As the World Cup, crickets premier limited overs competition, continued this week, it is already in my opinion possible to determine who the most likely winners are.
Already, several teams have shown that if they can keep up these early performances and take them into the knockout stages, it will be almost impossible to stop them. The hosts Australia are definitely one of these teams, as their recent mauling of Afghanistan demonstrates. They have shown themselves capable of amassing enormous totals (see their effort of 417 against the latter side), and have also shown their potential to reduce various sides’ batting orders to a state of chaos and ruin (England in the opening match is a particularly fine example of this). David Warner, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell have all been impressive with the bat, while the Mitchells Starc and Johnson have been the usual suspects with the ball.
New Zealand have also retained the confidence and swagger that comes with being both hosts and tournament favourites, with their win against England, as well as their white-knuckle-ride success against Australia by one wicket – surely the game of the World Cup so far – doing nothing to dispel the impression that the Black Caps really could go all the way. Brendon McCullum’s ultra-aggressive style of captaincy has certainly reaped rewards, and with qualification from the group stage essentially already sewn up, maybe now is the time to try out different players and really utilise the entire squad.
South Africa have recovered from their initial setback against India (who are themselves looking ominously powerful and impressive) to take control of their own destiny in the tournament. Their success has been based on their relentless batting, with AB De Villiers in particular producing some utterly incredible hitting. This World Cup will forever be known as the tournament when 400 became a very realistic and attainable score – something no one surely would have predicted, even only a year ago.
England meanwhile face two do-or-die games against Bangladesh and then Afghanistan, both of which they will probably have to win in order to advance to the quarter finals. Since at the start of the tournament this was really the minimum expectation for the team, even when taking into account the fact that the squad is not particularly impressive and when not being too optimistic, failure to reach the knockout stages would probably have serious consequences for several members of the England ODI team, and indeed possibly the coaching hierarchy as well. The fact that the ghost of Kevin Pietersen is again looming large must not distract the team; it is time for Eoin Morgan’s men to stand up or go home.
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