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Words by Riley Taylor

With the Cricket World Cup returning to English soil this summer, Overtime looks into the standout teams and players ahead of the tournament with insight from Wisden cricket writer Yas Rana.

Afghanistan

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The dark horses of the tournament feature global T20 stars that will now get their chance to show their talent on the world stage. The spin trio of Rashid Khan, Mujeeb ur-Rahman and Mohammad Nabi will be a threat to many as well as the destructive top-order featuring Mohammad Shahzad.

Captain: Asghar Afghan

Player to Watch: Rashid Khan

First Game: v Australia at Bristol, June 1

SkyBet Betting Odds: 80/1

Previous Series Form: DLWWW

YR: “It would be patronising and ignorant to purely focus of Afghanistan’s extraordinary rise in recent years. This is a team capable of beating anyone. They have a genuine superstar of the game in Rashid and in Hazratullah Zazai, they have a destructive opener who fears no one.”

Australia

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The Australians don’t look like strong favourites – a phrase that in the past editions of the World Cup would never have been uttered. Furthermore, without Steve Smith and David Warner the Aussies have had a major selection issue. Despite this, Marcus Stoinis has come to prominence as Australia’s key man and young guns such as Jhye Richardson and Ashton Turner have showed promise.

Captain: Aaron Finch

Player to Watch: Marcus Stoinis

First Game: v Afghanistan at Bristol, June 1

SkyBet Betting Odds: 11/2

Previous Series Form: WLLLL

YR: “Whisper it quietly, but Australia, after a torrid year in ODI cricket, have built up a very decent team. The exploits of Peter Handscomb and Turner in the recent series win over India shows Australia might have found their best XI just in time for the World Cup.”

Bangladesh

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By no means favourites but this is a team that have bags of talent and that could cause a few shocks. The likes of Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal and Mustafizur Rahman are world class talents and have proved their worth on multiple occasions. A team to watch out for.

Captain: Shakib Al Hasan

Player to Watch: Shakib Al Hasan

First Game: v South Africa at The Oval, June 2

SkyBet Betting Odds: 66/1

Previous Series Form: LWWLW

YR: “A more than handy white-ball outfit. While it would be a surprise if they qualified for the semifinals, don’t be shocked if they pull off a few major upsets.”

England

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The world’s number one side, a top-order set in stone and the hosts of the tournament. It is clear to see why England are favourites but with Eoin Morgan’s side receiving a reality check in the West Indies, there may be a few demons beginning to sneak in.

Captain: Eoin Morgan

Player to Watch: Jos Buttler

First Game: v South Africa at The Oval, May 30

SkyBet Betting Odds: 9/4

Previous Series Form: DWWWW

YR: “I feel that England are definitely the favourites in home conditions but as the West Indies tour showed they’re still prone to the odd spectacular collapse.”

India

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A team on good form and close favourites. With the world’s best player at the helm and a lethal opening partnership of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, India’s chances look strong. However, with a lack of a reliable allrounder it may not be plain sailing for the two-time champions.

Captain: Virat Kohli

Player to Watch: Virat Kohli

First Game: v South Africa at Southampton, June 5

SkyBet Betting Odds: 3/1

Previous Series Form: LWWWW

YR: “With a strong top order including Kohli’s incredible average combined with a firing Jasprit Bumrah they are very much a team capable of reclaiming the title they lost in 2015.”

New Zealand

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A team with plenty of talent across all departments with a mixture of experience and youth. With a reinvented Henry Nicholls providing stability in the top order and Mitchell Santner finding his role as a genuine all-rounder it could be an interesting tournament for the Blackcaps.

Captain: Kane Williamson

Player to Watch: Trent Boult

First Game: v Sri Lanka at Cardiff, June 1

SkyBet Betting Odds: 13/2

Previous Series Form: WLWDL

YR: “Runners-up in 2015, New Zealand possess two of very best middle-order batsmen in the world. If Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson click, good luck to anyone that faces them. Trent Boult and Tim Southee in English conditions will be a force to be reckoned with.”

Pakistan

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Pakistan’s chances are often impossible to predict. After winning the Champions Trophy two years ago, they have only won two series since then. However, a team featuring an explosive top order and a passionate and fiery bowling attack may shock us all yet again.

Captain: Sarfraz Ahmed

Player to Watch: Fakhar Zaman/ Babar Azam

First Game: v West Indies at Trent Bridge, May 31

SkyBet Betting Odds: 9/1

Previous Series Form: LDLWL

YR: “With a devastating bowling attack and Babar Azam in their top order, Pakistan on their day, could beat anyone. As ever with Pakistan, they’ll need to find consistency to find a run to the final.”

South Africa

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A side consistently packed full of talent but who often fail to deliver. After throwing away seemingly an already won semifinal in 2015, a side that no longer features the likes of AB de Villiers will hope to put past failures behind them to bring the trophy home.

Captain: Faf du Plessis

Player to Watch: Dale Steyn

First Game: v England at The Oval, May 30

SkyBet Betting Odds: 8/1

Previous Series Form: WWWWL

YR: “Another team capable of beating anyone in the world. Any team with Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir and Kagiso Rabada in their ranks should be feared.”

Sri Lanka

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They never have truly recovered since the retirements of greats Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene as they have faced a heavy decline down to 8th in the world rankings. However, they still have reliable batsman Dinesh Chandimal and legendary fast bowler Lasith Malinga who will look to lead a side mixed with experience and youth to a giant killing.

Captain: Lasith Malinga

Player to Watch: Kusal Mendis

First Game: v New Zealand at Cardiff, June 1

SkyBet Betting Odds: 40/1

Previous Series Form: LLLLW

YR: “It would be some achievement for this Sri Lanka side to reach the last four. Expect this to be the tournament where Kusal Mendis, the immensely talented middle-order batsman, announces himself on the world stage.”

West Indies

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After only getting through to the World Cup thanks to a controversial LBW decision against Scotland, the Windies have reinvented themselves. In Chris Gayle’s last tournament before retirement, they will hope that new additions of Shimron Hetmyer and John Campbell can help them show they are well and truly back.

Captain: Jason Holder

Player to Watch: Chris Gayle

First Game: v Pakistan at Trent Bridge, May 31

SkyBet Betting Odds: 12/1

Previous Series Form: DLLLL

YR: “Isn’t it great to see them back? A whisker away from not even qualifying for the tournament, as they showed against England, this is a seriously good team.”

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