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Cricket World Cup 2015 preview: Australia the team to beat

Australia and England will face each other on Saturday. Photo: PA

Australia is expecting something big to happen in the coming weeks as they host the Cricket World Cup.

Not only are they hosts, but they’re favourites to win the tournament on home soil, adding another dimension.

This is the first World Cup since Twenty20 has taken over the globe, so we will can safely expect the highest scores in the tournament's history.

After some indifferent spells in the long and short form, Australia are back to their very best and home advantage will give them the edge.

Mitchell Johnson is in the middle of his most consistent spell of his international career and is expected to thrive on the bouncy, quick pitches that will be prepared for the tournament.

Mitchell Johnson can rip teams apart. Credit: Reuters

He will be joined Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins in the bowling attack, who are the quickest trio at the tournament.

Captain Michael Clarke has struggled with a collection of injuries, but is expected to boost the team by returning during the competition, but he will miss the opener with England on Friday night.

The hosts have won 11 out of their last 12 50-over games and saw off their main rivals for the World Cup trophy, South Africa, 4-1 in a recent ODI series.

South Africa do possess the most explosive batsman in world cricket at the moment in the form of AB De Villiers, who rightly tops the ODI rankings.

AB De Villiers is at the peak of his powers. Credit: Reuters

His powers were recently proved when he hit a record-breaking 31-ball century against West Indies.

The man is a freak of nature; he can hit Yorkers for a six with a flick of the wrist or can send anything vaguely of the wrong length out of the ground.

He’ll require some back-up from Dale Steyn, who has the pace and ability to turn any game in the space of an over.

New Zealand have come into their own recently thanks in part to possessing two of the most powerful hitters in the game, Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson.

Kane Williamson, left, will be key for New Zealand. Credit: Reuters

Daniel Vettori will lead a bowling attack with his guile and experience in the knowledge he has now backed up by seamers capable of taking ten wickets, with Tim Southee and Trent Boult capable of swinging the ball round corners.

England have to be seen as the darkest of dark horses coming into the tournament. Their preparation was disrupted by the fact they persisted with Alistair Cook as captain for far too long, before eventually dumping him late last year and replacing him with Eoin Morgan.

On their day England can beat anyone, but those days come so infrequently it’s not worth considering them as contenders.

Jos Buttler is used to coming to England's rescue. Credit: Reuters

Jos Buttler has made himself the focal point of the batting line-up thanks to a mixture of incompetence in the top five and his explosive power in the middle order, but England can’t rely on him to win every game for them.

Key to any chance England may have is Moeen Ali, who has been inserted at the top of the order and his improvement with the ball has given the side greater diversity.

Pakistan start off their campaign against fierce rivals India on Sunday with neither team expecting to make an impact in Australia.

Junaid Khan is out for the Pakistanis, which is a huge blow, as the rest of their pace attack is, at best, average. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah will need to be at his mesmerising best to give Pakistan hope.

Yasir Shah, centre, will be looking to get the best out of the pitches. Credit: PA

India still possess a formidable batting line-up with Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Darwan both capable of taking an innings but the scruff of its neck and putting them out of sight.

An out-of-form Sri Lanka come to Australia in hope rather than expectation. If their stars can all find their best, they have a chance to surprise, but the likes of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene, who are both 37, can’t guarantee the runs they used to.

The unfortunate West Indies will be hoping to not embarrass themselves in the tournament – they only beat Scotland by four runs in a warm up game this week. After years of malaise and mis-management, they are now a shadow of side’s of old. The best they can hope for is a Chris Gayle innings coming off, but they’re few and far between.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Ireland, Scotland, UAE and Zimbabwe make up the rest of the tournament. The relative minnows will be fired up by the fact the next World Cup will be reduced to ten teams, down from 14, so all will want to show that they can compete on the international stage.

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