Quicks Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson and Michael Neser will get a chance to audition for a late World Cup call-up when Australia A begin their 50-over tour of England tomorrow.
Coming into the World Cup, it seemed to be rather clear-cut.
England, the best one-day team for the past couple of years, were obvious favourites on home soil to break their cup drought.
India appear ominous, with MS Dhoni in a resurgence and Jasprit Bumrah leading a pace-bowling attack that could wreak havoc in English conditions.
Australia had undergone a year of transformation and come out the other side with a solid team that could be boosted by the return of Steve Smith and David Warner.
New Zealand joined the other three as genuine title fancies after their 2015 run to the final, and have a team that can prosper if they gain momentum.
But now, the contenders aren’t limited to just four.
One would view South Africa as perennially dangerous, even in the World Cup where they are notoriously frail when it comes to the pointy end of the tournament. But their first three games have rendered them disappointing.
Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis are struggling to carry a batting line-up that yearns for the dynamic batsmanship of AB de Villiers. Andile Phehlukwayo and Kagiso Rabada have been solid, but without Dale Steyn and having Lungi Ngidi out of form leaves their bowling stocks a little toothless.
Instead of being a sleeping giant, they look extremely unlikely of challenging for the title, unless a miracle of Australia’s 1999 run proportions occurs.
The West Indies could be anything.
Their bowlers have burst out of the gates with confidence. Jason Holder is leading a team that has an important blend of young and old. Chris Gayle could blast their batting line-up to competitive totals, along with Shai Hope and his familiarity with heroics in English conditions.
They are an unknown – after blasting out Pakistan just days before they trounced England’s bowlers, they could be facing a return to cricketing glory. But one game is nowhere near enough to tell whether they are a genuine chance. It’s just a possibility that entices cricket fans.
Pakistan are in the same boat when it comes to the unknown.
Their first game against the West Indies highlighted the problems that have shrouded their one-day team in the past year. Their batting can crumble at the click of the finger, and this transitions into a fielding and bowling line-up that can drop their heads and be dismissed expensively.
But against England, their brash take at batting paid off. On their day, the batting can take the game away and the likes of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz can take important wickets to beat anyone.
If they can beat England, even when Joe Root and Jos Buttler score tons, then they should be considered a chance. In such a long tournament, the question isn’t whether they have the ability, it’s whether they have the consistency to do this game upon game.
There’s not much to say about the four pre-tournament favourites.
England still have the team and game. Maybe they aren’t as invincible as first thought, but with Root and Buttler alongside Ben Stokes in ominous form, they can still build a charge for the cup.
India looked solid in dismissing South Africa, even without Virat Kohli contributing greatly. Rohit Sharma could be the key for their batting, and Jasprit Bumrah carried on his wonderful form from the Australian summer.
Australia look wonderfully balanced with Smith and Warner coming back in form. Their concern lies in their bowling but if Adam Zampa builds confidence and Mitch Starc and Pat Cummins bowl with pace and effort then they will always be a chance. They just know how to play World Cups well.
New Zealand have shown their best and worst.
In dismissing Sri Lanka, they highlighted how Trent Boult and his pace bowlers can thrive in English conditions. Lockie Ferguson is bowling with real zip – he could be their bowling key.
A firing Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor help Kane Williamson well. They may miss the firepower of Grant Elliott from 2015, but if their top order fires then they can still win most games. As long as they don’t crumble like they nearly did against Bangladesh, then they can consistently develop their game.
Sri Lanka, alongside South Africa, appear ready to be written off. They just don’t have the confidence or players to play blitzkrieg cricket. They rely too much on Dimuth Karunaratne plodding a score over 50 overs while Ajantha Mendis and Thisara Perera swing to get them to a total. With Lasith Malinga reaching the end, they’ll struggle to get to the highs that they consistently have in the past 20 years of World Cup cricket.
Lastly, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have proven they are no longer minnows.
Bangladesh are ready to step into the cricket community with a team that can beat most on their day. Shakib Al Hasan has been superb, while Mashrafe Mortaza is a shrewd captain who is leading a capable side.
Afghanistan continue to develop. Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi lead a solid bowling outfit, but they lack a solid batsman and a pace bowler. Still a mightily impressive story.
The onus lies on the West Indies and Pakistan. Can they overcome their inconsistencies and challenge the top four? Will they turn this World Cup into an even contest to be remembered?
The 2019 World Cup promises to be the best one yet.