We are nearly halfway through the 2019 ICC World Cup and a number of observations from the opening games.
- The top five wicket takers in the tournament are seam bowlers and the inclement weather of the opening fortnight has meant spin bowling has taken a bit of a back seat. Let’s hope we have a spell of hot dry weather in the second half of the month to allow the spinners to play a more prominent role.
- At the time of writing on only four occasions has the captain who won the toss elected to bat first – the early 10.30 starts and overcast conditions have obviously been fundamental in their decision but has it been the right one?
- To date the highest winning score batting second has been New Zealand’s 248 against Bangladesh – and they nearly cocked that up losing eight wickets in getting there.
- There have been only three scores batting second in excess of 300 so far and they have fallen short on each occasion. It has been a World Cup where if you can put runs on the board the opposition have been freezing on the big stage when chasing down a total. Any number of sides have got off to a decent start, but they have not been able to get over the line when it mattered through a combination of good bowling and dare I say it bottle? And I include England in that who failed to chase Pakistan’s 348 at Trent Bridge.
England are likely to be without both opener Jason Roy and skipper Eoin Morgan against Afghanistan at Old Trafford on Tuesday through injury and I would expect James Vince to open the innings and Moeen Ali to return to the side having been left out of the last couple.
Afghanistan batted appallingly against South Africa on Saturday and it is hard to make a case for them against a rampant England who shrugged off the loss of Roy and Morgan to thrash a disappointing West Indies at the weekend.
Roy’s injury was particularly galling if you have backed him to be top runscorer and you watch Joe Root substitute for him at the top of the innings and help himself to an excellent unbeaten hundred against a pop gun West Indies attack.
Vince will want to put pressure on the England management and help himself to a big score if England bat first although I would expect Morgan or Jos Buttler to insert the Afghans – as is their wont – if the hosts win the toss.
England are 1/25 with BetVictor to take the points with Afghanistan 10/1 and the latter will have to stand up and be counted against the four-pronged pace attack of Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes.
Vince will open the innings if Roy misses the game and at 9/2 with BetVictor he might be a shade overpriced although the opposition are likely to get their trump card Rashid Khan into the game early in the piece. It will be interesting to see if England – batting first – go hard against the world class leg spinner.
Jonny Bairstow is due a big score with a highest score of just 51 to date. Bairstow is 13/5 at BetVictor to score the most runs for England and the recommendation is to back both Vince and Bairstow to top score for the hosts in a game that looks a mis-match when you see how easily the Proteas beat Afghanistan on Saturday.