World Cup: A high-scoring tournament of equals where bowlers will give the edge

Representative purpose only. PTI

World Cup 2019 is a tournament of equals. No team or no match can be taken lightly in this World Cup. Every team is capable of upstaging the other team on a given day. Just take a look at the results of the warm-up matches and recent results, you will know what’s cooking.

The warm-ups started with Afghanistan beating Pakistan. They almost beat them last year in the Asia Cup as well. Afghanistan have been playing some good cricket and their rise has been phenomenal. Meanwhile, Pakistan came from behind to win the Champions Trophy in 2017 and can’t be counted out. They could be termed as the most predictably unpredictable team. Afghanistan and Pakistan have both lost to England (who are big title-contenders), the former in a warm-up game and the latter in a five-match ODI series.

England went down against Australia in a close contest. Australia are the defending champions. They had a barren run in 2017 and 2018 before storming their way back into contention. Another team that is tipped as one of the favourites are India who have done very well over the last few years. However, they not only went down to Australia in a five-match ODI series but also lost their first warm-up fixture against New Zealand.

But take this into account, West Indies smoked 412 in the warm-up game against the Kiwis who had bowled out India for a mere 179 a couple of days before this game. Moreover, they had a wonderful series against the No. 1 ranked ODI team, England, a couple of months back where they drew the five-match ODI series 2-2. There’s no dearth of batsmen in that line-up and just like England, they keep coming hard. But they lost to Bangladesh recently in Ireland in a tri-series. Bangladesh’s rise in ODI cricket ever since the 2015 World Cup where they made it to the quarterfinal has been noteworthy.

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South Africa looked good in both their warm-up games as they won one and the other was washed out. But they are yet to live down their image of being chokers. Sri Lanka look weak but can surprise anyone on a given day.

Hence, this seems like the most open and competitive World Cup we’ve ever seen. Yes, England, India and Australia might be the top picks but it could be anybody’s World Cup!

This is also tipped to be a high-scoring tournament. In fact, pitches all over the world have gone through massive changes and, in most countries, white-ball cricket is played on flat wickets. Since the 2015 World Cup, 496 ODI games have been played to be precise. There have been a staggering 53 scores in excess of 350 and 180 in excess of 300. The global run-rate is simply soaring higher and higher.

All talk of swing was in the past

Conditions have become nightmarish for bowlers and more so in England. All the talk about English conditions, swing and the ball moving around need to be thrown out of the window. If you’ve watched (and followed) white-ball cricket in England for the last four years, you will acknowledge that it’s been a graveyard of sorts for bowlers. The pitches are nothing but roads, they are absolute belters, and the outfields are lightning quick to go along with the different dimensioned grounds.

England have racked up two of the highest ODI totals twice in the last three years (444 against Pakistan in 2016 and 481 against Australia in 2018). The recent England-Pakistan series saw every completed innings having a score of at least 340. Hence, it’s going to be a run-fest this tournament.

All this underlines the importance of bowling attacks. It could very well turn out to be that the best bowling team might lift the World Cup title at Lord’s about seven weeks down the line.

Also, maybe, for the first time in World Cup history, England are going in as hot favourites. No other team is as highly rated as the hosts, England. They’ve been absolutely fabulous in the way they’ve played white-ball cricket, ODI cricket in particular, ever since the shambolic group stage exit in the 2015 World Cup. They have the best win-loss ratio (2.521) in the last four years.

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