ICC Cricket World Cup 2019: England, SAfrica ready as WC gets underway

Omkar Paranjape
Thursday, 30 May 2019

Unpredictable weather looms as rain and overcast conditions spoil pre-match practice as cricketing world awaits start of extravaganza

London: In the build-up to Cricket World Cup 2019, the general feeling has been that the majority of wickets will be flat and fast over what has been billed to be a scorching English summer. 

As England and South Africa kick-off their campaign, the wicket bore a greenish tinge. While a flat wicket would allow England to flex their muscles, South Africa too, could benefit from a flat track. On Tuesday at The Oval in South London, however, that all seemed a bit of a reach. 
 
The South Africans trained under cloudy skies and in chilly conditions--full tracksuits were the order of the day--with rain threatening throughout their session.

A look at the match-day strip revealed more than a tinge of green. Hence, traditional elements that have historically accompanied playing in England-- overcast conditions and movement off the wicket--could be more of a factor that has perhaps been anticipated. 

England come into this match and tournament as hot favourites to win but South Africa cannot be underestimated. They have plenty of quality and depth throughout their squad to cause England plenty of problems in this opening match.

England’s batting v South Africa’s bowling
A head-on battle between England’s super-charged batting and a South Africa attack potentially containing Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Dale Steyn and leg-spinner Imran Tahir is a mouth-watering prospect. However, there are fitness concerns over a number of South Africa’s bowlers.

Early wickets will likely be the key to success for either team and while England may have the edge in terms of batting, it is the South Africans who have the better bowling attack.

Rabada and Ngidi will be as dangerous as any opening bowling partnership in the World Cup and early wickets could cause England problems. The question for South Africa will be which of their bowlers can keep things tight and stem the flow of runs on what should be a batting-friendly pitch. Ultimately, England’s batting depth may just give them the edge but this match could go all the way.

Change in approach
England were eliminated from the 2015 World Cup in the group stages, playing a brand of cricket that was deemed old-fashioned and one-dimensional.

Since then, they have packed their batting with aggressive stroke-makers and their bowling with skill and variety.

The turnaround has been dramatic and thrilling--no team has scored more runs per over in ODI cricket than England in the past four years.

They also hold the world record for the highest score in 50-over cricket-- almost becoming the first team to break the 500 mark in their incredible 481-6 against Australia last summer.

In fact, they are the only team to pass 400 more than once since the last tournament down under.

Once the batsmen have done their work, it’s over to the bowlers.

Much of England’s success with the ball is down to their spin twins: Adil Rashid (leg-spinner) and Moeen Ali (off-spinner).

And, in Rashid, England have the most prolific wicket-taker of the past four years in one-day cricket.

Pitch and weather
The flat deck and short boundaries at the Kennington Oval makes it perfect for a high-scoring encounter. Due to rain on Wednesday, the pitch might assist the bowlers in the early hours of the play, but is expected to favour the batsmen as the game progresses. The players are expected to witness a chilly day with 83 per cent cloud cover throughout the course of the game. Rain is not expected to interfere during the match hours and the temperature will be around 18-20 degree Celsius.

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