There is great excitement and a keen air of expectation on the first day of a cricket World Cup. As the 12th edition begins on 30th May, the hosts take on South Africa. Head-to-head the two teams are even in the mega event with a 3-3 record, but neither has won the World Cup.
Overall, England had a fine record in the first five World Cup tournaments, being runners-up thrice and having reached the semi-finals twice. But in the last six, they reached the quarter-finals twice, the super-eight once and failed to go beyond the league matches thrice. They have slipped to No. 6 in the all-time World Cup ranking, but they are currently No. 1 in the International Cricket Council (ICC) One-day International (ODI) rankings.
In their seven World Cup tournaments, South Africa could not reach the final but qualified for the semi-finals four times and the quarter-finals twice, failing just once to advance beyond the first stage, ironically when the showpiece event was held on their own shores in 2003. They stand second in the World Cup rankings behind Australia, and are third in the current ICC ODI ranking after England and India.
The two teams are well-matched, both balanced, with flair and dash as well as orthodoxy and maturity. England have depth in their batting while the Proteas possess a top-quality pace attack. It is hard to separate the two teams, and one gets the feeling that the one with fewer nerves will carry the day. Both would be keen to get off to a good start in their quest to win their first World Cup title.
Centuries have been scored on the first day of nine World Cup tournaments, the exceptions being in 1999 and 2007. The top score on the opening day has been Virender Sehwag’s 175 against Bangladesh in 2011.
There have been hauls of four and five wickets on the first day of six of the eleven tournaments. The best has been Mitchell Marsh’s five for 33 against England in 2015, just ahead of Dennis Lillee’s five for 34 in 1975.
Four matches were played on the first day of the inaugural World Cup, 7th June 1975, at Lord’s, Edgbaston, Headingley and Old Trafford.
- All the four winning teams on that day put up half-century opening partnerships, and all four of these sides – England, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies – eventually advanced to the semi-finals. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, lost 8 wickets before they reached fifty.
- It was a day of contrasting fortunes for the captains. New Zealand skipper Glenn Turner hit up an unbeaten 171, which was to remain the highest score in the World Cup until Indian captain Kapil Dev eclipsed it in 1983. But Sri Lankan skipper Anura Tennekoon had the mortification of registering the first duck of the World Cup. East Africa captain Harilal Shah was also dismissed for a duck on that opening day.
- Another hundred was hit up on this historic occasion by England opener Dennis Amiss who scored 137.
- To complete a splendid picture there was a five-wicket haul too, by legendary Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee who bagged five for 34 off his 12 overs.
- West Indies left-arm seamer Bernard Julien, though, earned the distinction of bagging the first four-wicket haul as he took four for 20.
What will the first day of the ICC World Cup 2019 be like? The drama is about to unfold.
(Author Indra Vikram Singh can be contacted on email email@example.com).
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