Hollywoodbets Sports Blog: Opinion: Is World Cup going to be two-horse race?

Opinion: Is World Cup going to be two-horse race?

Fielder throws cricket ball in

Looking back on all ODI cricket played in the last two years or so, it is hard to argue that India and England will not be heading into the 2019 World Cup as firm favourites.

India have played 55 ODIs since 1 January 2017, winning 40 and losing just 12 - and their run-rate of 5.83 per over is impressive.

In that same time, England have played 44 ODIs, winning 32 - and pioneering a swashbuckling style that has seen them score faster than any other team in world cricket over the period, clicking along at 6.21 RPO.

Of course, there is more to ODI cricket than simply scoring quickly - and both England and India have excellent and varied attacks. England have the base requirement of one world-class wrist-spinner in Adil Rashid, while India have two in Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal.

The cricketing world expect England and India to be lining up against each other in 14 July's final at Lord's, but are there any ODI units who could flip the script and cause a surprise?

World Cup results have traditionally been difficult to predict because cricket's global powers are relatively close to one another in terms of quality, but at this edition, there are two teams who stand head and shoulders above the rest as things stand.

There are three teams that could realistically expect to be in the frame for the very short knockout phase. The single 10-team round-robin group stage should ensure that India and England finish at the top, given that they have been the most consistent outfits in ODI cricket, but Pakistan, New Zealand and South Africa will all feel that a semi-final place would be the benchmark for success.

In the once-off environment of the semi-finals, consistency will count for little - and all that will matter is the game itself. South Africa, Pakistan, New Zealand and Australia all have the kind of bowlers who could get among India and England's big-hitters.

Australia have successfully lowered expectations for their tournament, though, with a culture crisis set off by the sandpaper ball-tampering incident and a dismal ODI record since 2017. Australia have won less ODIs than Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland since January 2017, but the return of David Warner and Steve Smith might inspire them to great heights in defence of their 2015 crown.

The Proteas, Black Caps and Pakistan don't have the time to completely overhaul their style of play, but all three have the all-round ability to give India and England a real test, even if their hyper-aggressive batting comes off.

All five of the top teams will also need to be wary of the match-winners lurking among the likes of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Afghanistan. Defeat to any of those four or Australia could leave the top-tier nations playing catch-up.

There is no way of being sure, but even with all the variables in play, it would be a surprise if we don't see Virat Kohli and Eoin Morgan at Lord's in July.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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