After 20 years, the World Cup finally returns to the designated ‘Home of Cricket’. The second decade of the 21st century has seen the trend of home domination when it comes to the quadrennial event. In 2011, India won it in front of their home fans by beating neighbours Sri Lanka in a pulsating game in Mumbai. In 2015, Australia got the better of their Trans-Tasman rival New Zealand in a lop-sided final in Melbourne. In 2019, England, the New England are serious contenders for the title. Their quest to shatter their perennial underachievement in world events begins against a team that has underachieved even more on the world stage.
For England and their fans, the 2019 World Cup is a chance of what four years of planning have achieved ever since their exit in the league stage of the 2015 World Cup. Following their poor show, there was a total revamp in the side. Power-hitters and consistency have been the hallmark of their batting, with the side notching up the most 300+ totals in the four years than any other country. Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes form the core of a formidable top order that can blast away any bowling attack. Joe Root is the anchor of the middle order while Eoin Morgan’s inspiration captaincy will be the key. The likes of Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett form a formidable bowling line-up.
In addition, the presence of Jofra Archer is the X-factor. Archer impressed with his pace and looked good in the games against Pakistan. England has only two things to worry about. One, their injury issues which were highlighted in the warm-up match against Australia. Second, the mindset heading into the big tournament. Ever since the 2015 tournament, England have an enviable record at home and that gives them plenty of confidence but on the big day, they could unwind as they found out against Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
South Africa and the C-word
1992, 1999, 2011 and 2015. The list of chokes and heartbreaks when it comes to the World Cup and South Africa is the stuff of nightmares. The last World Cup game for South Africa in England was against Australia in the semi-final in Edgbaston. The match witnessed a thrilling tie and Australia entered the final after Allan Donald was run-out. It has been 20 years, but the ghosts have still continued to haunt South Africa since that day.
Like England, South Africa have underachieved perennially on the world stage. The 2019 edition gives them a perfect chance to exorcise the ghosts of 1999 and finally break their tag of ‘chokers’. Hashim Amla has been in good form in the World Cup warm-up games while Faf du Plessis is the key in their batting. Andile Phehlukwayo is a great utility all-rounder while the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir are world-class bowlers. Rabada’s return from a back injury is welcome news. However, Dale Steyn will miss out due to a shoulder injury but the Proteas have a steady bowling and batting combination puts them in a great position to get their campaign off to a winning start.
In the India vs New Zealand game at The Oval, under overcast conditions and with a green wicket, India was found wanting. The pitch is expected to be on similar lines but if the sun comes out, the wicket will flatten out and a total in excess of 350 could be possible.
England (Playing XI): Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan(c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler(w), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett
South Africa (Playing XI): Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram, JP Duminy, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir
Who will win?
Both teams have plenty of firepower but with the kind of form England have shown, they are the favourites heading into the clash against South Africa but they will be wary of taking the Proteas lightly
Weather and pitch
Conditions are expected to be overcast in London and that might give the bowlers some purchase. However, looking at the nature of wickets in England, overcast conditions might only give the bowlers token assistance.
In six World Cup encounters between the two sides since 1992, both teams are tied 3-3. England won both the encounters in 1992 while South Africa won three consecutive games in 1996, 1999 and 2007. In 2011, England won a low-scoring tie at Chennai.
Stadium and timings
The match will be played at The Oval and the match will begin at 3:00 PM IST.