England begin their World Cup campaign at The Oval against South Africa on Thursday and the competition hosts look in great shape as they aim to justify their pre-tournament favourites tag with an opening win.
Eoin Morgan‘s side wrapped up their warm-up games with an easy victory over Afghanistan on Monday as they bounced back from an unwelcome defeat previously against Australia, although that may well be considered just a minor blip amid a sea of positive one-day results.
England have won five of their last six ODI series’ and the most recent 4-0 overall win over Pakistan set them up perfectly for the World Cup as the current top-ranked one-day side in the world now looks to claim the 50-over trophy for the first time.
They may never have a better chance and should certainly get off to a winning start on Thursday against the Proteas – but it may not be as straightforward as some will hope.
Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Joe Root are three batsmen all in good nick and the trio should again inspire the Three Lions to a big total.
It would be no surprise to see one of those three top-score for the home side and it’s with in-form Roy where the best value may lie as the Surrey man is on offer at 33/10 to be the stand-out England batsman.
Of the bowling unit, Jofra Archer is the man of the moment and he will be keen to impress if given the nod to start after his recent rise to stardom. Archer looked good with three wickets against Afghanistan and is a real dangerman with his pace.
England also have the likes of Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes to worry South Africa, who could be in for a difficult afternoon if the bowlers get into their stride quickly.
The visitors’ recent results (won eight of last nine ODIs) suggest, however, they will compete with the best in the tournament but, taking everything into account, a defeat against the buoyant hosts looks likely.
That’s not to say SA do not have players to trouble England and the likes of Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock can still express themselves and make big contributions with the bat.
England will also have to be wary of a strong bowling attack, which includes the likes of Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada, and if Morgan’s side let their standards slip, it could be a close encounter.
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