Although the middle order’s been a worry for some time, India’s openers Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan struggled to perform in India’s warm-up games against New Zealand and Bangladesh. India has cover in the middle order now after KL Rahul’s century against Bangladesh at Cardiff, along with Kohli, Dhoni, Hardik Pandya and Jadeja.
Player to watch: Yadav. He’s young, he’s hungry and he’s a wicket-taker. His 87 wickets at an average of just 21.74 in ODIs is exciting to see and he will definitely cause India’s opponents trouble.
Prediction: This India side is good enough to win the World Cup, but I think they’ll finish second, losing to hosts England in the Finals.
All ten teams are ready to start their World Cup campaigns, starting tomorrow, May 30 at The Oval in London. India get a bit of a break as their next match is still a week away, but the rest of the other teams have matches within this upcoming week. This World Cup will be one of the most competitive in history as anyone has a fair shot at winning. Hopefully, that competitiveness will translate into matches and fans will be surely entertained.
Round one predictions:
England vs South Africa @ The Oval, London on Thursday, May 30:
If England bats first: England to win by 30 runs.
If South Africa bats first: England to win by six wickets.
Pakistan vs the West Indies @ Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire on Friday, May 31:
If Pakistan bats first: Pakistan to win by 45 runs.
If the West Indies bats first: West Indies to win by 55 runs.
New Zealand vs Sri Lanka @ Sophia Gardens, Cardiff on Saturday, June 1:
If New Zealand bats first: New Zealand to win by 80 runs.
If Sri Lanka bats first: New Zealand to win by four wickets.
Afghanistan vs Australia @ The Ageas Bowl, Bristol on Saturday, June 1:
If Afghanistan bats first: Australia to win by seven wickets.
If Australia bats first: Australia to win by 25 runs.