India v Australia
Sunday June 9, 10:30
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event
India summer a distinct possibility
India sat out the first week of the World Cup before easily beating the disappointing South Africans. It seems slightly unfair that Virat Kohli's men had the luxury of watching all the other sides in competition before they crossed the boundary rope themselves. The close proximity of the IPL Final to the World Cup start saw India's stars get an extended break, but many other nations also had players in India's showpiece event too.
The break could however have taken India off the boil, so getting points on the board would have delighted Kohli. despite his own rare failure with the bat. It was opener Rohit Sharma whose 133-ball 122 steered India home by six wickets against the Proteas. MS Dhoni continued his fine form from the IPL with an important 34 from 46 deliveries after Yuzvendra Chahal's 4-51 had helped to restrict the Africans to 227 for nine.
Australia are finding a way to win
Australia cantered past Afghanistan by seven wickets in their opening game, but could yet rue their lack of speed in the chase if Net Run Rate comes into play further down the line. Their second win, over West Indies at Trent Bridge on Thursday, was a thriller. The tournament is certainly serving up some great games now.
The Aussies have packed a fair degree of fight in their suitcases it seems. They came back from the brink to win a superb game by 15 runs against West Indies thanks to Steven Smith's patient rearguard knock of 73 from 103 balls, Bathan Coulter-Nile's career best 82 from 60 and Alex Carey's 46. With the ball the form of Mitchell Starc could be key as the left-arm paceman grabbed a five-for as Pat Cummins also bowled with aggression (2-41).
To recover from 38 38 for four and then 79 for five at the start of the 17th over showed tremendous fortitude and a real belief that they can win from almost any eventuality. It also displayed the formula for ODIs where the first 15 overs seems to give the bowlers reason to turn up, the middle 25 are batsmen friendly and then the bowler can edge back in to contention as risks are taken during the final assault. The Australian's lack of form against the short ball could also see India adopting half-track tactics and potentially playing another seamer.
The team in green and gold have won their last three ODIs against India. A win on Sunday would be their 12th ODI success in the bounce which is their longest run of success for 10 years. It would seem the Justin Langer coached side are finding form just at the right time to defend their global 50=over title.
Battle of the Titans tough to call
This match promises to be a great contest between two of the World Cups most successful sides. Between them they have hoovered up seven of the 11 previous World Cup titles and star names abound on both sides. The Indian support will be huge in London, but there are plenty of vocal Aussies in the capital too.
India start 1.875/6 favourites with Australia 2.1211/10 in a contest that could easily go either way. In 11 previous Cricket World Cup encounters Australia hold an 8-3 advantage, including a 93-run win at the 2015 tournament. I will be skirting past the winner market and backing a high-scoring encounter on an Oval ground that should suit the firepower on both sides. India have shown some form and Australia can't possibly bat as badly as they did against West Indies, surely.
Rohit Sharma's superb century against South Africa was described by Virat Kohli as his most important for India. It is ominous for the nine other nations that Sharma has brought his A-game to the World Cup as he can be one of the most destructive batsman in the white-ball arena. At 13/5 to top score again he is of serious interest in a field where Kohli is hot favourite at 11/5. Take a look too at MS Dhoni who was very consistent in the IPL and 13/2 on him could be worth a nibble, particularly if Indian bat second as he is known as a superb finisher.
When Australia lost early wickets Steven Smith batted very sensibly to give his team a chance to post a competitive score, yet he never seemed particularly fluent. The former skipper made his only World Cup ton against India in 2015 and he has now passed fifty in six of his last seven ODI innings. That said, I am tempted to avoid him in this market at 11/4 as he seemed well off top form despite posting a score in the last game.
Joint favourite with Smith is David Warner, whilst skipper Aasron Finch is 4/1. Avoid Usman Khawaja has he looks troubled by the short ball. I am going to repeat a bet that failed miserably last time out when Glenn Maxwell fell for a duck, but at 15/2 the 'Big Show' could bounce back, particularly if Jasprit Bumrah takes early scalps, as he did in India's opener.
I love the Man of the Match markets. Back a few matchwinners and sit back and cheer them on. There are plenty of big names on show and my picks are David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan at 10/1, with Glenn Maxwell the third choice at 12/1. Some big prices on three men who can make a big difference.
Follow James on Twitter @cricket_badger