The match referee heads out to the field ahead of the World Cup opener as it’s time for the toss.
Yes that’s right, this week sees the start of the 2015 Cricket World Cup and I for one am overjoyed that the tournament is about to begin, even though England aren’t going in with amazing form. But that doesn’t matter, we could say England are getting their defeats out of the way now so that they can spend the next few weeks winning their way to ODI success down under.
Who stands a chance of winning? To be honest, I’d give only 4 maybe 5 teams a concrete chance of winning this tournament and that is who I will look at for you here. If you are a supporter of Asian cricket you will feel aggrieved, but I will explain why later on.
Let us begin as the covers come on – and Sky Sports show you an archive game depicting a marvellous bowling performance from the likes of Steve Harmison and Darren Gough back in the day- with bookies favourite and co-host Australia. Most Englishmen would hate, and I mean HATE it if Australia won the World Cup, some may claim that by those Southern Hemisphere miscreants winning we have won as all Australians stem from English criminals exiled to the exotic land of Oz. But what everyone can agree on is they are excited (admit it, you are) when they watch Australia due to their talent, charisma and effort. Australia show off a squad full of ability, cricketing skill but also controversy. Whether it’s Mitchell Johnson’s hideous 70s porn style moustache or David Warner’s sheer arrogance and aggression as he berates his opponents the Australians always seem to make the news based on negative incidents.
They currently sit as tournament favourites though, and for me rightly so. If the likes of Johnson, Starc and Hazlewood can get their speed and accuracy to the highest level then taking wickets won’t be a problem. If the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Aaron Finch, David Warner and Steve Smith can get off the mark quickly and bat as well as their reputations suggest then scoring runs won’t be hard. In fact I would go as far as to say that Australia would be better if Michael Clarke is ruled out due to injury, as they have enough experience to nurture and support vice captain Smith in what could be a successful World Cup.
Key Players: Quite simply. Bowling wise the 90 mph fast bowler Mitchell Johnson and one day cricket’s hottest property Aaron Finch. If they both turn up, Australia win.
Place in the betting: As mentioned before, Australia are favourites. Places like BetFred offer a short 7/4 so the value is with the likes of Coral, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power where they give you 2/1.
The joint hosts with the Aussies are their neighbours and partner in crime New Zealand. New Zealand have the unfortunate reputation of being forever the bridesmaid and never the bride. This is due to the fact that in 10 previous World Cup appearances the best they have managed is Semi Final defeats on six different occasions (most recently 2011). So with the home advantage there are many believers that this could be the all blacks year. I for one agree with those people, as New Zealand are my choice to take the tournament. Why? What makes them better than the other teams? Two reasons. One like the fact they have batting ability all the way down the order, which may be something that other teams have but what some of this years squads lack is experience. New Zealand have a luxury on calling upon players like Vettori, Taylor, Southee and McCullum, players which other teams would dream of having. If they play as well as they can then they can cause a few stirs, especially later on in the tournament.
New Zealand have the ability to play poorly but win games. A habit not many teams possess in this modern day game. Depending on results, if the favourites win all their games and then teams qualify in the order the betting suggests then New Zealand will be looking at a tough South Africa semi final, Australia final run in. But to be the best, you have to beat the best.
Key Players: Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori. Two of the most experienced players in the tournament full stop, let alone in the New Zealand ranks. If they can both find the form of years gone by then they might have the biggest crown to add to their glorious collections.
Place in the betting: New Zealand currently sit third in the bookies listings of possible winners. The best price is Betway’s 11/2 but on the high street Coral, Ladbrokes and Paddy Power again are the best places with their 5/1 tag on the co-hosts.
In the middle of the the two hosts is the strong outfit of South Africa. South Africa possess power, pace and a plethora of talent. They have real superstars in Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla and captain AB de Villiers. Real match winners. But they also have good young talent in the likes of Kyle Abbott – a man who impressed with domestically for Hampshire (Come on you Royals!) last season. You look down the squad list, Vernon Philander, Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy and Morne Morkel, they are all players with the ability to put in a star studded performance to win any game for the South Africans.
There will be big pressure on them though to live up to expectation. Realistically they are in the easiest group and in all honesty, anything other than finishing top of the group would do. Quite frankly they should aim for a 100% record in the group stage as it is hard to see who could stop them.
Strangely, South Africa have never won the cricket world cup, being like New Zealand and only ever reaching the semi finals. A fact that I simply can’t get my head around due to their prestige as a cricketing nation. This year with the group they have been drawn in is probably their best chance to take the crown. With players slowly getting older in the ranks they should be in peak condition and in prime position to win their first World Cup.
Key Players: AB de Villiers. Their captain marvel who can bat and field up there with the best of them. Bowling wise it is hard to look passed Dale Steyn, a man who is quite frankly one of the deadliest bowlers of recent times.
Place in the betting: As mentioned, second favourites. 3/1 in most places along the high street, with sportingbet the best price at 10/3.
Finally, we come to the fourth team that in my mind can win the World Cup. It is of course, England. Not even basing it on patriotism or bias but England are better all round than the Asian teams and the West Indies. This simply means that England stand a better chance of winning the tournament. Again, a side who have never won the 50 over version of the World Cup, but have the ability to do so. Their warm up has gone well, despite losing their final warm up game to Pakistan on Wednesday morning and have the factor that England have their hardest game out of the way first, when they face Australia on Saturday.
England will be welcoming back the likes of James Anderson into the ranks, England’s best bowler will be looking to show the world what he is made of in what could be his last world cup.
However, I don’t believe that England will win their group but with four spots up for grabs into the next round I can see England picking up spot 3 or 4. If so, again taking into consideration form and bookies order of favourites, England should be looking at a South Africa, India or Sri Lanka in the quarter finals stage.
Key Players: Stuart Broad. A man who divides opinion but a man who especially down under will be under the microscope after his infamous “to walk or not to walk” incident. If he can get his temperament right and let the predictable abuse slide on by then he can e a major match winner. The other player England player to watch is Eoin Morgan. The England captain will be under pressure following the whole Alistair Cook episode and should he do a good job with the bat the pressure will ease.
Place in the betting: England are 4th favourites. Rightly so. A team who will need some luck to win it but should be there or there abouts at the business end of the tournament. A cracking price of 10/1 is sprouted around by BetFred the best odds on the high street.
And thats that. The four teams than can win the tournament for me. Even the likes of India can’t really hope for anything other than semi finals. Out of the Asian teams you have to look at the bowling. The Asian team with the best fast bowlers will do the best, and for me that is Sri Lanka. With batting all the way down the XI they possess Lasith Malinga, one of the best one day bowlers of recent years, probably of my lifetime. His bowling at the death sets him high above the rest and shows just why Sri Lanka shouldn’t be taken so lightly.
If you plan on putting a bet on the tournament but don’t fancy trying to pick a winner then look at the other markets. The top tournament batsman for example has good value. As well as picking the finalists. So that leads me to my tips for the World Cup.
Name the Finalists: New Zealand vs South Africa at 14s with BetFair could be the one to go. A slightly outside chance but if New Zealand win all their games then suddenly the win the group and will meet South Africa in the final if they both get through to the big stage.
Top tournament batsman: Aaron Finch at 16/1 up and down the high street for me. A couple of big scores and he is right up there. A player with plenty of ability, and due to the fact Australia should go a long way he has time and games to fire himself to the top.
Good luck and enjoy what will be a fantastic cricket World Cup. And remember I don’t like cricket….I love it!
Don’t forget to check out all the upcoming commentaries from Severn Sport. Including Ryan’s return to the gantry for Gloucester City vs Colwyn Bay on Saturday 21st February.