London: Will the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 opener take off as per the form guide, which says England are likely to have a winning start, or can the Proteas stun the hosts?
As The Oval rolled out the red carpet to host the lung-opener, South African skipper Faf du Plessis revelled in their “underdogs” status.
“England are a tremendous cricket team. They have been playing some real good cricket over the last 24 months. The first game of the campaign, for me, brings a tremendous excitement,” Du Plessis said.
“Obviously England have been the favourite, so we’re going to have to play really good cricket. But for us, it’s not just the first game. It’s sort of a six-week journey and tomorrow is just the first step.”
South Africa’s winning chances took a body blow due to an injury to Dale Steyn.
England skipper Eoin Morgan feels that Steyn’s absence will be felt hard by the South Africans — even though they have been coping with his absence.
Answering to a query from Gulf News on whether Steyn’s absence will serve as an advantage, Morgan’s response was: “They (South Africans) have coped with Dale Steyn’s absence in previous series’ and for about a year and a half, I think, and they did a good job of that. The last time they played us at home, Steyn wasn’t here. They have cover but probably definitely not as reputable a name as Dale Steyn, but they certainly have cover.”
Du Plessis was hoping to have Steyn in his attack to get that extra edge.
“A fit Dale Steyn makes our bowling attack a very, very strong one. So tomorrow will be a little bit of chopping and changing to get a balance that we think can take on England. It is a big loss to our team. We didn’t expect it when we picked the squad.”
The South African captain is well aware of the expectations of his team from his country’s fans. “You know, whether you are the favourites or not, you still have to make sure that you play some good cricket. They deservedly have got the favourites’ tag there because they are the home nation and they have been playing consistently good cricket. We will be facing so many different opponents right through this tournament. But if you get too focused on the opposition, you can get distracted.”
Morgan knows his team are the obvious favourites and he believes one has to handle the pressure of being the home team calmly. “Over the last two years, our form at home, in particular, has been outstanding and that’s the reason it’s there. We have no injury concerns. Everybody is full of health and excited for tomorrow.”
The England skipper has huge respect for the South Africans. “I think they are a well-rounded team. They are always a strong team coming into the tournament and are very experienced, as well. A lot of their guys have been around for a long time.”
In short, the first match of the tournament can well be a spicy starter to savour.
Catch the match: England vs South Africa
At the Oval, London
Match starts at 1.30pm UAE
Live telecast on OSN Network