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Steve Smith

By Josh Giblin

The cricket World Cup is just around the corner. Josh Giblin previews each team, their chances of glory, and the standout players. We start with Australia’s side of the draw – Pool A, where Josh weighs up two cricket heavyweights.

Pool A

England

Key player: Ian Bell

Mat: 155, Runs: 5,154, H.S.: 141, Ave: 37.34, S.R.: 77.15, 100s: 4, 50s: 32

England’s most experienced batsman will need to provide a solid base at the top of the order and bat through with a largely inexperienced batting order providing support around him. Showed good form in the recent tri-series, making a career-high 141 against Australia in Hobart.

Prediction: Semi-final

Despite some recent turmoil with the dumping of captain Alastair Cook, England boast a settled line-up at the moment, having fielded only 12 different players during the recent tri-series with Australia and India. They look set to go into the World Cup with a four-pronged pace attack of Anderson, Woakes, Broad and Finn, with opening batsman Moeen Ali providing a deceptively effective spin option and Ravi Bopara’s medium pace an insurance policy. The main weaknesses for the number one seeds are a fragile and inexperienced batting line-up and an inability to bowl effectively at the death.

 

Australia

Key player: Steven Smith

Mat: 50, Runs: 1,147, H.S.: 104, Ave: 35.84, S.R.: 88.63, 100s: 3, 50s: 3

The current Allan Border Medallist has had a golden summer and is scoring runs at will at the moment. With the hit and miss nature of the aggressive top order and question marks over the form and fitness of the middle order, Smith’s consistency and reliability will provide great comfort.

Prediction: Winners

The co-hosts go in as the bookies’ favourites and will be full of confidence coming off a successful summer which culminated with easily accounting for England in the final of the recent tri-series. A batting order sprinkled throughout with destructive big hitters and a bowling attack spearheaded by the searing pace of left armers Starc and Johnson makes for an exciting side. On the injury front, captain Michael Clarke will be a welcome addition later in the tournament, while they will be hoping that James Faulkner’s side strain isn’t too serious as he adds a great amount of calmness and skill at the back end of both the bowling and batting innings.

 

Sri Lanka

Key player: Tillakaratne Dilshan

Mat: 307, Runs: 9,401, H.S.: 160*, Ave: 39.00, S.R.: 85.75, 100s: 20, 50s: 42

Wkts: 97, B.B.: 4/4, Ave: 44.41, Econ: 4.82, 4w: 3, 5w: 0

The least celebrated of the big three in the Sri Lankan batting order, Dilshan gets the nod here due to his all round ability with his economical off spinners. Is in fine form with the bat at the moment as well, scoring two centuries in the recent series in New Zealand. More circumspect these days at the top of the order, he now looks to bat long rather than just providing a whirlwind start to the innings.

Prediction: Quarter-final

The Sri Lankans prepared for the World Cup with a fairly disappointing tour of New Zealand, losing 4-2 in the one day series. Spin will play a more prominent part in Sri Lanka’s bowling line-up than most sides, with Sachithra Senanayake proving effective in the power play overs against the Kiwis and all rounders Jeevan Mendis and Tillakaratne Dilshan likely to provide support with their leg and off spin respectively. The rest of their attack is made up mostly of wily medium pacers, though the returning Lasith Malinga could provide the x-factor if his body can hold up. They are still heavily reliant on veterans Sangakkara, Jayawardene and Dilshan in the batting department, though captain Angelo Mathews has now grown into a very fine middle order batsman as well. This World Cup will surely be the last time audiences down under will get to see all time greats Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene live.

 

Bangladesh

Key player: Shakib Al Hasan

Mat: 141, Runs: 3,977, H.S.: 134*, Ave: 34.58, S.R.: 79.41, 100s: 6, 50s: 26

Wkts: 182, B.B.: 4/16, Ave: 27.92, Econ: 4.26, 4w: 5, 5w: 0

Arguably Bangladesh’s only world-class player, Shakib is currently the number one ODI and test all rounder according to the ICC Player Rankings. He prepared for the World Cup with a short but successful stint for the Melbourne Renegades in the Big Bash League this season, taking seven wickets in his four games.

Prediction: Group stage

In the last year Bangladesh have pushed some higher ranked test playing nations close and thumped Zimbabwe 5-0. However, being drawn in the stronger of the two pools has done them no favours in their quest to make it past the first round of a World Cup for the second time, indeed they even lost against Pool A rivals Afghanistan in the Asia Cup last year. Former captains Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim form a solid middle order to back up a very young and talented top order starring Anamul Haque and Mominul Haque (no relation), the latter of which will be trying to convert his excellent test numbers into success in the shorter form. Current captain Mashrafe Mortaza will be a very welcome addition to the bowling line-up as he returns from injury.

 

 

New Zealand

Key player: Kane Williamson

Mat: 65, Runs: 2,452, H.S.: 145*, Ave: 46.26, S.R.: 82.78, 100s: 6, 50s: 15

Williamson has enjoyed a tremendous summer, firstly against Pakistan in the UAE, then the home series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan again. The mercurial 24-year-old is solid as a rock and ultra reliable at number three. While McCullum’s eye catching hitting at the top generally grabs the headlines, Williamson just quietly goes about his business and piles on the runs.

Prediction: Semi-final

The other co-hosts New Zealand have every reason to be confident of going deep in the tournament having formed a well balanced side with good quality and depth. They have five good fast bowling options, plus two good spin bowling all rounders in first choice of recent times Nathan McCullum and legendary veteran Daniel Vettori, while big hitting all-rounder Corey Anderson provides a solid medium pace option. Kane Williamson and captain Brendon McCullum are both coming off stellar years and are the stars with the bat, while Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott form a solid middle order should things go awry at the top, with Anderson and Ronchi provide power at the death.

 

Afghanistan

Key player: Mohammad Nabi

Mat: 45, Runs: 1,069, H.S.: 77, Ave: 31.44, S.R.: 89.60, 100s: 0, 50s: 7

Wkts: 42, B.B.: 4/31, Ave: 36.23, Econ: 4.19, 4w: 1, 5w: 0

The captain really led from the front in qualifying, he was both Afghanistan’s leading run scorer and highest wicket taker. He’ll look to rebuild the innings from the middle order should they suffer one of their trademark collapses and keep things tight with his economical off-spin bowling.

Prediction: Group stage

The rise of Afghanistan continues as they qualify for their first 50 over World Cup, after appearing at three World Twenty20s this decade. Characterised by a good, solid bowling unit but wildly inconsistent batting, the Afghans should provide plenty of entertainment. They’ve beaten test nations Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the last 12 months and could surprise one of the big boys if they’re on song on the day.

 

Scotland

Key player: Preston Mommsen

Mat: 30, Runs: 732, H.S.: 139*, Ave: 29.28, S.R.: 65.29, 100s: 1, 50s: 4

Voted the ICC Associate and Affiliate Cricketer of the Year for 2014 (i.e. the best cricketer outside the test playing nations), Mommsen filled in for injured captain Kyle Coetzer during World Cup qualifying and scored 520 runs at an average of 86.66. The former South Africa under 19s representative was consequently named captain for the World Cup despite Coetzer’s return.

Prediction: Group stage

Scotland enter their third World Cup still searching for their first win. Their best chance will come against first timers Afghanistan, who they played twice last month in a tri-series in the UAE, sharing a win apiece. The Scots are a more consistent side than their associates Afghanistan, but lack the flashes of brilliance. A third of their squad has played county cricket in England.

 

Image courtesy of BestofT20