[India], June 5 (ANI): Defending champions Australia and the first-ever winners West Indies will lock horns in a fast and furious ICC Men's Cricket World Cup battle on June 6 at the Tent Bridge in Nottingham.
Australia lifted its first Cup after defeating England by seven runs in 1987 edition. The team then ended as runners-up against Sri Lanka in 1996. This defeat by seven wickets charged the Australians and they went onto win three consecutive titles in 1999, 2003 and 2007.
This Down Under team returned in 2015 and clinched their fifth trophy. Now, in the 12th edition of the 50-over event, the most successful team in the history of the tournament will be aiming to clinch their sixth trophy. In the first match of the 2019 edition, Australia beat Afghanistan by seven wickets.
On the other hand, the then clear contenders to win the World Cup, the West Indies have become the dark horse in the tournament. Clive Lloyd led the side to win the very first Cup in 1975 and returned to defend the title in 1979. However, Kapil Dev's devils declined the Caribbean treble in the 1983 finals.
Since then, the West Indies featured in only one semi-final in 1996 which they lost to Australia. Now 23 years later, the Jason Holder-led team donned in maroon are harder to predict but they seem confident to go back to their winning days. The West Indies crushed Pakistan by seven wickets in its first 2019 World Cup match.
Following are the players to watch out in Australia-West Indies clash:
The big hitter, age 39, is playing in his last World Cup. Gayle is a promising in-form batsman to give a brilliant start to his team in the top-order. The left-hander has featured in 283 ODIs and has 10151 runs under his belt at 87.14. Gayle scored 135, 50, 162, 77 against England in the five-match ODI series, excluding the third match which was abandoned, earlier this year. He scored a 34-ball fifty against Pakistan in his side's World Cup opener.
Smith played an unbeaten knock of 56 runs in the World Cup 2015 final to guide Australia to its fifth title. Although the right-hander served a one-year ban in 2018 after his involvement in the ball tampering scandal, during a 2019 warm-up match against England, Smith smashed 116 runs off 102 deliveries. Smith held one end along with David Warner on the other to help his side secure an early win the quadrennial tournament against Afghanistan.
Like Gayle, this Jamaican destructive batsman has the potential to pick from wherever and drag West Indies to post a challenging target single-handedly. Although Russell has not played a single ODI since last year, he displayed his hulk form in the recent Indian Premier League. In a World Cup warm-up fixture against New Zealand, Russell smashed a 25-ball 54 in the lower middle-order to take West Indies to 421. In the first World Cup match, Russell returned with figures of 3-1-4-2 against Pakistan.
Along with Smith, Warner made a return in the Australia team after serving the ban. When Warner stepped out on the field to play in the Indian Premier League, he proved all the critics wrong and tuned out to be the most consistent player of the league. Warner was the leading run-scorer in IPL for accumulating 692 runs in his 12 innings. He boosts the top-order with his power hitting and displayed his skills against Afghanistan in Australia's first World Cup match. He scored 89 not out to take his side over the line and bagged Player of the Match award.
Cottrell is known for his signature style of marching and stopping with a salute. In the recent five-match ODI series against England, the fast bowler bagged seven wickets, including a five-for in the second match. He can be an X-factor for the Caribbean side. Cottrell got an early breakthrough by dismissing New Zealand's Martin Guptill in a World Cup warm-up match. Against Pakistan in the first match, Cottrell picked the crucial wicket of Imam-ul-Haq cheaply for two.
The lethal left-arm bowler Starc was the Player of the Tournament in the 2015 edition for returning with 22 wickets and reached 100 ODI wickets in just 52 matches, becoming the fastest pace bowler to reach the milestone. Starc, who still has got that quality in his bowling, earned two wickets in an unofficial match against West Indies prior to commencement of the World Cup. (ANI)