New Zealand vs Sri Lanka and Australia vs England – the perfect manner to kick off the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, with India and Pakistan then just adding the icing on a splendid opening-weekend cake.
Both Australia and New Zealand – the co-hosts of this World Cup – will be desperate to begin their campaigns in the best possible manner, but in England and Sri Lanka they face formidable opponents, who will want to do the same as well.
New Zealand vs Sri Lanka:
The Black Caps come into this World Cup in terrific form, and rightly have been termed as one of the favourites to lift the title. What is in their favour is that they will not leave their country for any of the matches until the final – even Australia travel to New Zealand to take on the Kiwis in their Pool A game.
Having shown their strength time and again in home conditions, New Zealand will be pretty confident of topping Sri Lanka, a team they beat comfortably in a seven-match series recently, come Saturday.
The first match of the World Cup promises to be a keenly contested one, as Sri Lanka are a powerhouse side when it comes to the World Cups. Having reached the final in the 2007 and 2011 editions, the Lankans, current holders of the World T20 title, will want to go one better.
Winning the first match always breeds confidence, and neither of the two teams will want to stumble in the first hurdle, even when there is plenty of room to get back up and run for that finish line.
Key players: New Zealand: Cannot Look beyond Kane Williamson, who has been in ridiculous form. A quick start from skipper Brendon McCullum will also be welcome. Also watch out for Adam Milne, who is quick and quite capable of running through a side.
Sri Lanka: Much will depend on Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, while the bowling is heavily reliant on the experience of Rangana Herath and Lasith Malinga.
Team news: New Zealand: The Kiwis have no injury worries heading into this match, meaning Brendon McCullum will have the option of picking from his entire 15. The Kiwis have settled on a pretty good batting lineup, with the only question being the bowlers, with the pace trio looking like being Trent Boult, Adam Milne and Tim Southee.
Sri Lanka: Dushmanth Chameera only just landed in New Zealand as a late replacement for Dhammika Prasad and is unlikely to get a look in for the World Cup opener.
Expected lineups: New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum (capt), Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Taylor, Luke Ronchi (wk), Corey Anderson, Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Trent Boult.
Sri Lanka: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal, Thisara Perera, Jeevan Mendis, Nuwan Kulasekara, , Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath.
Australia vs England:
The Aussies have been on a roll, and recently crushed England in the tri-series final, after beating them in both the round-robin matches as well. Australia, at the moment, seem to have a considerable hold on England, and it will take a mighty effort from the English to release that grasp.
England have looked good in patches of late, and it is clearly their bowling which is their strength. If the likes of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes and Steven Finn can trouble the Aussie batsmen up front, then the expected record crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground might just witness a contest.
However, with their batting lineup still to convince, it remains to be seen just how much of a contest it will be.
Key players: Australia: David Warner and Steven Smith are expected to score the bulk of the runs at this World Cup and the superstar duo will look to get off to a flying start. Mitchell Johnson continues to terrify the England batsmen, and expect that trend to continue.
England: Anderson and Broad remain the key with the ball, even if the latter hasn't impressed too much, while captain Eoin Morgan needs to step up with the bat, especially if England find themselves in early trouble.
Team news: Australia: Michael Clarke, despite his impressive performance against the UAE in the warm-up game on Wednesday, will not be risked, while James Faulkner also remains sidelined. That means a straight choice for the final XI between Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, with Xavier Doherty always an unlikely starter.
England: The away side played with pretty much the same XI in the tri-series, and it is likely that Morgan will go with the same team, barring any late injuries.
Expected lineups: Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, George Bailey (capt), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Brad Haddin (wk), Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.
England: Moeen Ali, Ian Bell, James Taylor, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steven Finn.