Just hours away from the opening ceremony now and excitement levels ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 are being ramped up to a very high level. Although the opening stage of the tournament is set to pit a number of highly-ranked sides against the lower-ranked associate nations, there are some potentially interesting match-ups early on.
The first game of the competition sees Bangladesh play India. While India are the overwhelming favourites to win the game, Bangladesh famously beat them in 2007 and dumped them out of the competition, so India will be taking nothing for granted.
Then we have New Zealand against Kenya – although New Zealand enter the tournament with little in the way of form, they should be too strong for Kenya, an outfit far removed from the team that reached the semi-finals in 2003.
Sri Lanka, who many are tipping for overall glory, then meet Canada and although the Canadians gave England a serious fright in a warm-up game, with home advantage, and coming off the back of a winning run, Sri Lanka should boss the game and take some early points.
Australia then play Zimbabwe and although the four-time champions aren’t playing at their best at the moment, undoubtedly missing Mike Hussey in the middle order, neither are a Zimbabwe side that has been badly hit by injuries. They stand a chance if their big players – Brendan Taylor, Tatenda Taibu and Elton Chigumbura – all fire with the bat but Australia should be too strong.
England will be wary of their opening match against the Netherlands following their embarrasment at the hands of the men in orange in the opening match of the 2009 ICC World Twenty20. It would be an even bigger upset if the Dutch beat them over 50 overs but they do have recent victories over Bangladesh and Kenya under their belt so will be nothing if not confident going into the encounter.
Despite the six-week competition being yet to get underway, we’d like you to make your predictions – who do you think will win the tournament overall? Check out what Cricket World’s John Pennington and Jim White think below – and then leave us your views.