I've just arrived Down Under and everyone is buzzing for the start of the World Cup this weekend!
England face the co-hosts and favourites Australia on Saturday, and although they're not heavily fancied, I think Eoin Morgan's troops are in good shape at the moment.
They are underdogs, and having less pressure is probably for the best at the minute. But they’ve got a very exciting team and, on paper, they’re still as good as anyone – especially in the batting line-up.
The forecast this weekend against Australia is dodgy and I’ve got a funny feeling Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad will come up with the goods and beat the Aussies, which might just get them on a roll.
They likely won't go on and win the whole tournament, but I can see this team causing a few upsets and sparking a bit of interest back home.
The importance of the World Cup
The importance of the World Cup is different for every player. For me, it was always the Ashes first, then other Tests and the World Cup just behind that.
But you can't deny this tournament is special. Besides, many of the young English lads taking part won't have played a great deal of Test cricket, so this will be a massive thing for them and they’ll be desperate to go out there and prove themselves on the world stage.
I can’t see there being too many surprises against Australia, and I think it will be more or less the team everyone is expecting. It only takes one player, maybe an Eoin Morgan to get a century or Anderson to take a few top order wickets, and we can surprise the hosts.
Make no bones about it, Australia are red-hot favourites on home soil, but England are more than capable of upsetting the apple cart.
I don’t know about bring the trophy home, but they can surprise a few people. It all depends on how they get on in the group games; if they can start well and create a bit of momentum then who knows what they can do? I’d love to see England go all the way and shock everybody.
My gut tells me it’ll probably be semi-finals at best, but I’d be happy to be proved wrong.
Pool of Death
I have no idea how they decide the pools, but England have been drawn into a Pool of Death! Pool A is definitely the hardest, but it could be a good thing. If they get out of it and qualify well, then they’ll have the belief that they can go on and beat anybody.
My gut feeling is that New Zealand will win the pool. They are on a great run at the minute and have been playing some unbelievable cricket. They’re also blessed with a great captain in Brendon McCullum, who is at the top of his game.
Having said that, England can beat the Kiwis or the Aussies and put themselves right in the mix. I fully expect England to get out of the group and will be very disappointed if they don’t.
The massive game for England is the Sri Lanka game. It’s a must-win game; both nations' hopes of progressing will depend on victory in that match. They taught England a bit of a lesson in Sri Lanka but in Australia in completely different conditions, Sri Lanka will not be as effective and I fully expect England to beat them.
Best England Bets
Top batsman - Eoin Morgan. I’m backing him at 7.00 to come out of his slump in form and have a great World Cup. He’s a brilliant player and I think he’ll embrace his role as captain, leading by example with the bat.
Top bowler - Jimmy Anderson. And not just because he’s my best mate. He's fresh back from injury, he's fit, he's fast and can get England off to a good start against the Aussies. I think he can get 15 or 16 wickets for England and be their main man. He's the favourite at 3.30.
Fastest century - I think at some point Jos Buttler will go in five down and get us 100 off 76 balls. I'm going for a very specific bet there, aren't I?! Anyway, I'll be backing Buttler at 10.00 to hit our quickest century.
England’s progress - My heart says semi-finals at 4.00 but my head says quarters at 2.05.
Best World Cup bets
Century off 50 balls - I wouldn’t be surprised if someone got a century off 50 balls, but it’s such a ridiculous achievement that it's still a long shot – even at a World Cup - and odds of 1.32 for it not to happen are about right. Having said that, if anyone will do it, I’d put my money on AB de Villiers or Chris Gayle.
Hat-trick - I think there will definitely be a hat-trick at the World Cup, it’s just a case of who will do it. I would definitely take this bet at 1.85.
Highest individual score - I don’t think anyone will go higher than 167.5. I would say the highest score will around the 145-150 mark, so I'd take the unders at 2.20.
Tournament top batsman - I think Brendon McCullum (pictured above) is a good shout. He’s used to the conditions down here and New Zealand should be around in the latter stages. He's a good bet at 15.00.
Tournament top bowler - With the ball, I’d say Australia’s Mitchell Johnson. Usually I’d back a spinner because World Cups are played in places where spinners take the wickets, but in Australia it’s likely to be someone with a bit of pace. He's decent value at 9.50.
Tournament winners - New Zealand have always been a good outside bet and reached the semis with an underrated team. But this year they are ranking quite highly, have a great team, are partly on home soil and I think they are the ones that will upset the Aussies. Back them at 5.50.
Bet on the 2015 cricket World Cup