England’s Unstoppable force Meets Proteas’ Immovable Object
Thursday, May 30: England v South Africa
The hosts and red-hot favourites begin their campaign on the back of some spectacular batting displays in the recently concluded series against Pakistan which they swept 4-0 with one match washed out. Eoin Morgan’s men crossed 350 in three of the four games and chased down 341 in the fourth. You could say that their batting line-up is decent. They will be up against perhaps the best bowling line-up of the tournament though, with South Africa boasting of two of the world’s premier fast bowlers in their ranks – Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. Imran Tahir is in the form of his life too, having won the purple cap in the recently concluded IPL. However, England’s bigger worry will be their own bowling, which conceded an average of 6.8 runs per over against Pakistan. They will bank on their bevy of all-rounders — Joffra Archer, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Tom Curran and Chris Woakes — to pick up the slack whenever needed. The good news for them is that this is one of the weakest South African batting line-ups in recent memory. Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock are up there with the very best, but the cupboard is bare beyond that.
PREDICTION: ENGLAND TO WIN
Sublime or the Ridiculous? The Most Unpredictable Match of the World Cup
Friday, May 31: West Indies v Pakistan
Pakistan will be smarting from their 4-0 thrashing at the hands of England but the games gave their key players a chance to get acclimatised to English conditions. Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and captain Sarfraz Ahmed were in fine fettle, racking up series averages of more than 50. The team is a fine mix of old and the new. One player to watch out for is Mohammad Hasnain, the tearaway 19-year-old touted as the next thoroughbred to emerge from Pakistan’s fast-bowling stable. If there’s one team which possesses a greater ability than Pakistan to oscillate between the sublime and the ridiculous, it’s the West Indies. Chris Gayle and Andre Russell can single-handedly win games while Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran are young talents in search of a global stage. Jason Holder is no mug either – with both bat and ball. The question of course is whether the men from the Caribbean can keep it together for the duration of the tournament. A win against the equally mercurial Pakistan would obviously be a good start.
PREDICTION: (or, you know, wild guess): Pakistan
Lanka Lions in Danger of Being Hunted Down by Kiwi Firepower
Saturday, June 1: New Zealand v Sri Lanka
The runners-up from the two previous tournaments will open their campaign against each other. There is a fair amount of experience in the Sri Lankan squad with a number of them having featured in the previous World Cup in Australia. However, apart from veterans Lasith Malinga and Angelo Mathews, the islanders appear to lack the star power. They’ll be up against a New Zealand outfit that should be at home in English conditions. The Kiwi bowlers — Tim Southee and Trent Boult in particular — will be licking their lips at the prospect of having a go at the brittle Sri Lankan batting. Leggie Ish Sodhi and off-spinner Mitchell Santner can be tricky customers while the batting will be reliant on the classy Kane Williamson as usual. The destructive trio of Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and Colin de Grandhomme can’t be ignored either. It’s going to be a difficult baptism for the 1996 champions, even though the head-to-head is in their favour.
PREDICTION: New Zealand
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