Ready to go

England have been gearing up for the 14th of February, the MCG, 100,000 people and Australia for four and a half months

Neil Fairbrother
Ready to go

The very low-key warm-up games are over. They are not to be trusted result-wise but have thrown up some interesting scenarios and show that on any given day any team can win a game of cricket.

Zimbabwe beat Sri Lanka, who would not have been bottom of the betting, New Zealand have smashed most teams over the last couple of months but Wednesday, when they hammered South Africa, was probably their biggest confidence booster.

Meanwhile, Australia move calmly on.

As for England, they had one convincing win against the West Indies and then a narrow loss against Pakistan. The West Indies look all at sea, they are probably still squabbling about the non-inclusion of some star names. It looks to me that they have a young captain in Jason Holder and he looks to have been thrown to the wolves!

Like any other world tournament we have no idea how Pakistan are going to play. As usual they have no form but it will surprise none of us if they were in the shake-up near the end of this competition.

There are a couple of dilemmas for England, apart from Australia and New Zealand. To my mind there is still a batting spot up for grabs if the captain is not going to use Ravi Bopara’s bowling would we not be better utilising either Alex Hales or Gary Ballance at number three and moving James Taylor down the order to number six where he can come in more in the latter end of middle innings and be at his busy best. He has been in at the end of an awful lot of innings for Nottinghamshire’s in one-day matches and is therefore no stranger to the pressures that that brings.

The other dilemma is the form of the captain. Eoin Morgan is a fantastic player but even his cool, calm persona has been sorely tested by his lack of runs over the last couple of weeks.

He is the captain, the main man and I believe the catalyst to igniting an exciting World Cup for England.

Saturday now can’t come quick enough for the England players. They have been gearing up for the 14th of February, the MCG, 100,000 people and Australia for four and a half months. Preparation has been good, let’s hope we can play well enough to fulfil our ambitions.

In my view the three big guns are Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. If New Zealand go well they will not play a game in Australia until the final which is a massive tick in their box. Of course the same goes for Australia and these will be the two teams to beat.

South Africa are undoubtedly third favourites but they often worry about their own reputation of not producing the goods in these World Cups.

If they can throw off the shackles then this could be their year. I can see them finishing top of their group, which is why England desperately do not want to be the last qualifier in our group or we will be playing South Africa on the 19th of March at the MCG. Not what we want.

India have been away from home for two or three months and not won a meaningful game of cricket so their confidence will be pretty thin. But, as everybody knows, it’s not how you start the competition but how you finish it.

MS Dhoni will have to work overtime to get some spirit back into the team and some energy into flagging legs if they are to get to the latter stages of the competition.

My hope is that England play India or Pakistan in the quarter-final and then whoever you play you’re going to have to play well.

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