2015 ICC Cricket World Cup Preview – 1 day to go

Tomorrow the World Cup kicks off, and I have looked at all of the teams. Now, with one day to go until the World Cup I close out my preview with my final predictions as to who will win the World Cup.

Group A

Group A combines Australia, Sri Lanka, England, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Scotland. The Australians and New Zealanders will be expected to do very well at their home tournaments, and while that could prove too much both sides have performed well recently and you would expect them to progress. Sri Lanka and England are both strong, but have both struggled in matches against New Zealand and Australia respectively. Bangladesh should be able to beat Afghanistan and the Scottish but will struggle against the other countries. Expect a close contest between Afghanistan and Scotland, as it is very likely that both teams will be pushing for their first tournament win.
Prediction: 1. Australia, 2. New Zealand, 3. Sri Lanka, 4. England, 5. Bangladesh, 6. Afghanistan, 7. Scotland.

Group B

Group B brings together India, South Africa, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and the UAE. The Indians have struggled for form in their recent tri-series, and this is a worry heading into such an important tournament. By contrast the South Africans have had no such qualms, comfortably beating the West Indians at home in their most recent series. The West Indies are still feeling the impact of the player boycott during the tour of India, with senior players not being picked and the side in general disarray. Pakistan may well struggle on the Australian wickets, but they are not to be underestimated. The Zimbabweans and the Irish will see the recent struggles of the West Indians as an opportunity to possibly sneak into the quarter-finals, and that will lead to a competitive and evenly-matched battle between the sides. The UAE will be keen to impress but will struggle at the highest level.
Prediction: 1. South Africa, 2. India, 3. Pakistan, 4. West Indies, 5. Ireland, 6. Zimbabwe, 7. UAE.

This leaves the quarter final match-ups of: Australia vs West Indies, New Zealand vs Pakistan, India vs Sri Lanka, South Africa vs England. The Australians should comfortably dispose of the West Indies, and while New Zealand and Pakistan were evenly matched in their series in the UAE the New Zealanders should have the edge at home. India and Sri Lanka are evenly matched, but Sri Lanka should win on batting depth. South Africa should just have too much class for the English. With those results Australia would play Sri Lanka in the semi-final. The Australians are probably the better team at home, and Sri Lanka would struggle. The other semi-final would pit South Africa against New Zealand. South Africa probably have too much experience and class for New Zealand, and that leaves a final match-up of Australia and South Africa. On paper the two sides are very evenly matched, and are probably the best two sides in the world. In the end the Australians depth with the bat should win out, and so I predict that the Australians will take out the World Cup on home soil.

My Predictions
1st: Australia.
2nd: South Africa.
Semi-Finals: New Zealand, Sri Lanka.
Quarter-Finals: England, India, Pakistan, West Indies.
Group Stage: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland, UAE, Zimbabwe.
Most Runs: AB de Villiers (South Africa).
Most Wickets: Mitchell Starc (Australia).

Thank you for reading my eight-part World Cup preview, and be on the look out for more posts during the World Cup.



2015 ICC Cricket World Cup Preview – 6 days to go

Welcome to the third instalment of my Cricket World Cup preview. Today I look at the first of the test-playing nations in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Zimbabwe (Group B)

Fixtures: vs South Africa, Seddon Park, Hamilton, vs UAE, Saxton Oval, Nelson, vs West Indies, Manuka Oval, Canberra, vs Pakistan, The Gabba, Brisbane, vs Ireland, Bellerive Oval, Hobart, vs India, Eden Park, Auckland.
Squad: Elton Chigumbura (c), Regis Chakabva (wk), Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, Hamilton Masakadza, Stuart Matsikenyeri, Solomon Mire, Tawanda Mupariwa, Tinashe Panyangara, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Prosper Utseya, Sean Williams.

Zimbabwe come into the World Cup with an experienced side, led by all-rounder Elton Chigumbura. Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor have been the stars of the side in all three formats for a few years now, and they will again lead the batting. Taylor is a class player and last year became the first Zimbabwean to be awarded an IPL contract. Sikandar Raza and the experienced Stuart Matsikenyeri will most likely open after Matsikenyeri replaced the out-of-form Vusi Sibanda. Solomon Mire, Chigumbura, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Regis Chakabva and Sean Williams provide plenty of batting and bowling options in the lower middle order, and the side definitely has the capacity to win a few games.

From a bowling point of view, however, there are a few questions still remaining. The pace attack seems to be lacking a leader, and while Tendai Chatara, Tawanda Mupariwa and Tinashe Panyangara are good bowlers none of them are particularly dominant. The other issue is that of the frontline spinner. Prosper Utseya would fill this role, but his off-spin was deemed illegal, and he can only bowl his slow or medium pace deliveries. It raises the issue of why he was picked, but he won’t be much use as a spinner. The other spinner picked, Tafadzwa Kamungozi, has a modest international record, and may struggle against the best players in the world. Overall, Zimbabwe are a strong batting side, but it will be interesting to see how the bowlers perform.

Bangladesh (Group A)

Fixtures: vs Afghanistan, Manuka Oval, Canberra, vs Australia, The Gabba, Brisbane, vs Sri Lanka, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs Scotland, Saxton Oval, Nelson, vs England, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, vs New Zealand, Seddon Park, Hamilton.
Squad: Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Al-Amin Hossain, Anamul Haque, Arafat Sunny, Mahmadullah, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Nasir Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Taijul Islam, Tamim Iqbal, Taskin Ahmed.

Bangladesh bring a strong side to the tournament, and while there are many in it who have never played in a World Cup before there is still an experienced core of players. Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan are both world-class, and Shakib will be ably supported in the middle order by Mushfiqur Rahim, Mominul Haque, Nasir Hossain and Mahmadullah. The bowling attack is led by captain Mashrafe Mortaza, and includes Al-Amin Hossain and Rubel Hossain. The spin attack includes Shakib and Mahmadullah as well as Taijul Islam and Arafat Sunny. Anamul Haque will join Tamim at the top of the order and Soumya Sarkar will likely bat at three. Sarkar will also be relied upon to become a back-up opener and back-up seamer if needed. This could prove too much, as he is still young.

There are, however, many young players in the squad, and this inexperience could cause some issues. Al-Amin and Nasir Hossain are returning from recent form slumps, and this is not ideal considering their importance to the side. Plenty of pressure will be placed on Anamul at the top of the order, and this could prove too much considering his fairly modest international record. Bangladesh will most likely aim for the quarter-finals, but the attack lacks a strike bowler, and this will hurt their chances. They will also not have a long time to adapt to the extra pace and bounce of the wickets, and the batsman and spin bowlers performance may be affected. Despite this, Bangladesh have a strong side and have a fairly strong chance to progress.

Tomorrow: I start previewing the top 8 teams in the world when I look at the West Indies and Pakistan.