Sport

2019 Cricket World Cup: Who will be hot or not (part 1)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — With Tuesday, February 19 marking 100 days to go before the start of the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England and Wales on May 30, AFP Sport looks at who will be hot — or not — at the showpiece event:

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan have made rapid strides since featuring in the 2015 World Cup for the first time but had to endure a nail-biting qualifying competition in Zimbabwe to make the 2019 edition.

But they are not to be under-rated. At the 2018 Asia Cup, they beat Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and tied against eventual champions India.

GAMECHANGER: Leg-spinner Rashid Khan will be the trump card for Afghanistan. The 20-year-old from war-torn Nangarhar is a wicket-taking bowler — he became the fastest to reach 100 ODI wickets in 44 matches. Rashid can bowl in the power-play as well as in the death overs.

AUSTRALIA

The defending champions and five-time winners are the most successful country in the tournament's history, beating New Zealand by seven wickets in the final on home turf in 2015. But they have struggled for form since the team was embroiled in a ball-tampering scandal that rocked the game last year.

They were hammered by England 9-1 across two series in 2018, and followed it up with series defeats over the home summer against South Africa (2-1) and India (2-1).

GAMECHANGER: Steve Smith and David Warner are being seen as their saviours. They are both eligible again in late March after their one-year bans over the ball-tampering affair expire and are widely expected to slot straight back into the side. The expectations are high for the two star batsmen who between them have played 214 ODIs and scored 7,774 runs.

BANGLADESH

Perennial underachievers Bangladesh will be looking to improve on their 2015 quater-final finish after some heartening performances in the United Kingdom. They qualified for the semi-finals of the 2017 Champions Trophy from a group that also featured hosts England, Australia, and New Zealand.

In 2018, Bangladesh won 13 of their 20 ODI matches, behind only England and India in terms of the number of wins. The Tigers will rely on the experience of key players like Mashrafe Mortaza, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim who are all expected to play their fourth 50-over World Cup.

GAMECHANGER: At 35, Mashrafe is still the leader of Bangladesh's pace attack, but left-arm quick Mustafizur Rahman can make a strong impact in what will be his maiden World Cup.

Mustafizur, the only Bangladeshi to feature in ICC's 2018 ODI team of the year, with his lively pace and incisive swing can be handy in seaming English conditions. The country's board is trying to protect the 23-year-old for the World Cup by denying him permission to join the lucrative Indian Premier League in March-April.

ENGLAND

Have featured in every World Cup since the tournament was established in 1975 but have still to win it, with the last of their three losing appearances in the final back in 1992. An embarrassing exit at the 2015 edition, culminating in a defeat by Bangladesh, saw England go out in the group stage for the third time in five World Cups. Captained by former Ireland batsman Eoin Morgan, England have risen to the top of the 50-over rankings. Home advantage, however, may not be that much help. This will be the fifth time that England have staged the World Cup, their best performance on home turf coming when they were overpowered by the West Indies in the 1979 final.

GAMECHANGER: England have several proven match-winners in their side but in wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler they have an outrageously gifted shotmaker capable of 'scooping' good length balls from fast bowlers over his head for boundaries. The 28-year-old has scored six ODI hundreds and boasts a superb strike rate of just under 117.

INDIA

Under Virat Kohli's leadership, heavyweights India will enter the World Cup as favourites alongside England. The second-ranked one-day side in the world have been in fine form with recent series victories in Australia and New Zealand.

India had a superb 2018 with ODI wins in South Africa (5-1), and West Indies (3-1) and the Asia Cup title in the UAE. England also brings back happy memories for the two-time World Cup champions who first lifted the trophy at Lord's in 1983.

GAMECHANGER: If Kohli will be key to India's chances in the 10-team tournament then new spin ace Kuldeep Yadav could lead the charge in the bowling department.

The 24-year-old Yadav claimed 45 wickets in 19 ODI matches last year with his left-arm wrist spin proving to be handful for opposition batsmen. Kohli meanwhile kept the runs going, averaging an astounding 133.55 in 14 ODIs in 2018.

TOMORROW: New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies


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