The countdown to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 finally comes to an end, as England, the tournament hosts and number one ranked ODI side in the world, face off against third-ranked South Africa at The Oval today.
England’s batting line-up is laden with superstars, headed by the opening pair of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, who boast the highest strike-rates in ODI history, among all openers to have scored more than 1,000 runs.
The rest of England’s line-up possesses similar strength, Eoin Morgan and Joe Root’s presence often relatively overshadowed by the magnificent Jos Buttler, who is arguably the most devastating 360° batsman in the world today.
While Morgan is all set to return to lead the side after missing the warm-up matches due to finger injury, newly-qualified fast bowler Jofra Archer will be the man to watch among the bowlers, and could just be what they need to finally lift cricket’s most prestigious trophy.
South Africa, like England do not possess an esteemed record at the tournament, but their side looks balanced and of high quality.
Wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock is as capable as anyone of punishing England’s opening bowlers, and is a proven match-winner, alongside the experienced duo of Hashim Amla and Skipper Francois du Plessis.
The bowling unit, despite the absence of Dale Steyn, who has been ruled out of the first game as he continues to recover from shoulder injury, seems formidable, boasting the ever-energetic Imran Tahir and 24-year-old pacer Kagiso Rabada, who finished as the top-two wicket-takers in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
England’s batting looks suitably reinforced, so it is important that Archer hits the ground running for England to establish an equally potent bowling unit.
Quelling runs and taking key wickets in the middle overs will be vital to prevent an astronomical England total, and Imran Tahir will be the man tasked to do it. His guile and experience could prove crucial against the strong England middle-order.
England: Eoin Morgan (Captain), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
South Africa: Francois du Plessis (Captain), Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, J. P. Duminy, Dwaine Pretorius, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir and Tabraiz Shamsi.