One-day cricket legend Dean Jones expects Australia to reach the semi-finals of the World Cup but says England are worthy favourites to lift the trophy for the first time in history.
Australia are the defending champions, having won the tournament on home soil in 2015, and Jones says the team is capable of enjoying a productive run in England this summer.
But he feels Aaron Finch’s side, who are set to welcome back former captain Steve Smith and opener David Warner, will fall short of glory, with hosts England ‘a very hard team to beat’.
England have climbed to the top of the ICC rankings since the last World Cup and are currently 2-0 up in a five-match ODI series against Pakistan.
‘England are my favourites,’ Jones, one of the best ODI batsmen of his generation, told ESPNcricinfo. ‘They will be very, very hard to beat. India will be up there as well.
‘I expect England and India to be the top two favourites.’
Australia were not expected to challenge for the World Cup with last year’s ball-tampering scandal impacting the team both on and off the field over the past 12 months.
But Finch’s team drew 2-2 to India earlier in the year, before clinching a whitewash victory over Pakistan to ensure they go into the tournament in fine fettle.
Australia’s chances have also been boosted by the return of Warner and Smith, who both impressed at the recent Indian Premier League.
‘I expect them to open the batting with Finch and Warner, with Smith in at No. 4. I wouldn’t change Finch and Warner,’ Jones added.
‘Warner has proven in the IPL that he’s hungry and wants his bat to do the talking.
‘Are Australia going to do any good in this [World Cup]? It comes down to how good our bowlers perform. I don’t think they’ll win, but I expect them to make the semi-finals.’
Jones expect bat to dominate ball throughout the World Cup but says the team with the most effective bowling attack will likely lift the World Cup at Lord’s come July 14.
‘Conditions in England will be interesting,’ he said. ‘If you get overcast conditions, the ball will move around and it might suit the bowlers.
‘But ICC pitches are generally flat. I think we will see scores of over 400. I think it will be conducive to batting.
‘But I still think the team with the best bowling unit will win this World Cup. The bowlers will make the difference. You’ve got to bowl teams out or keep them quiet at the death to win games.’
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