World Cup Preview

Friday 13th February 2015

The 2015 Cricket World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is upon us and I have to say I am looking forward to it with a mix of trepidation and excitement.

The prospect of following the long and winding process (the final is not until Sunday the 29th of March), promises much for cricket fans across the globe although it is 23 years since England last reached the Final (having never won the darn thing).

Back in 1992 in Australia they lost by 22 runs to Pakistan but subsequently it has largely been a tale of woe that make’s the nation’s footballers and their perpetual problem with penalty shoot-outs look like a little local difficulty.

In 1996 their only wins were in the group stage against minnows and they were dismissed in the quarter finals with almost ten overs to spare by Sri Lanka. In 1999 they hosted it and failed to even make the knock-out stages of their own party although they did see off the mighty Kenya by nine wickets despite the showers at Canterbury.

The same fate befell them in 2003 although forfeiting the Zimbabwe game in Harare proved to be the decisive moment. In 2007 in the interminable poorly attended tournament in the West Indies they did make the “Super Eight’s” but no further and then in the last World Cup on the Indian sub-continent they were mind bogglingly erratic managing to tie a classic with India, lose to Ireland and Bangladesh and yet beat South Africa. They were trounced by ten wickets in the quarter-final by Sri Lanka.

So what of the class of 2015? Well the one day form over the last twelve months has been at best patchy and often downright depressing. The elephant in the room throughout the year has been the exclusion of a certain Kevin Pietersen. Love him or loathe him, the current one-day side lack fearless match winning batsmen suited to the modern game.

He has obviously burnt his bridges with the establishment how but every time England lost in 2014 his name was on the lips of many. They lost a series in Australia 1-4, beat the West Indies 2-1, lost at home to Sri Lanka 2-3 and India 1-3, then away to Sri Lanka 2-5 before the recent tri-nation series in Australia where they beat India 2-0 but lost all three to the hosts.

A record of ten wins and nineteen defeats probably represents their current standing against the elite in the 50-over format, they are twice a likely to lose than win.

Given the format in 2015 though, provided they can see off the minnows Scotland and Afghanistan plus Bangladesh, then they should make the quarter-finals. Ideally if they can also win one of their games against either Australia, New Zealand or Sri Lanka then they could avoid Pool B favourites South Africa and perhaps take on India or Pakistan in helpful conditions.

Now that is all a long way off because of the initial group stage which is designed to give the minnows six games. It provides the global television companies with plenty of games to show but perhaps too many will be one-sided or rendered meaningless. Ideally it would be less cumbersome but the paymasters don’t really want to risk an early elimination for India or Australia…

So how will the England team cope? The faster bouncier wickets will in theory be better for them than the slow low turning wickets in 2011 but the impression is of a team lacking that something special that Ian Botham provided back in the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s. A totem, a star, an individual capable to turning a match on it’s head.

New captain Eoin Morgan has put together some amazing knocks over the years, but not consistently and not recently. In terms of batting, Root, Bell and Taylor are all capable of putting together good knocks, Ali. Bopara and Buttler can on occasion smash the ball to all corners and the bowling attack including Anderson and Broad should be a class act.

With Stokes out of the picture for now some of the other players will have to step up and seize their opportunities. Will Hales show more than just potential? Can Jordan find some consistency? Will Woakes cause havoc or get carted? Kent fans will no doubt be hoping Tredwell gets a game or two and that he can chip in towards securing progress towards the semi-finals but in truth the long suffering England fans are not brimming with confidence this time. Are they ever?

Given the World Cup is being played on the other side of the world in the middle of the night it will also do well to compete against football as the season comes to the annual crescendo. There hasn’t been much hype and it doesn’t seem to have captured the imagination of the general sports loving public yet. It will perhaps need a couple of England wins to get the ball rolling.

The game might all be on Sky but at least ITV4 will be showing nightly highlights shows for the non-Sky majority. It is perhaps an important tournament for the 50-over format given the popularity in India and Australia of the T20 domestic competitions.

Australia are tipped to win it and New Zealand as “dark horses”. As ever South African should make the semi-finals and then “bottle it!” whilst the hysterical support for India will see their chances hyped despite the very different conditions from home. Pakistan are as unpredictable as ever, either brilliant or woeful whilst the West Indies at the moment appear to be in one of the self-inflicted slumps.

Bangladesh should at least make a decent fist of their games and Zimbabwe could come close, but it would not be a shock to see the fancied eight all making the quarter-finals. Unless of course England contrive to stumble against Afghanistan or Scotland which isn’t as far fetched as it should be remembering their “performances” against the likes of Ireland and Netherlands in the past.

So my tip to win it? Sadly Australia, belligerent, brave, inventive batsmen, keen fielding, a certain Mr Johnson bowling and the home support. However it only takes one individual knock or spell of bowling and a 50 over match can suddenly escape your clutches.

Let’s hope they’ve simply lulled the Aussies into a false sense of security and mug them in Melbourne on Saturday morning…

Australia begin the 2015 Ashes Tour in Canterbury with a four-day match at The Spitfire Ground, St Lawrence.

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