The 2019 Cricket World Cup is fast approaching and there is every suggestion that the tournament could prove to be the most competitive for some time. The format has changed with nine matches now having to be played to establish four semi-finalists while the lack of associate teams have caused plenty of controversy, but that should not prevent an exciting and unpredictable tournament being played out in England and Wales. Three nations - England, India and Australia - are regarded as the most likely to emerge victorious at Lord's on July 14, but can they claim to be the best prepared outfit ahead of the competition?
Your cricket world cup betting odds will tell you that there is little to split both England and India, but the hosts have much work to do in order to justify their tag of favourites. England were inconsistent during their series draw with West Indies earlier this year, and such form will not be rewarded in a 10-team group. They have eight matches to change that in a hectic warm-up schedule during May, but you have to question whether England are going to perform to their best with 17 one-day internationals being played in the space of two months. India's preparations are in sharp contrast to England's with just two ODIs coming before the start of the tournament, but the majority of their squad will have spent weeks playing in the IPL competing in different conditions.
However, Australia may have found the right balance. A couple of ODIs will be played against Pakistan before the end of March, but they do not return to competitive action until the days leading up to the tournament. Cricket Australia have also told any players competing in the IPL that they will not be allowed to feature in the closing weeks of the event in order to focus their attention on the World Cup, and there is a lot of value in backing the Baggy Greens to successfully defend their title.
South Africa are only regarded as one of the outside contenders but like Australia, they appear to have got things right in the lead up to the tournament. The Proteas have won ODI series' against Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka since November, so you naturally have to question why some bookmakers are offering betting odds as high as 9/1. They face England and India in two of their first three matches of the competition, and victory against either could really set the tone for a strong showing.
Pakistan and West Indies also deserve respect heading into the event. Neither team have showed the best form in recent months, but both have won the ICC Trophy on British soil since 2004. The expansion of the group stages may not suit them, but they are two nations who can beat anyone on their day. There is definitely value in betting on at least one of the nations making the semi-finals, and there would be little pressure on either should they find themselves mixing it with the favourites. New Zealand have played a lot of ODI cricket in recent months but came up short when facing India at home, while Sri Lanka's only recent success has come in games when they have already suffered a series defeat. Bangladesh and Afghanistan can both be selected at 80/1, and each team will be satisfied with a couple of victories during the group stages.