T20 Cricket may grab the headlines and the bigger crowds, but the 50 Over World Cup is seen as the ‘serious’ version of the game, and it’s the title that all the teams really want to win.

First held in England back in 1975, the tournament returns to the UK this year with ten of the best ODI nations taking part. The hosts are the favourites, and with that home advantage, Eoin Morgan’s England side will be targeting their first ever global 50-over trophy.

Can they pull it off or will there be a winning challenge from among the chasing pack?

Dates, Teams and Venues

The World Cup begins on Thursday 30th May when England take on South Africa at the Oval. The group stage then concludes on 6th July with two matches as India face Sri Lanka at Headingley and Australia tackle South Africa at Old Trafford. There are no gaps in the schedule so that means at least one group match is played every day between those two dates.

Two semi finals - one at Old Trafford on 9th July and one at Edgbaston on 11th July - take place before the final showdown at Lord’s on 14th July.

Ten teams are taking part: host nation England qualified automatically while the next seven sides went through on the basis of their ODI rankings at the end of September 2017. The remaining two countries, Afghanistan and West Indies progressed via a series of qualifiers which were played in Zimbabwe in 2018.

That leaves us with the following ten nations: England, India, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and the West Indies.

Over the course of the tournament, the following eleven grounds will be used as host venues:

Lord’s, The Oval, Headingley, Old Trafford, Trent Bridge, Edgbaston, Chester-le-Street, Cardiff, Bristol, Taunton and Southampton.

Teams will travel around the country so no side has a base as such, and the format this year should lead to more exciting cricket in the group phase.

What is the format of the Cricket World Cup?

This is the 50 Over version of the limited overs game and that’s a big bonus for many punters. We’ve dispensed with the frenetic, unpredictable nature of T20 and are left with a relatively steady format. We still see shocks in ODI cricket but the surprise outcomes are rarer and many bettors take advantage of that by seeking out regular, if modest profits, in the result betting.

The same theory applies to many side markets, including top batsmen and top bowlers. In the 50 over form of the game, bowlers can send down a maximum of ten overs and therefore have more time to get into a rhythm. Batsmen also have more time to build an innings without the need to ‘tee off’ from the very first ball.

All of this means that the favourites in each market have a better chance of coming through on a regular basis. In practise, that doesn’t always happen, but it’s a strong theory that is worth considering as part of your Cricket World Cup betting strategy.

In contrast, the new structure of the earlier rounds could lead to a level of unpredictability in 2019. We’ve left the second group phase behind so sides no longer have the safety net of the Super Sixes. Instead, each team will play each other once in the groups and the top four sides will progress to the semis.

It’s tough to predict how many points will be needed in order to make the knockouts but, under the new format, losses will be felt more keenly. Not every game is a must win but there is more emphasis on avoiding defeat, so will that lead to more ‘cagey cricket’ at this year’s tournament?

What can we learn from history?

There have been eleven previous editions of the World Cup and Australia lead the way with five titles. India and West Indies have two wins apiece while Pakistan and Sri Lanka have one victory each. Over that period of time, we have seen some upsets with India winning from a distant 66/1 in 1983 while Pakistan were available at 33/1 to win the 1992 tournament.

Since Sri Lanka’s surprise win in 1996, however, the trophy has gone with the shorter-priced options. In the two most recent editions, Australia were available at 19/10 in 2015 while India were on offer at 3/1 four years earlier. It’s particularly interesting to note that 2011 and 2015 gave us the only two occasions when hosts, or co-hosts, had lifted the trophy.

Home advantage might, therefore, be a recent trend but historically, it may not help us in finding our winner of the 2019 World Cup. What every winning side possessed was a good balance of power hitters and patient, accumulating batsmen, plus a varied and potent bowling unit that could adapt to any prevailing conditions.

With those points in mind, let’s now see if we can pick our 2019 World Cup winner.

Who are 2019 Cricket World Cup favourites?

England lead the way in the outright betting markets and you can currently back the hosts at general industry odds of 9/4. As we saw at the start of May’s ODI series with Pakistan, England will score heavily with the bat but they can also be profligate with the ball and that’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

India are close behind at 3/1 and Virat Kohli’s men should be serious challengers. There is a question mark over their number four slot and leaving Rishabh Pant behind could be a big mistake but this is a strong, all-round side, if we overlook that particular slot in the order.

Australia are third favourites at 4/1 and are some way ahead of the chasing pack, led by New Zealand at 10/1. The odds setters therefore think it will come down to three teams but are the Aussies genuine contenders? The return of Steve Smith and David Warner will bolster the batting but the lack of depth in the bowling unit may scupper their chances of a record sixth title.

Our top picks for the tournament

If England are to justify their position as pre-tournament favourites then they really need to bring Jofra Archer into the squad. His potential inclusion has caused some debate but in a side where the current bowling attack can be expensive, Archer’s ability to keep the runs down can’t be ignored.

We’ll bypass India for the moment and come to third favourites Australia. There is plenty of talk around renewed batting strength with the return of Smith and Warner but their bowling is a concern for us. The Aussies were on the wrong end of England’s World Record score of 481/6 in 2018 and while neither Pat Cummins nor Mitchell Starc were playing that day, this is an attack with a lack of depth and quality beyond that new ball pairing.

The biggest challenge should, therefore, come from India. Some critics are citing fatigue factor following the IPL but there is ample time to rest and recover before India’s first group game against South Africa on June 5.

Key players are in form: Shikhar Dhawan and MS Dhoni found their touch with the bat and while Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were subdued by comparison, they should be back to their prolific best in England. In the bowling department, much will depend on Kuldeep Yadav who enjoyed a productive tour of England in 2018. Kuldeep will have support from Jasprit Bumrah who was exceptional in the death overs at the IPL.

If they came somehow get Rishabh Pant in, we’d be happier to commit to this Indian side but if they play to their full potential, a third World Cup trophy should be heading their way.

Feb 6, 2020

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