Finally, the long wait has almost come to an end and we are just three days away from the beginning of the ICC World Cup 2015. Total of 49 matches will be played throughout the tournament including the final, which is scheduled to take place on March 29th at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Going through all the teams, it looks like that it’s going to be an open tournament as most of the top eight nations are favourites to win it. Of course, the best team will win, but more importantly, the journey throughout this one and a half months is expected to be breathtaking. And to begin it, let us get across to the team highlights of Australia and England, who will lock horns in the second match of Pool A on February 14th at Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The co-hosts Australians have everything in them to lift their fifth World Cup title. In batting, they have two of the most explosive openers in the name of David Warner and Aaron Finch, who on their day, can rip apart any bowling lineup. The other batsmen in their ranks are Steven Smith, skipper Michael Clarke, George Bailey and wicket-keeper batsman Brad Haddin. All of them have held Australia’s middle-order together and have scored useful runs when it has mattered the most. In bowling, Mitchell Johnson has been vicious as always and with Mitchell Starc also coming to terms with his wicket-taking ability, Australia’s new ball is very much in good hands. Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins (the other pacers) and Xavier Doherty are also steadily finding their path but only one out of them are expected to feature in the playing eleven.
In the all-rounders’ department, there should be no doubts in saying that Australia have the four best men in the business. James Faulkner has been the “death” specialist in both departments. Maybe he likes to face pressure situations a lot! Glenn Maxwell, the name says it all. When he gets going, it is very difficult to stop him. Plus he is a sharp-fielder too. Shane Watson, the most experienced of the lot, is a bonus and any captain will like to have him in the side. Mitchell Marsh, the 23-year old, is a very important member of this team and if he can stay fit throughout the tournament, the other teams will be in some serious trouble.
From out of nowhere, the Poms are looking to be one of the hottest contenders for the title. Under the leadership of Eoin Morgan, this England side is looking refreshed and hungry to achieve glory. In batting, Ian Bell provides them the much needed experience at the top of the order along with the flamboyant all-rounder Moeen Ali. With James Taylor, Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Morgan himself, England have a pretty good batting lineup. Their lower middle-order has the likes of all-rounder Ravi Bopara and the newly appointed vice-captain Jos Buttler, who can pile on some quick runs to set up a huge target for the opposition.
In bowling, they probably have one of the best attacks going into the tournament. James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Steven Finn and Chris Jordan can cause serious headaches to the opposition in these swinging and seaming Trans-Tasmanian conditions. Offie James Tredwell is currently the best spinner in England but it looks unlikely that he’ll feature in the playing eleven, given the fact that Ali is doing a fine job with both bat and ball.
World Cup History (of their encounters):
1975: Australia won by 4 wickets (Leeds)
1979: England won by 6 wickets (Lord’s)
1987: Australia won by 7 runs (Kolkata)
1992: England won by 8 wickets (Sydney)
2003: Australia won by 2 wickets (Port Elizabeth)
2007: Australia won by 7 wickets (North Sound)
Australia are brimming with confidence after their recent Carlton Mid-ODI Tri-Series win. The mood in the camp is good and the team is ready for a fight. As far as the fitness of their players are concerned, the 13 members of the squad are fully fit except James Faulkner and Michael Clarke. Both of them are expected to miss this game in order to get fully fit for the rest of the tournament. Clarke, who underwent a hamstring surgery in December last year, is shaping up pretty well now. Faulkner suffered a side-strain in the final match of the tri-series on January 29th and a minimum of three weeks were set for his rehabilitation process. He is expected to return for the Bangladesh game on February 21st.
On the other hand, England are also looking fresh and motivated after a decent showing in the Carlton Mid-ODI Tri-Series, where they defeated India twice. Another good thing is that each of the 15 members of their squad is fit and they have no injury concerns at all. So, all in all, they look ready to give a stiff competition to the Australians in front of the 90,000 people at Melbourne.
Key Players to Watch Out For
Australia: Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc was in splendid form in the recently concluded Carlton Mid-ODI Tri-Series, which Australia won by defeating England at Perth. Starc took 12 wickets in 5 matches at an average 16.33 with a four-wicket haul and a 5-fer and was also adjudged the man of the series. His wicket-taking ability makes him Clarke’s go-to-men for this mega event and the team would also hope that he continues his good run of form and strikes at regular intervals. Till now, Starc has played 33 ODIs and has picked up 61 wickets at an impressive average of 21.27 with four 5-wicket hauls and five 4-wickets hauls.
England: Moeen Ali
Ali has been a revelation for the England team. He opens the innings and express himself in a flamboyant style and when he comes out to bowl, he delivers ten quality overs of spin. Somewhere down the line, I get a feeling that his all-round play might well determine the fate of England in this World Cup. In the 17 ODIs, Ali has scored 540 runs at an average of 31.76 with a century and three half-centuries and has grabbed 17 scalps at a a brilliant economy rate of 4.69.
Battles to Watch Out For
David Warner v Chris Woakes
Australia’s newly found run-machine will be up against England’s newly found wicket-taking machine. It’s going to be a fascinating battle as both are in good form and the one who will handle the pressure well at the start of their respective disciplines might well seal the deal for his team at the end of the day. Will Woakes trouble Warner with his swing and steep bounce or will Warner have an answer to every trick of Woakes? Well, the time will tell about that.
Ian Bell v Josh Hazlewood
The patience of England’s Duke of Bellington will be up against canniness of Australia’s Hoff. It can be said with utmost surety that if England are to score above 300, then Bell would have to play a solid innings at the top of the order along with Moeen Ali. For that to happen, he’ll have to face Hazlewood smartly for the first ten overs. But if Hazlewood gets him out early, it will actually get tough for England to post a competitive total.
Probable Playing XI
David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steve Smith, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood
Ian Bell, Moeen Ali, James Taylor, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes, Steven Finn, James Anderson
Time 09:00 IST
Pitch and Conditions:
The pitch at MCG is expected to suit the fast-bowlers, so a fierce battle can be expected. The forecast for Saturday is for a humid day with a top of 31C and likely showers and thunderstorms in the morning and perhaps in the afternoon.