The World Cup is officially a little over 12 hours away and if the warm-ups are anything to go by, we are heading into one belter of a tournament. After just one lost day due to rain we saw results play to expectations for the first time in the tune-up week ahead of cricket’s showpiece event. Half of the completed matches saw results go against the grain, only twice was the supposedly expected 350+ total breached, there was just one team which finished with two wins out of two (Australia), and just one which lost both outings (Sri Lanka). With Pakistan’s second game against Bangladesh washed out, things aren’t looking great for them ahead of the World Cup – they’ve remained winless in their last 11 ODIs including the last 4 against Bangladesh after not having lost to them for 15 years. Their three-wicket loss to Afghanistan in their first warm-up match only deepened concerns and if they are to snap their losing streak, they’ll have to try again against West Indies on Friday.
Although the warm ups were inconsequential, they were a great way for teams to get a feel of the playing conditions, play around with their team compositions and, more importantly, test the final playing XI. Moreover, Warm up games were the perfect opportunity for the players to showcase themselves and justify their selection in the final 15. So what did we learn from these game?
Before that… here’s what’s in store for the next seven weeks…
Hosts England start the tournament against South Africa at the Oval, London. India will begin their campaign a week later, but it will be a blockbuster opening against South Africa at the Rose Bowl, Southampton. Unlike previous editions, in this edition every team will play each other once the league stages with the top four advancing to the semi-finals.
The World Cup will be contested across 11 venues in the United Kingdom. Manchester’s Old Trafford has the most matches – six – while the iconic Lord’s in London hosts five matches, including the final on July 14th. Edgbaston in Birmingham also hosts five matches, including the second semi-final. The rest of the venues are Bristol, The Oval, Headingley, Trent Bridge, The Rose Bowl in Southampton, Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens, Durham’s Riverside and Taunton in Somerset.
Warm ups – What We Learned
Pakistan had been beaten by Afghanistan, India had failed to arrive against New Zealand and Australia had got the better of England in three of the four completed games prior to the rain fiasco, but a breezy Aussie win over Sri Lanka and a rampant English performance against Afghanistan meant the script was in line with the form book. But the best was yet to come…
The talk ahead of the 12th edition of cricket’s showpiece event centered around how hosts and tournament favourites England could become the first team to breach the 500-run mark in ODIs this summer. It wouldn’t have been very difficult to imagine one particular team quietly licking its own lips about that prospect, and they laid down their marker on Tuesday. A batting lineup that begins with Chris Gayle and ends with Andre Russell always needed to be feared — West Indies had given a glimpse of what could be in store while smashing 350+ twice in four matches in a drawn series at home against England earlier this year — and the Caribbean show against the Kiwis wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by any camp presently in the UK. For sheer number of proven power-hitters, the West Indians are perhaps ahead of even the mighty English order, and the gung-ho approach witnessed at Bristol will send shivers down the spine of most bowling units.
Between Gayle and Russell, there are Evin Lewis, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, and the West Indians could potentially bat Ashley Nurse at number eight (strike rate after 50 ODIs: 98.97). As if all that isn’t enough, West Indies will start their World Cup campaign with games against Pakistan and Australia at Trent Bridge — a venue where the average ODI score since the end of the 2015 World Cup is nearly 350.
India’s biggest headache solved on World Cup eve – India eased to a 95-run victory over Bangladesh in their final World Cup warm-up match after centuries from KL Rahul and Mahendra Singh Dhoni helped them post a mammoth total of 359. The partnership came to an end with the dismissal of Rahul, who finished with 108 off 99 balls with 12 fours and four sixes. Rahul made the squad as a backup opener but he is also competing for the number four spot alongside all-rounder Vijay Shankar and wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik. Second drop has been a trouble position for India for a long time now — India’s No.4 has the third worst average (33.50) of the 10 World Cup teams in the past two years — and Kohli will be hopeful he’s finally found the man to fill that hole.
“The biggest positive from today was the way KL batted at number four,” Kohli said. “He is such a class player.”
Steve Smith is still world class – He’s back and has a point to prove. Smith was the world’s No.1 Test batsman when he was banned for 12 months and has declared he had been unhappy with his 50-over returns in the months leading into the incident that cost him his captaincy. His glorious hundred against England on Saturday, on the back of scores of 89 not out, 91 not out and 75 in other warm-up games, showed he’s ready to make his mark on this World Cup. David Warner, on the other hand, has shown glimpses but failed to pass fifty since returning to the national set-up. But the opener showed he too had lost nothing in dominating the Indian Premier League to be the tournament’s leading run-scorer despite leaving early and has a terrific ODI record to boot. The pair are vital to Australia’s hopes of retaining their crown.
England, the favourites would be quietly confident if not purely off the ICC’s one-day rankings, they’re top of the class, just above India but far ahead of the rest. In fact, they’ve won more than two-thirds of the completed games they have played since the last World Cup. But confident not because they lost their previous game and turned it around on Monday; the real turnaround – a desperately-needed one – happened on the fitness front.
By the end of their contest versus Australia on Saturday, England’s squad appeared to be falling like nine-pins; nearly half of the chosen XV were nursing some niggle/trouble or the other – the condition dire enough for assistant coach Paul Collingwood to be summoned on to the field as a substitute a day ahead of his 43rd birthday.
But, in the second match, Jofra Archer was back bowling – effectively at that – after pulling up within two balls of coming on as a substitute for the injured Mark Wood against Australia; Wood, who had left the field owing to left ankle trouble, has been cleared to play the World Cup.
Fellow pacer Chris Woakes didn’t show any discomfort in bowling five unchanged overs with the new ball, while lead spinner Adil Rashid had no seeming cause for concern from a long-standing shoulder problem as he delivered an untroubled six overs.
Captain Eoin Morgan may have hoped to have a bat after suffering a ‘flake fracture’ to his left index finger, but if he was fit enough to be named in the 13 for the Afghan game, he’s probably good to go.
Maybe Murphy’s Law isn’t striking the ‘favourite’ English setup after all, and perhaps they will even get to call upon all their squad options come the opener against South Africa.
While no one is taking warm-ups too seriously except the trigger-happy Indian media, Afghanistan’s win over Pakistan on Friday, 24th May, was a certain shot in the arm to the youngest side at this ‘exclusive’ World Cup.
There was intensity on display through their successful pursuit of 263 against their neighbours that showed they aren’t here to make up the numbers, and the holding of nerves in an eventual last-over finish was sure to bolster their confidence going into their tournament opener against Australia on Saturday.
If that were to have been followed up by even a semi-competitive outing against the tournament favourites, the Afghans would have walked into the World Cup as the banana peel everyone wished to avoid.
Instead, they slipped themselves to perhaps undo the momentum. It took Mohammad Nabi’s 42-ball 44 from number eight and number 11 Dawlat Zadran’s enterprising 20 not out to help them to a face-saving 160 all out, but with England gunning those runs down for the loss of one wicket – and at a rate of nine per over – there was no positive for Afghanistan to take.
Jofra Archer’s quick, chin-music working over of their top-order (which was devoid of regular opener Mohammad Shahzad) may also have provided a tactical path to teams awaiting them.
Sri Lanka losing the plot as expected – there was a mention of how two of their spin-bowling options are players who hadn’t featured in ODIs since the end of 2015 (before the World Cup tour began with a two-match series against Scotland) – that’s Jeevan Mendis and Jeffrey Vandersay. Lahiru Thirimanne hadn’t been on a similar exile, having last been in the setup as recently as December 2017, but the last time he opened the batting for the Lankans was during the previous World Cup – and it wasn’t a bad move whatsoever, with the left-hander scoring 65 against New Zealand, 52 against Bangladesh and 139* against England.
Four years later, in a team severely unsure of its optimum combination, Thirimanne was fronted back up to the top of the order, and his returns (56 off 69 balls) were fairly solid coming as they did in the face of a disciplined Mitchell Starc-Pat Cummins opening act from Australia. This particular move may be of some value, but are the Lankans in good stead continually going back to options from the distant past?
Sure, 2015 wasn’t a bad World Cup for them, but Thirimanne’s century against England was one of eight three-figure scores from Sri Lankan batsmen in the 2015 edition – and the other seven came from three batsmen called Kumar Sangakkara (4), Tillakaratne Dilshan (2) and Mahela Jayawardene (1). Without those stalwarts, going back in time is unlikely to prove very fruitful.
Australia spoilt for choice, all of a sudden – It was all pointing southwards just eight official matches ago for Australia. A final over defeat to India at Nagpur on 5 March had left the Aussies 2-0 down in the five-match series; at the point, they had won just four out of their last 26 ODIs, a period stretching back to the start of the 2017 Champions Trophy.
Not much in and around Australian cricket was safe from an inquest; question marks were being raised on any and almost every player making up the 50-over squad, and any and almost all tactics being tried out.
Look at them now.
The reigning champions will begin their title defense on the back of eight wins in their last eight ‘official’ ODIs, in addition to two wins in two warm-up games since embarking on the World Cup course. What’s more, is they have a problem of plenty, or at least a selection headache, for various spots across the lineup – all three of Aaron Finch, David Warner and Usman Khawaja present a firm case to be opening the batting, and all three (given Finch’s status of captain), one would reckon, are absolute certainties in the XI; if one out of the trio has to bat at number three, there is further competition from Shaun Marsh, who has been Australia’s best batsmen through the troubled times of the last two years; Marsh, in turn, could also potentially dislodge one out of Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis, who would appear to be the two all-rounders slotting in at five and six in the order.
And this is before you’ve taken a look at the bowling stock.
Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins should be the first names on the sheet when fit; if Starc isn’t fit, there’s Jason Behrendorff as a straight swap; if Behrendorff makes the XI irrespective of Starc’s fitness, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Kane Richardson still remain in the fray for a potential berth.
Adam Zampa, as the best spin-bowling option, and Alex Carey, on account of being the sole ‘keeper in the squad, appear to be the only absolute certainties aside from the captain and the ex-leaders (Smith and Warner) – Australia’s major problem now is zeroing in on the best combination from all they have to choose from.
It’s a problem they would have gladly lapped up less than 90 days back.
1. KL Rahul
If we talk about the biggest winner of the World Cup warm up matches, it has to be Indian batsman Lokesh Rahul would certainly come at the top of the list. The 27-year-old faced some of his playing career’s toughest period after the infamous Koffee controversy. The ban that followed seemed to affect the batsman’s on-field performances with early talks even going as far as suggesting to drop him from the WC squad. However, the Karnataka cricketer responded well with a magnificent performance in the 2019 IPL season. Rahul went on to score 593 runs in the competition, taking him to the second place in the Orange cap list.
He further showed his class in India’s second World Cup warm up match with a remarkable 108 from 99 balls. The knock has almost killed the million-dollar question that has plagued the Indian cricket for so long – Who will play in the number 4 slot?
2. Trent Boult
Trent Boult was the star of New Zealand’s surprise march to the 2015 World Cup finals. The pacer took 22 wickets from nine games to making him the joint highest wicket-taker of the tournament along with Australia’s Mitchell Starc. Fast forward to 2019, and the 29-year-old southpaw is already showing signs of the same brilliance. In the two World Cup Warm up matches that he has played, Boult has taken 8 wickets – the highest so far. His figures of 4/33 (from 46.2 overs) was inspired a stunning collapse of the famed Indian batting lineup for mere 179 runs. The Kiwis went on to win that game by 6 wickets. He took another four wickets in the match against the Windies, but couldn’t stop his team from losing the contest.
Nonetheless, with the kind of swing and bounce that the English pitches have shown in the past couple of days, it feels that Boult will have a crucial role to play in the competition.
3. Steven Smith
The one player who would be the most content with his performances in the 2019 World Cup Warm up matches will be Australia’s Steven Smith. The 29-year-old endured a difficult time last year which saw him embroiled in the ball-tampering incident followed by a one-year. But as they say, real talent cannot be hidden for too long, Smith did make a return to Australia’s starting XI and how! The batsman scored a brilliant 116 to help the Aussies beat fierce stars England by 12 runs. For a batsman who has faced such a long time on the sidelines, Smith did show colossal class with the ton to remind everyone why is rated as one of the best batsmen in the world.
4. Liam Plunkett
One of the major veterans to watch out for this IPL season, Liam Plunkett is certainly creating waves with his performances. In his first warm up game against Australia, the Yorkshire bowler scalped four wickets. Those included the quality dismissals of the ever-dangerous David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja, and Alex Carey. Although he didn’t get an opportunity to bowl in the following game against Afghanistan, Liam still showed his calibre in the fielding. The 34-year-old took Rahmat Shah’s important catch followed by a stupendous runout of Hashmatullah Shahidi. With hosts touted to be the favourites to finally lift the WC title this year, England will need Liam Plunkett’s vast experience with the ball.
5. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Defying age time and again, MS Dhoni lit up the Indian T20 League 2019 with his immense show. Even though playing at the 5th spot for the most part of the tournament, the 37-year-old was still Chennai’s highest run-scorer at 416 at an average of 83.20. And MSD seems to have continued that splendid form in the 2019 World Cup as well. The veteran cricketer hit a blazing 113* off just 78 balls to help India win the game against Bangladesh by 95 runs. Dhoni had an important role to play in India’s 2011 World Cup winning campaign and their run to the semi-finals of the 2015 edition. However, as the tournament makes a switch to the Round Robin format, the importance of every match has elevated and India will need MS Dhoni to perform similarly at all stages.
6. Jofra Archer
Jofra Archer showed why he is rated the most fierce all-rounder in the world cricket so far with an outstanding season in the world’s richest cricket league – the Indian T20 League. His ability to bowl at a high pace, score quick runs and field like almost like a poacher caught everyone’s attention including England’s selectors. Soon, the Barbados-born cricketer was soon in England’s preliminary World Cup camp. Archer repaid the faith shown in him by scalping three wickets against Afghanistan in the second World Cup Warm Up match. One of them included the prized wicket of Mohammad Nabi who was batting at 44. Although he lacks the experience to play on cricket’s biggest stage, he can still be the trump-card player of the hosts.
7. Shai Hope
Making his debut in the World Cup this year, Shai Hope has already announced his arrival in the world’s biggest cricket league. The 25-year-old wicket-keeper-batsman scored a phenomenal century against New Zealand to inspire WI to a massive 91-run victory. In partnership with Andre Russell, Hope scored an 86-ball 101 that was peppered with 9 fours and 4 sixes to boost West Indies to a massive total of 421 runs.
After the match, he also claimed that the team has enough power to even cross the 500-run threshold in the ODI format. Shai Hope will certainly have an important role to play when the Windies meet a struggling Pakistan side in the season opener.
For Indian fans, all the matches will be telecast on Star Sports. Matches will also be streamed live on Hotstar for fans who are unable to watch on TV. However, users are compelled to pay subscription fees to access all World Cup-related content on the Hotstar app and the website.
Recently, Star TV Network’s Executive VP, Sanjog Gupta confirmed the same on Twitter. He tweeted, “10 warm-up matches (including both India warm-ups) will be aired live. 2 each on 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th & 28th (India plays on 25th and 28th).”
ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 Managing Director, Steve Elworthy, said: “It is always a huge milestone announcing an exciting warm-up schedule for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup as it really highlights just how close we are to the action getting underway this summer.
“These games provide another fantastic opportunity for fans to see world-class players at their local venue and allows the tournament to engage local schools and communities with another chance to get involved with the Cricket World Cup.”
BROADCAST CHANNELS AND LIVE STREAMING
While Star Sports network will telecast in India and other Sub Continent Countries, Fox Sports reserves the telecast rights for Australia. Live streaming will be available on Hotstar and Foxtel – respective OTT platforms .
Full Member Nations
Afghanistan – Moby TV & Hotstar
Australia – Fox Sports, Channel 9, Kayo Live Stream, SEN Radio & Macquarie Sports Radio
Bangladesh – BTV, GTV, Maasranga, Rabbitholebd & Bangladesh Betar (Radio)
England – Sky Sports, SkyGo, NowTV & BBC Radio
India – Star Sports Network, Doordarshan, Hotstar & All India Radio
Ireland – Sky Sports, NowTV & BBC Radio
New Zealand – Sky Sports Nz & SkyGo Fan Pass
Pakistan – Ten Cricket, PTV Sports & SonyLiv
South Africa – Super Sports & SuperSport App
Sri Lanka – Ten Sports, SLRC Channel Eye & Hotstar
West Indies/Caribbean Islands – ESPN & ESPN Play
Zimbabwe – SuperSports & SuperSport App
Asia Central Region – Hotstar Website & App
Canada – ATN Cricket Plus
Europe – Hotstar Website & App
Hong Kong – Star Cricket & Now TV
Malaysia – Fox International & Astro Go
The Middle East – OSN CricHD, Eleven Sports & Wavo Stream
North Africa – OSN
North America – ESPN
Oceania – Digicel & Digicel Play
Scotland – Sky Sports, SkyGo & Now TV
Singapore – Star Cricket, Star Hub Go & Singtel
South American Countries – ESPN Website, ESPN Brazil (Stream) & ESPN Play South
Sub-Saharan Africa – Super Sports
United Arab Emirates – OSN & Wavo
United States of America – Willow TV
Are You In?
Who is your Super 8?
Leagues up in the Lobby, Go get ’em champs!