The 10th Cricket World Cup begins early on Saturday and after much deliberation I'm going to stick with my first choice, Australia, to be crowned champions.

Deliberation? Why? Well despite their status as third favourites, behind co-hosts India and Sri Lanka, and odds of 6-1 (Stan James), I was plumping for the reigning and four-time champions because of their impressive 6-1 win over England last month.

Recently, however, the doubts started to creep in, not least because of their warm-up defeats to India (38 runs) and South Africa (seven wickets).

The omission of the ever-reliable Mike Hussey also led to niggling concerns about my choice of winners.

However, even without Hussey, Australia can bat well down the order and in Shaun Tait and Brett Lee, they possess two of the finest pacemen on the one-day scene.

If that is not enough consider they thrashed Andrew Strauss and company without the help of the injured Ricky Ponting.  The Aussie skipper comes to India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as the second-highest run maker in the World Cup history.  So that's it.

I'll say no more other than I'm sticking with the Aussies. Also I fear changing my original forecast will only end in tears come the final on April 2.

Ponting's troops, in Group A, won't be in action until Monday and should ease to victory against Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad. The champions are 1-12 (Boylesports, Stan James, William Hill) – the Africans 8-1 with Bet365.

Ponting, meanwhile, is a cracking 25-1 (Betfred) to finish top tournament batsman and that price is certainly worth a look.

Bangladesh (6-1, Betfred, 888sport, Victor Chandler, Blue Square) and India 1-7, William Hill) get the action underway on Saturday in Mirpur.

Group A winners: Sri Lanka 7-4; Australia 11-5; Pakistan 11-4; New Zealand 6-1; Zimbabwe 66-1; Kenya 500-1; Canada 500-1. (Source: Stan James).

Group B winners: India 8-5; South Africa 21-10; England 3-1; West Indies 7-1; Bangladesh 14-1; Ireland 500-1; Holland 500-1. (Source: Bodog).

Top World Cup batsman: Sachin Tendulkar, Hashim Amla 14; Shane Watson, Virender Sehwag, Jacques Kallis 16; Kumar Sangakkara, Gautam Gambhir, Mahela Jayawardene 20; Kevin Pietersen, Ricky Ponting, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Graeme Smith, Jonathan Trott 25. (Source: Betfred, others on request).

Don't forget to stick in your browser for regular World Cup cricket updates.


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