12 years on since that night at the Wankhede Stadium, the ICC World Cup returns to India this week, the 13th edition of a tournament that remains world cricket’s most prestigious, despite the 50-over format’s waning popularity. The tournament will commence with a mouth-watering rematch between the 2019 finalists, England and New Zealand, continuing the ICC’s preferred single-group format that sees each team play a gruelling 9 round robin matches in a bid to make the final four.
For the first time in the tournament’s history, former champions West Indies won’t be taking part, with Netherlands and Sri Lanka having qualified through the ICC Cricket World Cup Super League. As the days count down, we take a closer look at the teams most likely to make the final four.
Three-peat for the Three Lions?
There’s no escaping the fact that England start as tournament favourites. As reigning world champions in both the 20 and 50 over formats, dominance on the biggest stage is now veritably enshrined in the team’s DNA. With the most explosive batting line-up in the game’s history – made only stronger by the talismanic Ben Stokes returning from retirement – England’s biggest test will come not against pace, but against quality spinners on turning tracks.
Look out also for rising tearaway quick Gus Atkinson, who joins Mark Wood, Sam Curran, David Willey and Reece Topley in a fast bowling cartel that boasts pace and variety. Together with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali, the Three Lions look balanced, settled and dangerous, as they look to claim three limited overs World Cups in a row.
The last stand for India’s greatest
It’s a side some have labelled as India’s best since 2011, but there are plenty of question marks hanging over the home team. Cricket World Cup 2023
Foremost amongst these is whether India’s batting can deliver the firepower needed for tournament success; while in terms of pure batsmanship, the Indian lineup is a class above the rest, the team lacks the middle-order dynamite littered throughout the English and South African sides.
And for this reason, a lot is riding on Suryakumar Yadav – who made a timely return to form against Australia in the lead up to the tournament – and on Ishan Kishan, whose audacious strokeplay should earn him a spot in the starting XI.
As added intrigue, it’s almost certainly the last time we’ll see Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Ravi Ashwin and Mohammad Shami feature in a World Cup. It may be the galvanising motivation the team needs, as was Sachin Tendulkar to MS Dhoni’s men 12 years ago.
A point to prove for Australia
Australia is the most successful side in the history of the tournament, but should the team fail to lift the trophy in India, it will equal Australia’s longest-ever trophy drought.
It means first-time World Cup captain Pat Cummins and his charges will set out with a point to prove when they take to the field against India in a blockbuster opening match in Chennai. While any bowler will be wary of a revitalised Mitch Marsh and David Warner at the top of the order, for once there’s a soft underbelly to Australia’s batting that teams will be looking to expose.
While Australia’s pace attack is settled, the team has only one specialist spinner in Adam Zampa, with Ashton Agar ruled out due to injury and replaced with Marnus Labuschagne. It’s been only been weeks since Zampa equalled the unwanted record for most runs conceded by an Australian bowler in a single innings, and he’ll be under extreme pressure to deliver in the subcontinent. Cricket World Cup 2023
Can South Africa erase their World Cup demons?
South Africa and ICC Cricket World Cups go together like chalk and cheese. Despite the perennial strength of the South African one day side, the team’s history of failures on the biggest stage – at times comical, and at other times diabolical – don’t bode well for a tournament in vastly foreign conditions.
But South Africa has the muscle and the might to surpass the (admittedly low) expectations, and the team will be flying high after turning around a 2-0 deficit to topple Australia 3-2 in a staggering home series that saw the side blast successive scores of 338, 416 and 315 against a fatiguing Australian attack.
Henrich Klaasen’s belligerent 174 in Centurion may have set the series alight, the but Proteas will also take confidence in the form of Markram, de Kock, Miller and Bavuma, each peaking at the perfect time as the team look to erase the demons of the past and reach their first ever World Cup final.
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