Former Australia captain Steve Waugh in his column writes that he is impressed by West Indies’ destructive batting. He was also impressed with the no-nonsense way his country defeated minnows Afghanistan by seven wickets in their opening match on Saturday.
But the 54-year-old believes the West Indies will provide a much sterner test when they meet at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
Speaking to Justin Langer ahead of this World Cup I reminded him of the players that had success in 1999 in England.
It was the battle-hardened proven Test match performers that excelled and influenced the outcome.
I believe the same will happen in this tournament purely because the pitches give both the bowler and the batsman an opportunity to showcase their class.
If you are good enough, you can utilise the conditions to swing the match in your team’s favour more so than the bland cookie-cutter pitches that are so often rolled out for one-day cricket that totally favour the batsman.
As such you will see phases of the game that resemble a Test match, such as a short-of-a-length fast-bowling barrage, a measured innings from a top-order batsman and more than one slip fielder being employed.
I’m sure both the players and spectators will relish this type of cricket as it is an even contest that can be unpredictable.
I still expect large scores to be the norm purely because of the fast outfields, high quality bats, small boundaries and the physiques of the modern-day players but high-class bowling can and still win matches in pressure situations.
With that in mind, Saturday’s seven-wicket win over Afghanistan was a thoroughly professional performance from Australia.
It was exactly what they would have wanted to achieve from their first outing and an excellent way to ease themselves into what is going to be a long and exhausting schedule.
It was a tricky first opponent who had nothing to lose and everything to gain while Australia were expected to dominate and dispose of Afghanistan with minimum fuss.
In particular, Dave Warner stood out with an innings that was less memorable but infinitely more significant than any innings he’d previously played for Australia.
For them to win the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, Warner needs to be a shining light and for him to spend quality time in the middle was exactly what he needed after a 12-month absence.
By no means did Australia play at their full potential and nor would they want to or expect to. World Cups are won by the teams that gather momentum and confidence as the tournament unfolds.
The West Indies will provide a more realistic gauge on how the team are tracking, for they possess a squad full of match winners that can dominate if they gain any sense of ascendency in a match.
They are the most watchable team in the tournament with a batting line-up that can kidnap any bowling attack with brute force.
No ground is big enough when this behemoth of a batting order clicks into overdrive but they also have a vulnerability against high-quality bowling as they tend to play one dimensional at times.
For the first time in a long while they have fast-bowling depth vindicated by Friday’s win against Pakistan without their finest in Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel.
Their Achilles heel however will be their lack of mobility in the field and this is where Australia can influence the outcome.
Every side in this tournament will be wary of playing the Windies and I wouldn’t want to face them in a knock-out match.
They are the sort of team that, if they get on a roll and build some momentum, then they could win it all like the ICC Men’s World T20 back in 2016.
All things considered, I think this stands as a very important game for both sides. After comfortable opening wins, both want to get an idea of where they really stand – and this will be the perfect sounding board.
(International Cricket Council)