Pace will show the way

Updated: May 26, 2019, 07:21 IST | Ian Chappell |

The team that consistently take wickets, particularly through the middle overs, is the one most likely to lift the World Cup trophy at Lord's on July 14

India's Bhuvneshwar Kumar, England's Mark Wood and Australia's Mitchell Starc
India's Bhuvneshwar Kumar, England's Mark Wood and Australia's Mitchell Starc

In an era where big bats and big scores with the occasional monumental battering have proliferated in ODIs, there are still some seriously good bowling attacks gearing up for the 2019 World Cup.

Wicket-taking is going to play a crucial role in deciding this World Cup. Despite the modern gung-ho batting style this is not an easy contract to fulfil when the tournament reaches the knockout stage. The team that consistently takes wickets -- particularly through the middle overs -- is the one most likely to lift the trophy.

Consequently the best balanced attacks will likely come to the fore and they belong to England, India and Australia.

Until recently the ingredient missing from a rampant England side was genuine pace. Suddenly with Jofra Archer a late qualifier and a resurgent Mark Wood they have an abundance of speed to the point where the most reliable wicket-taker in the recent past -- Liam Plunkett -- could warm the bench.

A pace attack of Archer, Wood and Chris Woakes, with Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid providing the guile and the ebullient Ben Stokes as back-up, is one to be feared. Throw in a deep and powerful batting line-up and the only concern for England is their history of World Cup failures and the tendency to be weighed down by home expectations in the short forms of the game.

This is where Eoin Morgan's calmness as captain will play an important role. If he keeps England focused purely on the job at hand then the home side will take some stopping.

While not possessing the outright pace of England or Australia, India does have great variety and a trio of fast bowlers that can be exceptional in favourable conditions. If there's any moisture in the pitches then Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are cagey enough to take full advantage. If however the pitches start too wear and the conditions are dry, then Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal are a dangerous wicket-taking combination.

Throw in Hardik Pandya as a handy pace bowling all-rounder and Virat Kohli has plenty of options.

Even with the consistent Josh Hazlewood missing, Australia is blessed with a dominant pair of wicket-taking quickies in Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins. Australia's success in the tournament will depend a lot on how well either Nathan Coulter-Nile or Jason Behrendorff fill the third seamer role. In the past Australia has been reluctant to play two front-line spinners in ODIs and with Glenn Maxwell as a batting all-rounder providing some off-spin, leggie Adam Zampa is likely to be the first choice tweaker.

After a promising start Marcus Stoinis's bowling seems to have been largely neglected lately but skipper Aaron Finch may have to revise that plan in England.

Both South Africa and New Zealand are well equipped in the bowling department. South Africa has a terrific pace trio in Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi and Imran Tahir adequately fulfils the role of wicket-taking spinner. Wicket-taking shouldn't be a problem for South Africa but the batting looks a little thin and they do have a well-earned reputation for World Cup cock-ups.

Most of these hiccups have come at the knockout stage; this time they'll need to exceed expectations with the bat to reach that far in the tournament.

New Zealand aren't as blessed as South Africa with pace but they do have a pair of bowlers in Trent Boult and Tim Southee who are deadly if the ball swings. New Zealand have regularly reached the final four stage of the World Cup and could well repeat that performance but their batting seems a little too limited to make the final.

The 2019 format requires each team to play the other nine so no one can avoid playing the best and that helps to make it such an open contest. If England can overcome the weight of expectation from playing at home, their bowling attack has the look of a winner.

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