The West Indies are playing to their pace bowling strengths and defending champions Australia are next on their hit list. James Buttler is siding with the Caribbean Kings...
"This promises to be a high-scoring, close game and there are small margins. I'm sticking with my hunch on West Indies to do well at this World Cup. I'm also not at all convinced of Australia's batting depth or their spin options."
Australia v West Indies
Thursday June 6, 10:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event
Aussies face first real test
Australia got their World Cup campaign underway with a seven-wicket victory over Afghanistan, but face a sterner task against West Indies on Thursday. The defending champions were expected to beat the Afghans, and did so comfortably, but showed a distinct lack of enterprise as the jogged to the winning line. In a competition where run-rate could be crucial, that may be something they look back on with regret.
Paceman Pat Cummins is a bowler to watch. He brings strong recent form and his 3-20 against Afghanistan was instrumental in Australia's success. David Warner is back and made a careful 114-ball 89 and looks set to bring his incredible IPL form to this English summer. Skipper Aaron Finch notched 66 alongside Warner at the top of the order and with former captain Steven Smith back in the middle-order, and Glenn Maxwell at number five the top order packs a mighty punch.
After a troublesome 18-months, on and off the pitch, Australia seem to be hitting form just at the right time. It's what Aussies do isn't it? But the jury is still out on just how good Finch's side are. Thursday's game will reveal a lot. There is not much more than the width of a sheet of sandpaper between them and their West Indies counterparts.
Windies to serve up more chin music
West Indies rocked up at Trent Bridge last week and blitzed Pakistan with short-pitched bowling that harked back to their great sides of yesteryear. The seven-wicket win illustrated the reasons why Jason Holder's side could threaten the latter stages of the tournament. Holder leads intelligently, the batting packs power and the bowling unit is up for the challenge.
The Calypso Kings are like Pakistan in their Jekyll and Hyde nature and that makes them a tricky betting proposition. If the side that stunned Pakistan turns up to play Australia they are worth a play. But with Chris Gayle, so important at the top of the innings, seemingly one poorly timed twist from completely wrecking his injured back, and with all-rounder Andre Russell never far from the physio's bed, there are perils in throwing your lot in with West Indies. Whatever happens, their resurgence reminds many of us of Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall and all of those great players that have been before.
West Indies are dangerous and it is great for the tournament that they have shown up. Bowling Pakistan out for 105 was seriously impressive and Oshane Thomas is a terrific raw talent who ripped through with 4-27. Like his team, Thomas is raw and one day will reap his rewards and another may be well off the mark.
A test of title-winning credentials
Before this tournament began I suggested West Indies would make the semi-final stage and Australia would not. This match is a test of that prediction. West Indies lead the World Cup head-to-head with Australia 5-4 but ignore that red herring as it is a stat that harks back to their glory days. Overall, in all ODIs, the Aussies lead the encounter 73-60 with three games tied.
Head coach Justin Langer has admitted that his Australian side have spent recent months batting against spin and will have to adapt quickly to take in a battery of quicks. This could be their undoing. West Indies will target the middle of the pitch and the Aussies are not the kind of side to turn down a challenge. Of course it could go wrong for Australia if they put machismo above sensible batting and that's a tougher test that it may sound for some of these Australians.
This promises to be a high-scoring, close game and there are small margins. I'm sticking with my hunch on West Indies to do well at this World Cup. I'm also not at all convinced of Australia's batting depth or their spin options. Adam Zampa could struggle in English conditions and can be expensive, when spin during this tournament has to deliver economical middle overs. West Indies are a very tempting 2.809/5 to win this match and that is more than good enough for me.
A big score beckons
We've been waiting for Trent Bridge to serve up a huge total and this could be the game where the Nottingham track and the short boundaries deliver. The world record England total of 481 was made there and running a finger down the batting power in both sides would suggest a capability to go very big. If West Indies go short and get it wrong Australia could prosper. If Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and gang fire it could be carnage. Don't be frightened of looking upwards of 400 on the Exchange.
If Australia are to defend their title they need the returned Steven Smith and David Warner to ignore the crowd's heckles and fire them to big scores. Crowds booing the sandpapergate pairing are risking firming up the pair's resolve and concentrating the minds of two of the best players in the world.
Warner could relish the pace on offer at Trent Bridge and is rightly the favourite at 5/2 to claim the highest score by an Australian. He won't be rocked by the short ball, which is why West Indies have to be careful not to get carried away. Aaron Finch and Smith are Warner's main rivals in this market, but Glenn Maxwell at 15/2 is far too big and carries my cash.
There are some genuine batting power in West Indies ranks and Chris Gayle, if his back holds, is 11/4 favourite to top score. The 'Universe Boss' is the best one-day player of all-time, but his back is a worry. He was visibly hampered as he approached his fifty against Pakistan, so to score many more will hurt.
That doubt leads me to play Gayle's opening partner Shai Hope, also at 11/4. Hope is a quality pick, whilst Andre Russell at 11/2 could be a wise half-stakes cover play. I'm also keen to see more of Nicholas Pooran who is a left-hander of massive promise.
With huge names on both sides this is a great market to give you a few bets to span a potential 100 overs of cricket. I've played West Indies to win on price alone, so I'm taking a smattering of players from either side at half-stakes. For Australia it's David Warner 7/1 and Glenn Maxwell 10/1, whilst Andre Russell is always worth a nibble at 12/1.
James Buttler at CWC19
Units Staked 13
Units Returned 13.75
Profit/Loss: +0.75 units