The opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 sees hosts and tournament favorites England come up against ‘serial chokers’ South Africa. The Proteas have been knocked out at the semi-final stage in four of the seven World Cups they have competed in whilst England have never won the trophy.
England come into the tournament on the back of a convincing 4-0 series victory against Pakistan. These performances were only further confirmation of the team’s strength in all aspects of the game. Their batting line-up if frightening, their bowlers are lethal and their energy and ability in the field is second to none.
It is with the bat however that England are at their most dangerous. The host nation undeniably has the strongest batting line-up of all the teams in the competition and this ‘once in a lifetime’ group of big-hitters are adept at outscoring any opponent.
Jason Roy, Jos Butler and Jonny Bairstow all hit centuries against Pakistan recently and the likes of Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes are all more than capable of doing the same. England average 6.13 runs per over since the 2017 Champions Trophy, the highest RPO rate of any side in that time.
South Africa’s preparation for the Cricket World Cup has been somewhat interrupted by the English weather. South Africa defeated Sri Lanka in a recent warm-up match by 87 runs after coasting to a comfortable 338/7. They then managed 95-0 against West Indies in Bristol before the match was abandoned due to rain after just 12.4 overs.
South African Captain Faf du Plessis looks to be in good form, hitting 88 from 69 against Sri Lanka whilst Hashim Amla managed back-to-back half centuries in both of the warm-up matches. The veteran will be hoping he can pick up where he left off when he comes up against England on Thursday.
In Kasigo Rabada, South Africa have the 5thhighest ranked bowler in the ODI game right now. The 24-year-old already has 106 ODI wickets to his name and is being touted as one to watch at this year’s tournament. His ruthless pace has set him well on the way to becoming of the country’s best ever seam bowlers.
The conditions at The Oval will certainly favor the batsmen and you would expect whoever bats first to post a big total. If England win the toss, they will no doubt be looking to do just that. In front of their home crowd, they would love nothing more than to begin the tournament in style.
South Africa do possess the fire-power to finish in the top 4 come the end of the group stage and an upset against England would be the perfect way to start. They have won six of their last seven ODI series and will be looking to do everything they can to unsettle the hosts.
It’s hard to envisage anything but an England win in the tournament opener on Thursday. Their fluid batting line-up and impressive array of bowling options makes them firm favorites for this one.