ICC cricket World Cup: England play South Africa in opener Thursday

Chennai: Tomorrow, the 2019 ICC cricket World Cup, the showpiece one-day international (ODI) tournament, will kick-off. The 12th edition, to be hosted by England and Wales, will be on till 14 July.

The inaugural match will see host England play South Africa at The Oval. It is the fifth time that the Cricket World Cup will be held in England and Wales, after 1975, 1979, 1983 and 1999.

The format for the tournament will be a single group of 10 teams, with each team playing the other nine once, and the top four at the end of the group phase progressing to the semi-finals.

This means a total of 45 matches will be played, with each team playing a total of nine matches.

The top four teams from the group will progress to the knockout stage. A similar format was previously used in the 1992 Cricket World Cup, though that tournament featured nine teams instead of 10.

Interestingly, India, the 1983 and 2011 World Champions, will play their first match 5 June against SA in Southampton.

England are ranked the No. 1 team in the format. Their batting looks solid with the likes of Baristow, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali in very good nick. The hosts are confident of a good show this time to lift the trophy.

Eoin Morgan’s boys managed 4-0 win over Pakistan earlier this summer. That means England haven’t lost a multi-game series for two-and-a-half years.

Their bowling looks solid with the inclusion of Jofra Archer in the squad. South Africa also has a strong bowling unit. There is Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada and supported by Lungi Ngidi and Dwaine Pretorius. Their batting looks good with Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, de Kock, Miller and Duminy promising aplenty.

Recent terror attacks in cricket-playing nations have heightened safety concerns regarding the World Cup, which features 48 one-day international matches in 46 days. And the World Cup organisers have expressed their satisfaction with security amid ‘moderate’ threat.

India head into the World Cup as one of the favorites alongside England. With a strong batting lineup and a good mixture of variety in the bowling, India are touted to be the team to beat in the tournament. Led by Virat Kohli, India’s top three look very strong with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, alongside the skipper.

Ever since the 2015 World Cup, no batsman has scored more runs than Kohli and Rohit and Dhawan, known to play big tournaments well, the formidable top three are expected to challenge the adversaries on the field.

M BHARAT KUMAR