'Definitely favourites': Finch singles out World Cup hosts England

Aaron Finch has nominated England as World Cup favourites but the Australian captain is confident his side is building momentum at the right time.

Tournament preparations intensify on Saturday when England host Australia in a warm-up clash in Southampton.

The Australians had a strong win over the West Indies on Wednesday but this latest clash will be a step up in intensity, for the host nation has emerged as the team to beat.

Under captain Eoin Morgan, England have embraced a high-tempo game plan, built around scoring at seven runs or more an over.


In a recent 4-0 series win over Pakistan, they became the first side to have four consecutive scores of 340 or more, while their 1424 overall runs were the most by any team in an one-day international series where they played a maximum of four innings.

In Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Jos Buttler and Morgan, they will look to intimidate bowlers, something they did during a 5-0 thrashing of Australia last year.

But this is a different Australian squad, and with David Warner and Steve Smith back in the fold, the defending Cup champions also boast a strong batting line-up.

"It's a good question, I think, England have been in great form over the last couple of years and along with India, they've probably been the standout performers. So you'd have to say England are definitely the favourites," Finch said.

"I think it's important that some of our guys have got that World Cup experience and having, I think, six players who have been a part of a winning World Cup will hold us in good stead going forward, hopefully.

"But it's a different tournament and, once you get out and start playing, the pressure takes over. So it'll be a great tournament."

Speaking at the captain's day in London, Finch said the Australians were prepared for any abuse spectators were preparing for Smith and Warner, who have returned from suspension for their roles in the ball-tampering scandal.

The Australians have been told not to bait crowds. The Ageas Bowl is expected to have a near capacity of 15,000 on hand.


"They have come back into the set-up for the last couple of weeks and been fantastic and they have contributed as much as they can," Finch said.

"Once it gets underway, particularly against England, and further on for the Ashes, the crowd will play a part but that is expected everywhere in the world.

"We have plans in place for that, and their squad input and output in terms of the runs they have been making has been fantastic."

Morgan stressed there was no side that was "head and shoulders above everybody else" in the 12th edition of the World Cup, which has been reduced from 14 to 10 nations, but Indian captain Virat Kohli backed Finch in deeming England favourites.

"I have to agree with Aaron, I think England is probably – in their conditions – the most strong side in this tournament but I also agree with 'Morgs', that all 10 teams are so well balanced and so strong and the fact that this is a tournament where we have to play everyone once, makes it all the more challenging," Kohli said.

"I think that's going to be the best thing about this tournament, I see this as probably one of the most competitive World Cups that people are going to see."

Morgan, though, warned that past form clearly offers no guarantees of World Cup glory.

"It is going to be very difficult," he said.

"Expectations do not come out of thin air. We have scored some quite high scores, especially at home, and that has brought a lot of confidence.

"The World Cup is a different kettle of fish. Everything we have done does contribute, but you still have to produce the goods.

"These are the 10 best teams in the world, so it is going to be extraordinarily competitive."

Since the last World Cup in 2015, England have passed 400 four times, setting the two highest scores in international history and nine of the 10 highest totals ever by England sides.

With Reuters

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