World Cup: Host England launches title bid against South Africa

England, the No. 1 team in the world, will kick off the World Cup campaign against South Africa on Thursday. While Kagiso Rabada has been declared fit, Steyn will miss the opener against the host due to fitness concerns.

England has transformed itself into the No. 1 team after a disastrous performance in the 2015 World Cup. Will it live up to the favourites tag ?   -  Reuters

 

England will put four years of planning to the test when it faces South Africa in the opening match of the 2019 World Cup at the Oval on Thursday.

 

England vs South Africa: Follow our live updates

So embarrassing was England's first-round exit at the 2015 edition in Australia and New Zealand it prompted a major rethink of its attitude to the white-ball game.

The transformation has been remarkable, with Eoin Morgan's men climbing to the top of the one-day international rankings and twice setting a new record for the highest one-day international total, which now stands at 481 for six.

World Cup: The grand daddy of limited-over cricket

Batting has been the basis of England's ODI rejuvenation, with Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Morgan and the dynamic Jos Buttler among a top seven who can all change the course of an innings in the blink of an eye.

“It's an exciting feeling being in this team as you have world-class players all around you and the opposition might get 370, but there's a belief in the dressing room we can chase it down,” said England leg-spinner Adil Rashid.

“There is no hesitation or someone going ‘I don't know about this'. We all have that belief and confidence we can do it,” added Rashid, whose ability to take wickets at key stages has also been an important part of England's white-ball revival.

“We will hopefully stick to what we've been doing the past four years and hopefully the World Cup will work out well for us.”

South Africa has a plan for this World Cup and it’s a simple one — bowl the opposition out.   -  Reuters

South Africa has suffered plenty of World Cup heartache but having been losing semifinalists for four years, there is a sense the Proteas are going under the radar this time around.

TEAM ANALYIS: South Africa

South Africa coach Ottis Gibson is convinced the pressure is all on the tournament host and cited comments by England quicks Stuart Broad and James Anderson — both of whom no longer play ODI cricket — as an example.

“I heard somewhere that my two very good friends Broad and Anderson have said that England will have to do something really bad not to win this World Cup,” recalled Gibson, who knows the pair well from his time as England bowling coach.

“As far as they are concerned England have won it already.”

Former West Indies fast bowler Gibson added: “To play the host, the number one team, is the best way to start, because it gives us a real sense of where we are and what we need to do going forward.

“But you don't have to be number one to win the tournament and sometimes you can win the tournament and you don’t even go to number one.”

TEAM ANALYSIS: England

South Africa, captained by Faf du Plessis, will be without retired star batsman AB de Villiers but its top order includes the talented Quinton de Kock.

The team will be without Dale Steyn on Thursday as the outstanding fast bowler nurses a shoulder injury but South Africa has become used to his absence in recent times.

Of arguably greater importance for Thursday's match is that Kagiso Rabada, arguably the leading paceman in world cricket today, has been passed fit following a back injury.