Welcome to the cricketing year of 2019! What does it have in store? Well, we’ve reached for our crystal ball to try and find out. There’s plenty to look forward to, with the World Cup, the Ashes and the start of the Test Championship. Who will be the major movers and shakers?
Will the terrible trio return?
By far and away the most astonishing event of 2018, the fall out from the Newlands ball tampering scandal rumbles on into 2019. Cameron Bancroft is back in action, his nine month ban having elapsed. He’s not really the interesting party in this story, though. Captain and vice captain, Steve Smith and Dave Warner, are due to return to action at the end of March. But will they get back into the Australia side?
Smith looks certain to return. He has shown genuine contrition over what happened and in a cricketing sense, Australia desperately need him. Their batting was suspect with him in the XI, let alone without him. But what of Warner? The narrative has portrayed him as the central villain. Bancroft has claimed it was Warner’s idea and Smith has said he turned a blind eye to the sandpapering plans. The path back is a little less clear for Warner, owing in no small part to his reputation, ongoing idiocy on the cricket field and the fact that he’s just a genuinely unlovable character. There would be few tears shed if this was the end of Warner’s career.
The other factor at play is the fact that Australia will be spending a large portion of 2019 in England. Warner struggled with some of the interactions he had with the crowd in South Africa and the crowds in England will delight in sticking it to him. He also walked off the field in a Grade game in November due to sledging. A tour of England doesn’t appear to be the best fit for him right now.
Our prediction: Smith will return to the fold as he is simply too good to leave out. The weight of ill feeling towards Warner makes his comeback very difficult. I expect Smith to return and flourish, but Warner to face a very challenging year on the periphery of the Australia team.
The glitziest T20 show on earth is, of course, returning for its 12th edition in 2019, although location details are still to be confirmed owing to elections which are due to take place in India. At the time of writing, it appears likely that the tournament could be shifted to South Africa.
The IPL Cricket Betting market is tight at the moment, with Sunrisers Hyderabad, Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore going into the tournament as favourites. Could this be the year that the boys from Banglaore finally get their hands on the trophy?
Our prediction: Always a hotly contested tournament, the shifting of the tournament to South Africa, as appears likely, could favour RCB. With AB de Villiers and Heinrich Klaasen well accustomed to the local conditions and Nathan Coulter-Nile and Tim Southee no stranger to them either, it could well be 12th time lucky for RCB. They also have Virat Kohli. And he’s quite good at cricket.
The World Cup
The jewel in the crown of the ODI game hits England’s shores in 2019, with the hosts going into the tournament as favourites. So, who can spoil their party? On paper, it only looks as though India have the firepower to compete. They have a solid and varied bowling unit and any batting unit that possesses Virat Kohli, the greatest ODI batsman of all time, has a chance. But – there’s always a but – Kohli is hiding a multitude of sins in India’s batting and they have a long tail which, if it can be exposed, is a thorn in India’s side.
Australia, the defending champions, have had a torrid time of late (see above) and don’t appear in any sort of shape to defend their crown. 2015’s beaten finalists, New Zealand, cannot be ruled out. This quietly efficient unit has explosive batting and a varied bowling attack. They never get much attention, but the Kiwis are in a good spot right now. South Africa have the bowling talent, but the batting looks a little light. How they must wish AB de Villiers had stayed on for one more year.
Then it’s over to the wildcards, Pakistan and West Indies. The Windies exist in a perpetual state of crisis these days but as they showed during the 2016 World T20, they can harness that and turn it into something positive. Pakistan, too, can never be written off. Look no further than the 2017 Champions Trophy for evidence of that, where they comprehensively out bowled England in the semi-final then did the same to India in the final.
But England are the team to beat. They have the best batting unit by a distance, with the bowlers well capable of clubbing lower order runs to boot. The bowling isn’t quite as good as India’s or South Africa’s, but this is more than compensated for in the batting department.
Our prediction: Eoin Morgan to lift the trophy at Lord’s. One thing is for certain, though – England will not be boring to watch!
This series carries the honour of being the first in the new ICC Test Championship. Following hot on the heels of the World Cup, this series always attracts a lot of attention, but could signpost the returns of Smith and Warner to red ball cricket as well as the added intrigue around the Championship. Australia haven’t won in England since 2001, although they have won the last two in Australia by nine Tests to nil. Can they carry that home form over to England?
Our prediction: No, they can’t. England have not been without their troubles in the Test arena, but their home form remains strong and Australia’s batting looks too brittle for the challenge, even if Warner and Smith are reintegrated and hit top gear immediately. The Aussie bowling attack will trouble England’s batting, but England’s batting largely troubles itself anyway. It won’t be a whitewash or anything, but England will come out on top to regain cricket’s famous little urn.
By Miles Reucroft