The wait is finally over! England will kick the tournament off by hosting the Proteas at The Oval.
SETTING THE SCENE
Host England are the firm favourites for the opener. The Poms have taken their limited over game to a new level, with their fearless batting approach being the thing which has captured the imagination of cricket pundits. They come into the tournament with a number of their key players in fine form – there is no one in the top order who is going through a lean patch at present.
South African have entered numerous ICC tournaments as one of the favourites. This time around there are a few more fancied sides ahead of them in the que. The Proteas have a lethal bowling attack – Tahir and Rabada both find themselves in the ICC ODI Top 5 Rankings and were also the two leading wicket takers in the recent IPL. Even on the batting front De Kock and Du Plessis are ranked 4th and fifth meaning that the visitors have four players within their respective Top 5 categories whilst England have none (Root is rated sixth in the batting and Rashid 10th in the bowling). Of course many will be quick to remind you of the fact that the Proteas never seem to live up to their pedigree/stats when it comes to big events.
LET’S TALK TACTICS
When England bat first they look to go BIG and when they chase there are few totals that seem big enough to be outside their reach. Power batting of this nature makes it tough for opponents especially when they are asked to set a total – how much is enough? The opening pair of Bairstow and Roy are crucial in getting them off to a flyer as both come out with aggressive intent. Root and Morgan are their middle order workers who set the game up for Jos Buttler. The likes of Ali, Stokes and Woakes are also capable hitters at the death. With the ball Adil Rashid is relied on to take those middle-over wickets whilst it will be interesting to see which quicks get the nod to tackle the Proteas.
Rabada and Tahir will ask plenty of questions of this strong English batting line-up. The SA batsmen might need some time to get up to speed and perform at their best but if there isn’t much swing on offer this English attack doesn’t hold too many concerns to bother the Africans.
HOW I SEE IT PLAYING OUT
Nothing but a win will be good enough for the hosts in front of what will be an expectant home crowd and I just feel that the men in green will come up short against a team that is already operating at full tilt. Skipper, Faf should be determined to get his team off to a good start whilst the Proteas will in all likelihood find the wrist spin of Rashid the toughest to handle. England have so much fire power that one has to back their big hitting in some way, shape or form. Lastly I do feel we will see plenty of big runs in this comp but in a high pressure first game I can see a game where there are a few fifties but no big hundred scored.
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Enjoy the cricket and happy punting!