By Mitch Phillips
LONDON (Reuters) – The 2019 Cricket World Cup got underway under bright London skies on Thursday as hosts England were put in to bat by South Africa in the first game of the six-week tournament.
Both teams have an uncomfortable history with the 50-over tournament, neither having won it, but arrive for the latest edition with high hopes.
England, who last reached the final in 1992, are the number-one team in ODI rankings and tournament favourites. South Africa, who have never reached the final having lost in the semi-finals four times, are ranked third, behind India.
The Duke of Sussex addressed the crowd at The Oval, saying: “The first ever Cricket World Cup took place in England in 1975 and I am delighted that the UK will once again play host to this wonderful global event featuring 10 incredible teams, who, thanks to the UK’s diversity will feel like they are playing to a home crowd at every game.
“Cities will come alive across the next six weeks as World Cup fever sweeps the nation once more. Good luck to all the teams and thank you to everyone who has played a part in making this tournament happen. Trust me, you won’t want to miss any of it. I am now honoured to declare the men’s World Cup of 2019 open.”
South Africa’s Faf Du Plessis, without injured pace bowler Dale Steyn, won the toss and opted to field.
“A 10.30am start at The Oval – if there’s anything in the wicket, it’ll be in the first hour,” he said. “We’ve got some fantastic fast bowlers and we’re hoping it’ll be a great occasion today.”
England skipper Eoin Morgan said: “We would have looked to do the same, just preferring chasing. The wicket looks really good.”
Morgan said pace bowler Mark Wood had overcome injury and was available but had missed out on selection as England went for the ever-reliable Liam Plunkett.
Morgan was also excited about the World Cup debut of Jofra Archer.
“Jofra has come in and impressed,” he said of England’s fastest bowler. “He’s very calm when he plays. He’s a very exciting prospect given this is the very start of his international career.”
England have routinely been posting scores of over 300, invariably set up with quickfire scoring from openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ed Osmond)