England have never won the Cricket World Cup but they may never get a better chance with bookmakers rating them favourites to win this year’s tournament on home soil.
For the first time in the competition’s 34-year history, the group stages will be a 10-team round-robin format with each country playing the other nine and the top four progressing to the semi-finals.
With every country having now named 15-man provisional squads - although these can be tweaked until May 23 - let’s take a look at the prices on offer before the first ball is bowled at The Oval on May 30th.
England have finished runner-up in the World Cup on three occasions, including on home soil in 1979, and are clear favourites to win this year’s competition. Top of the ICC one-day rankings, England have not lost a one-day international series since losing in the semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy semi-final in June 2017, beating the West Indies, Australia (twice), New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka and drawing 2-2 with the West Indies this year.
England are the only team with four batsman - Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan - in the top 20 ICC rankings and it will be their heavy scoring power that could propel them to victory.
Twice winners of this tournament, India must surely go well given that Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma are the world’s number one and two batsman in this discipline and they also contain the number-one bowler in Jasprit Bumrah, who has taken 85 wickets in his 49 ODI matches. Runners-up in the last two ICC Champions Trophies, which were held in England, they have shown they can handle summer conditions here.
Australia’s provisional squad features Steve Smith and David Warner after their suspensions came to an end and it’s no surprise to see their inclusion given they have been their country’s standout performers with the bat for some time. Five-time winners of this tournament, they have won four of the last five, they have recently beaten India and thrashed Pakistan in this format and have been heavily backed to win another World Cup recently.
New Zealand 10/1
If you had a pound for every time you heard someone say ‘I think New Zealand could go well’ when discussing this tournament you’d be able to afford a sheep farm or two on the South Island of the country. With Trent Boult one of the world’s leading bowlers and Ross Taylor one of the best with the bat they have the talent to upset one of the big three at some point in the group stages but it remains to be seen if they can string some top performances together at the right time.
South Africa 10/1
South Africa have the opportunity to lay down a marker in the tournament’s very first game when they take on England at The Oval and will be heavily reliant on openers Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock, while Faf du Plessis adds weight to a decent top order. However, a lack of a top-class spinner even in summer conditions in England could hold them back with Imran Tahir the oldest player in the competition at the age of 40.
Have some decent form in these conditions, winning the ICC Champions Trophy in England two years ago, beating the host nation in the semi-finals and the core of Pakistan’s team for that tournament are again in action here. Whitewashed by Australia in their last ODI series they will need to improve and they lack consistency. However, in young batsmen Imam Ul-Huq and Babar Azam, who both average more than 50 in ODIs, they have the strength to worry a few pace attacks.
West Indies 18/1
The only team whose squad has yet to be announced publicly, this will surely be the swansong of star batsman Chris Gayle, who has spent the best part of two decades smashing balls over boundaries across the world. It’s 40 years since the Windies have won this tournament and with their current team ranking of ninth on the ICC figures suggests they have their work cut out to figure.
Sri Lanka 50/1
With only one Sri Lankan bowler inside the world’s top 40 and 35 year-old Lasith Malinga likely to again spearhead their attack, the Sri Lankans may be relying on their batting if they are to do any damage in this year’s tournament. That’s fine but a cursory glance at batting stats reveals that they don’t have a batsman in the world’s top 30 at this year’s championship and the best they may be able to hope for is to avoid finishing bottom in the group stages.
Bangladesh have beaten Sri Lanka and the West Indies in ODIs recently and they have one of the world’s best young bowling talents in Mustafizur Rahman, who was named the ICC’s emerging cricketer of the year in 2016. He has more than 50 wickets in ODIs and could be a player to watch this summer but the team lacks strength in depth to compete for a place in the semi-finals.
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