Beth – New Zealand
For the past few years New Zealand have been the nearly men. They nearly make it to the final, they nearly surpass expectations, they nearly go all the way against the top teams. They go into this World Cup as third favourites behind South Africa and Australia. While one of my colleagues has plumped for perennial chokers South Africa and my other colleague has gone for home side heroes Australia, I’ve thrown caution to wind and decided that New Zealand will pull off something special this time. Brendon McCullum is their lynchpin; his talismanic leadership skills and mesmerising batting will galvanise New Zealand. Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are capable of producing some explosive batting and Vettorri and Southee provide backbone to a previously suspect bowling attack. They have their best World Cup squad in years; so I’m taking a risk and going with the nearly men. Because one day, the nearly men have to reach a World Cup final and if they get there this year, they won’t be nearly men anymore.
Rob – Australia
Playing on home soil and boosted by the inclusion of injured captain Michael Clarke, Australia are the obvious choice to go all the way this year. Steve Smith is in imperious form, scoring over 140 runs in his last two ODIs against England (which is less of an achievement than it used to be) whom Australia play in their opener on Saturday. Mitchell Johnson, at times, looks unplayable in the quick Australian conditions and if the he and Smith are in form the Aussies will be almost unstoppable…unfortunately.
Lewis – South Africa
South Africa are often known as the chokers in these big tournaments. In 2007 they choked against Australia in the semi-finals. In 2011 they choked against New Zealand in the quarter-finals. Therefore, in light of this recent history, you might think I’m slightly mad to bank on South Africa to win this year’s tournament. If you take into account their most recent performance in their warm up match against New Zealand, in which they lost by 134 runs, and a heavy 4-1 series loss against Australia, then you would be quite right to write South Africa’s chances of winning. However, at the core of their team they have the best players in the world. AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, the list goes on. Any of those players would walk into any international side. I’m predicting South Africa to win on the basis that they have a different generation of players who can banish all memories of the dreaded choke. If these players fire on all cylinders, it’s South Africa’s trophy to lose.
Leading Run Scorer
Beth – Brendon McCullum
Having chosen New Zealand as my winners it’s only logical that I choose Brendon McCullum as leading run scorer. He’s in impervious form at the moment; grinding teams into the dirt with his no holds bars approach to one day batting. McCullum is impossible to bowl to when he gets on a roll; he’ll play all round the wicket and produce spectacularly audacious shots to frustrate beleaguered pace bowlers. McCullum is a man on a mission, New Zealand have long desired a World Cup final and he wants to be the one to deliver it to them.
Rob – Steve Smith
The aforementioned Aussie middle-order batsman has shone whilst deputising for the injured Michael Clarke and one of the sub-plots of the tournament will be seeing whether Smith can replicate this form now the talismanic skipper has returned. Curiously, Smith is only ranked 29th in the world as an ODI batsman, but I’m backing him to belie that ranking and hit top form to complement the formidable top order Australia current have. Smith has the potential to bat through most of an innings given his position in the batting order which could help him outscore some of his more flamboyant counterparts.
Lewis – Hashim Amla
Hashim Amla is exceptional. He is ranked second best on the ODI batting rankings. His ODI average is a sickening 56.41. He is the fastest man to reach 2,000; 3,000; 4,000 and 5,000 ODI runs. He is the fastest cricketer to reach 19 ODI centuries. I could go on. Amla is a record breaker, a big scorer and very often ‘Mr Reliable’ for South Africa. Furthermore, Amla is in electric form. In his most recent ODI series against the West Indies, he made 66, 153*, 61* and 133. If South Africa make the latter stages of the tournament, then Amla will have the opportunity to score the most runs. He is a run machine and the driving force in the South Africa batting line up and seems to me to be the most likely candidate to be leading run scorer.
Leading Wicket Taker
Beth – Rangana Herath
Choosing a spinner to be the leading wicket taker in Australia might be deemed unwise in some circles. Alright, it’s probably deemed unwise in every circle you can possibly think of. My colleagues have astutely gone for pace bowlers of destructive tendencies, but if I’m taking a punt with my winners I may as well take a punt with my leading wicket taker. He’s a tight one day spinner, he has a good economy rate and he’s undone many a side in the middle overs. He’s one of the best spinners in the tournament and if he’s in good form, then he’ll be a handful on a turning pitch. So, here’s to hoping a pitch turns!
Rob – Mitchell Johnson
Aside from Dale Steyn, this man is the only true fast bowler left in world cricket today. Johnson only recently returned to ODI action against England in the Tri-Series Final and took 3-27 so imagining what he can do once he has a few matches and some form under his belt is frightening. Johnson went from the perennial whipping boy of the Barmy Army to one of the most feared international bowlers seemingly overnight. I preferred him when he was rubbish.
Lewis – Dale Steyn
Continuing the South African theme, I’m also banking on Dale Steyn to take the most wickets in the tournament. Steyn, like Amla, is simply a monster. He has taken 151 ODI wickets in just 96 matches at a very impressive average of 25.41. His economy is also tidy at 4.80. Steyn is the type of bowler that will just take wickets. Yes, he can keep it tight at either end of an innings, but his main asset is his destructive pace. This type of bowling will suit the hard, sun soaked pitches of Australia and New Zealand. Although there may be questions over Steyn’s recent form, he was hardly a stand out player in the recent West Indies series or in the Sri Lanka warm-up match, he is a class act. South Africa, quite rightly so, are wrapping Steyn up in cotton wool until the tournament starts. However, if he gets going and his team put together a winning run, Steyn will tear sides apart and in doing so, will take the most wickets.
Beth – Scotland
They beat Ireland. No really, Scotland don’t even have a World ODI ranking and they beat Ireland in a warm up match. And they didn’t just scrape a victory either; they ripped Ireland apart. It was worryingly impressive; the kind of performance where you assume that if they catch England on a bad day it’ll be the 2011 World Cup all over again. You know, the one where England lost to Ireland, almost lost to the Netherlands and then chased down a plus 300 total against South Africa but stuffed it up right at the end and only got a draw? Scotland could be to the 2015 World Cup what Ireland was to the 2011 World Cup. I’ll be rooting for them to upset the big dogs in Group A; just not England, I don’t think my humility could take another 2011.
Rob – England
By no means am I going to write a patriotic article describing Stuart Broad as the world’s best bowler and Eoin Morgan as the saviour of the one-day game in England – in fact I wrote an article quite to the contrary not long ago. The pressure is off for England now and they look to be finding form, like the impressive win against India, albeit in the Aussie conditions that India loathe, but a win against India in any format is not to be scoffed at. Expectancy will not weigh England down in this tournament, which could give them a chance to express themselves and surprise a few.
I’m tipping Pakistan to be my dark horse for this year’s tournament. Although they aren’t one of the hot favourites, I reckon Pakistan can surprise a lot of people and get through to the latter stages of the competition. I would back them to get out of Pool B, their biggest challengers will be South Africa, West Indies and India and I can definitely see them providing a real test to the West Indies and India. What’s more, they have some very experienced players in their side, not least captain and cricketing legend Misbah-ul-Haq, but also the likes Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Younis Khan. With the potential to do well in Pool B and with experience in their squad, I can certainly see Pakistan going the distance in this year’s tournament.
One to Watch
Beth – Tim Southee
Another unorthodox choice for my eyebrow raising prediction list; full disclaimer, if I get these spectacularly wrong (a very real possibility) I will swear hand on heart that I wasn’t of sound mind when writing this piece. If New Zealand are going to have the kind of impact in this tournament that I’ve predicted them to have, Southee will be key to those chances. He’s the leader of their attack, and he’s brimming with confidence at the moment. If the ball swings early on Southee will definitely get wickets, and New Zealand will rely on him to break through the top order.
Rob – Shakib Al Hasan
I must admit I have not heard of Al Hasan, but whilst looking at ICC Rankings as a bit of research for this piece, his name popped up at the top of the all-rounder rankings. A left-arm bowler and batter, Al Hasan surely counts as Bangladesh’s only hope of doing anything meaningful this tournament after their alarming decline in recent years. One to watch for myself as much as anyone else, Al Hasan has the chance to establish himself as a household name on the biggest stage.
Lewis – Joe Root
Joe Root is my token Englishman for this year’s predictions, but I haven’t included him because he is one of England’s better players at the moment. I have included him because he is one of world cricket’s finest talents. He has an average of 40.00 in ODIs and his strike rate is a solid 80.04. Furthermore, he is in a good spell of form having made 85 against Pakistan in England’s last warm-up match as well as making an impressive 69 against Australia in Hobart a few weeks back. Root is still young, but he is a vital part of England’s batting line up. If England can get out of Pool A and into the latter stages of the competition, Root will have an opportunity to impress.
Dream Team (In Batting Order)
1 – David Warner (AUS), 2 – Brendon McCullum (NZ, C), 3 – Kumar Sangakarra (SL) , 4 – Virat Kohli (IND) , 5 – Steve Smith (AUS), 6 – AB De Villiers (SA, WK), 7 – Faf Du Plessis (SA), 8 – Dale Steyn (SA), 9 – Rangana Herath (SL), 10 – Tim Southee (NZ), 11 – James Anderson (ENG).
1 – David Warner (AUS), 2 – Hashim Amla (SA), 3 – Steve Smith (AUS), 4 – Mahela Jayawardene (SL), 5 – Moeen Ali (ENG), 6 – Chris Gayle (WI), 7 – Shahid Afridi (PAK), 8 – AB de Villiers (SA, C, WK), 9 – Stuart Broad (ENG), 10 – Dale Steyn (SA), 11 – Mitchell Johnson (AUS).
1 – Shane Watson (AUS), 2 – Brendan McCullum (NZ), 3 – Hashim Amla (SA), 4 – Virat Kohli (IND), 5 – Misbah-ul-Huq (PAK, C), 6 – Tilikaratne Dilshan (SL), 7: AB de Villiers (SA, WK), 8 – Mitchell Johnson (AUS), 9 – Dale Steyn (SA), 10 – Rangana Herath (SL), 11 – James Anderson (ENG).