The ICC Cricket World Cup begins in India on Thursday when 10 nations head to the Asian country looking to win the biggest 50 over competition in the world, one which is sure to provide plenty of great action over the six weeks or so it is taking place.
England certainly delivered great action in this competition four years ago when they beat New Zealand in the most thrilling 50 over final we have ever seen. England will be out to be the first team since Australia in 2007 to successfully defend this title.
2019 – England
2015 – Australia
2011 – India
2007 – Australia
2003 – Australia
1999 – Australia
1996 – Sri Lanka
1992 – Pakistan
1987 – Australia
1983 – India
Incredibly despite it being four years since the last Cricket World Cup, we have an identical format to the previous one which took place in 2019. 10 teams have qualified for the tournament and they all play the other nine in the event once in a round robin first round format for the event. At the end of that stage the top four go through to the semi-final where the tournament becomes a straight knockout from there on in.
Every match is 50 overs and there is no reserve day apart from the knockout matches. The competition follows the playing rules laid out in usual ODI cricket. The World Cup winners will be crowned in Ahmedabad on November 19.
India often go into ICC tournaments as the favourites to win them. That isn’t always justified but when you consider that the last event of this kind which they won was the 2011 World Cup which was on home soil you could easily argue that the 2/1 price is a fair one. There is no shortage of pressure on the Indians in this event though and while I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they go on and win the tournament I don’t really want a team under such pressure carrying my dough.
England are the 10/3 favourites to make a successful defence of their title. There is certainly going to be matches in this tournament where their batting obliterates sides but the question will be whether they can put scores up on the board when the pitches start to tire a little and the spin and indifferent bounce comes into play. The other concern about this England side is whether their key bowlers can stay fit for seven weeks. If the stars all align this team is definitely good enough to win this tournament but a lot would have to go right.
Australia had a bump instilled in their path to glory when Travis Head picked up an injury in South Africa recently but if their batting can come good in his absence, and there is certainly no shortage of depth in their ranks, then we know that Australia have the quality with the ball to deliver the goods. Australia have won four of the last six World Cups in this format and reached the semi-final last year. The 9/2 on them is probably the most appealing of the top three in the betting.
Pakistan are the only other team in the betting market for this tournament who are a single figure price. They are 8/1 to be crowned the champions but you wonder if they are going to be able to win a tournament in India. Already there has been visa problems getting into the country for Pakistan and I’m just not convinced they are going to get a fair crack of the whip. If they do they might just have the best bowling unit in the competition and two world class batters who will keep them competitive.
New Zealand have been the finalists in the last two World Cups in 50 over cricket and if that wasn’t enough they reached a T20 final in that time too. They haven’t come up with the title in any of those tournaments and that would be a concern for anyone backing them at 10/1. I don’t think they are as strong as in previous events with Kane Williamson having not played for so long and Tim Southee being injured. That said, they clearly know how to navigate these tournaments and if someone like a Daryl Mitchell or Glenn Phillips can have a big tournament you just never know.
South Africa are proving popular in the betting at 10/1 but the first thing you have to pass over if you like them is this tendency to choke when the pressure comes on. This is ultimately largely the same team which 11 months ago were seeing their chances of progressing to the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup ended by the Netherlands. I really do like the way South Africa are coming into this tournament with the bat but the loss of Anrich Nortje to injury leaves a big hole in their bowling attack.
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Prior to the Asia Cup final, Sri Lanka were on an excellent run of wins in ODI cricket but the way they folded in that final was a concern. Nevertheless there is a big price about them at 50/1 for a competition which will take place in conditions that will suit the style of cricket that they play. Unfortunately they will be without their main leg spinner Wanindu Hasaranga while one or two other bowlers have fitness doubts over them. They might be better backed in other markets.
Bangladesh certainly didn’t have the Asia Cup that they would have been hoping for and they are 125/1 to get their hands on this trophy. I don’t think they are a better side than they were four years ago and while Indian conditions will suit them more than what English ones did, their elite players are not in that bracket anymore in comparison to the rest of the world. It is hard to like their chances in this particular format even at a three figure price.
Afghanistan are slightly bigger at 150/1 with the best prices. The same could be said of them in a lot of ways with their best players if not past their best, certainly no longer a surprise on the scene. The likes of Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman are all good cricketers in their own right but they have done the franchise circuit and international batters have had the chance to find them out a touch. Their ability to put up regular substantial scores is questionable too.
The outsiders of the lot are the Netherlands who can be backed at four figure prices. They showed when beating South Africa in the T20 World Cup that when they collectively turn up then they can challenge the better nations on their day but in a nine-match group phase you have to be looking at five wins to progress at the very least and even that might be enough. The Dutch might surprise someone but asking them to surprise five or six teams of this quality is a tough ask. Just being competitive and getting a scalp or two represents a decent showing for them.
South Africa and Sri Lanka are dark horses in this tournament that I might well back in other markets but the team I like as the biggest danger to India in this event are Australia. They have won four of the last six World Cups and reached the semi-final four years ago only to be beaten by a very strong England side who went on to lift the trophy. I would say that I’m not quite as strong on Australia without Travis Head as I was with him but I still think there is enough to be competitive.
What might well lead Australia to being better than England or South Africa is the two class acts in their middle order of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith. Both men have the ability to be the glue in a good innings or to knuckle down and post a score on a tricky pitch whereas you feel definitely England and probably South Africa too need flat pitches and good batting conditions. Australia have good bowling resources if they all stay fit and fit bowlers is certainly a concern for England. At a third bigger price than the champions I think the 9/2 on an Australian title feels the right play in this market.
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