The much-awaited Cricket World Cup is finally hitting the road, with hosts England taking on South Africa in the opener on Thursday. The Oval will play witness to a contest between two teams that boast of some big names on the roster in both the bowling and batting departments.
The main plot will be a collection of several sub-plots, with top players from both sides engaging in personal battles of their own in order to determine the final result. We take a look at some of the key battles ahead of the opener.
Kagiso Rabada v Jonny Bairstow
Two heavyweights in their respective departments, South Africa’s pacer Kagiso Rabada and Jonny Bairstow could face-off in what could be the first of many feisty encounters in the tournament.
Rabada is entering the World Cup after an outstanding run in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and will be hungry to register his name among the top wicket-takers in the most prestigious cricketing tournament in the world.
The 23-year-old snapped 25 wickets in the IPL, only one less than the tournament’s leading wicket-taker and Rabada’s national team-mate Imran Tahir. The youngster could devour numerous top batsmen this World Cup and the list could start with Jonny Bairstow.
Bairstow will be prepared to deal with anything Rabada will have to throw at him as he looks to get England to a solid start.
After leaving the Sunrisers Hyderabad camp mid-season in the IPL, Bairstow joined the national team to help them to a 4-0 win over Pakistan in the five-game ODI series.
The wicket-keeper batsman scored 211 runs in three innings, averaging at 70.33. Fair to say, Bairstow is in tremendous form and his duel with Rabada could set the tone for the day.
Jofra Archer v Quinton de Kock
Windies loss, England’s gain. After representing West Indies at the under-19 level, raw talent Jofra Archer decided to ply his trade for England at the senior level.
Eyebrows were raised when the right-arm fast bowler was picked for the World Cup despite limited experience. Archer managed only three ODI caps for England after he made his debut against Pakistan earlier this month.
After a promising debut tournament, the all-rounder is likely to be picked in the team that faces South Africa on Thursday. Archer does add depth to the batting, but his primary task will be to restrict the Proteas in the powerplay overs.
Quinton de Kock leads quite a list of South African players who had a great IPL. The wicket-keeping batsman was crucial in Mumbai Indians’ rise to the summit, scoring 529 runs in the process.
The 26-year old has averaged 58.63 in the eight ODI’s he has featured in for the Proteas in 2019 and is hence in great shape to tear apart bowling attacks.
Well begun is half done and de Kock will be looking to provide South Africa the perfect start against the tournament favourites. However, he will be up against the talented, but inexperienced and hence unpredictable Archer.
The last three ODI games at the Kennington Oval have seen the team batting first restricted for less than 200. This is precisely why a good start could be extremely crucial for both the teams. Hence, the match-ups between the opening bowlers and batsmen make the cut in our key battles.
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