Defending champions England take on New Zealand in Thursday’s opening match of the World Cup in a rematch of their epic showdown in the 2019 final at Lord’s.
Jos Buttler’s men come into the 10-team tournament with the depth to live up to their billing as one of the title favourites.
They will also benefit from the return of star all-rounder Ben Stokes when their campaign begins at the world’s biggest cricket arena, the 130,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
Former India captain Sunil Gavaskar believes England are comfortably placed to become the first back-to-back champions since Australia claimed three-in-a-row in 2007.
“Because of the kind of talent that they have at the top of the order… they have got two or three world-class all-rounders who can change the game with both bat and ball,” Gavaskar told Indian broadcaster Star Sports.
Enland’s formidable fast bowling line-up has Reece Topley, David Willey, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes alongside Stokes, who came out of one-day retirement ahead of the World Cup although he will play only as a batsman.
England have eight members from the squad that triumphed on home soil in the last World Cup in 2019 under Eoin Morgan.
Buttler has slipped into the role of England’s white-ball captain with relative ease since Morgan’s retirement, leading them to the Twenty20 World Cup crown in Australia last year.
“We’re going to try to win a World Cup — we don’t see ourselves as defending champions,” said Buttler.
“It’s very much a new tournament and we know it’s going to be tough because there are some top, top teams,” he added.
“But we know we’re a really good team, a dangerous team, we’ve got a lot of experience in the group and we back ourselves.”
England won the 2019 final at Lord’s after tying with New Zealand.
The super over was also unable to separate the two sides so the match was decided by a better boundary-count rule that made England champions.
– ‘Things to work on’ –
England have set the benchmark in ODI cricket since 2019 — last year against the Netherlands they piled up a world record score of 498.
Perennial underdogs New Zealand will be without skipper Kane Williamson in the opening match due to the batsman’s troubled knee.
Williamson was included in the team despite concerns over the injury he picked up in this year’s Indian Premier League.
But he fired on his return with a match-winning 54 in a warm-up win against Pakistan.
“Pakistan are an outstanding side. It is an exercise and nice to compete and do all those things,” said Williamson, who was named player of the tournament after the 2019 World Cup loss to England.
“There are always things to work on.”
Fast bowler Tim Southee’s return has also boosted the Kiwis, who have have ended runners-up in the last two editions of the 50-over showpiece event.
The Kiwis are still in hunt for a maiden World Cup title after making eight semi-final appearances in 12 editions.
The team boasts of a strong pace attack led by Southee and Trent Boult, while Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi lead the spinners on turning Indian pitches.
Tom Latham led New Zealand in Williamson’s place for the warm-up matches which also saw the Kiwis edge out South Africa in their second game on Monday.
“You are going up against the best teams in the world and you are looking for that final prize but I guess it’s trying to enjoy the couple of months in India,” Latham said.