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Cricket World Cup: Crunch clashes on opening day, England feature

Coral cricket writers preview the opening day of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup, that takes place in Australia and New Zealand. The co-hosts are in action on day one of Group A, with the latter up first against Sri Lanka and the former in yet another clash with England.

New Zealand v Sri Lanka
These opponents met twice at the last World Cup, in the group stage and semi-finals, and then co-hosts Sri Lanka came out victors in both, and are 7/4 chances for victory once more.

Evergreen wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara smashed a century in the first match in 2011, and the 37-year-old tops the market for his nation to get the highest score again at 11/4. Another name from that tournament for Sri Lanka is Tillakaratne Dilshan, who helped his side through to the final with 73, and he is priced at 10/3 in the same market.

But it is New Zealand who are on home soil this time, and in fantastic form too, having just smashed tournament second-favourites South Africa (3/1) by 134 runs in a warm-up, while Sri Lanka suffered a shock loss to Zimbabwe.

The 2015 co-hosts, therefore, are odds-on favourites at 4/9 for victory in Christchurch. They can rely on in-form duo Kane Williamson and captain Brendon McCullum, who both got 50s against South Africa, and you can back them at 11/4 and 3/1 respectively to be best batsman for their team. Williamson, meanwhile, is 5/1 to get the highest score of the match.

Australia v England
England (10/1 title chances) will be hoping to make it fourth time lucky when they face Australia, who they lost to three times in the last month in the Tri Series Down Under. None of those matches were at the MCG, though, so the visitors are tempting 21/10 chances to beat them this time around.

One man England can rely on is Ian Bell, who was the top scorer of that mini-tournament, that also included India, and the Warwickshire man is 10/3 to be best batsman again for his team, and 6/1 for the whole match.

In terms of bowling, Steven Finn has been most impressive for Peter Moores’ men recently, and he is 3/1 to get the best figures with the ball for his nation again.

Four-time World Cup winners and favourites for a fifth, Australia (2/1), though, are odds-on at 4/11 to win this Group A opener.

Openers David Warner (11/4 to be best Australian batsman) and Aaron Finch (4/1) will be looking to get their side to a good start by smashing their challengers, while Steve Smith (3/1) is in the form of his life.

Mitchell Johnson will also be key for the co-hosts, having destroyed England in recent Series in all formats of the game with the ball, and he is 11/4 to be best bowler for Australia once more.