June 16, 2019. Mark the date. Exactly two years after clashing in the Champions Trophy final, India and Pakistan will meet at Old Trafford in the marquee contest of the 2019 World Cup. The tournament returns to the format used in 1992: all 10 teams play each other in the league stage with four of them progressing to the knockouts. England will meet South Africa to unveil the most prestigious event in cricket at The Oval on May 30. The tournament will be played at 11 venues across England and Wales with Lord’s hosting its fifth World Cup final on July 14.
Even though the World Cup will be played during the first half of the English summer, the ICC has insured the knockout matches – both semi-finals and the final – by having reserve days for the three games. Old Trafford will host the first semi-final (No. 1 v No. 4) on July 9 with the action shifting to Edgbaston two days later for the other semi between the second and third-placed teams on the league table.
The eleven venues that will host the tournament are Lord’s, the Oval, Edgbaston, Trent Bridge, Headingley, Old Trafford, Taunton, Bristol, Chester-le-Street, Southampton and Cardiff.
Defending champions Australia will play qualifiers Afghanistan in Bristol on June 2 under lights. That match is one of seven day-night contests scheduled for the tournament, including the June 29 clash between 2015 finalists Australia and New Zealand at Lord’s. In all, the tournament comprises 48 matches to be played across 46 days.
The India-Pakistan contest, at the same venue that hosted their Super Six clash in the 1999 edition of the tournament, is expected to once again attract record eyeballs, as was the case during both their meetings during last year’s Champions Trophy.
By the time India play their first match of the tournament – against South Africa on June 5, in Southampton – some of the other teams will already have played two matches. This is the result of a request from the BCCI, who wanted India’s first match pushed back to comply with the Lodha Committee’s recommendation that there needed to be a 15-day window between the IPL and India’s participation in any international series or tournament. According to the first draft of the schedule, India were supposed to play in the first few days of the tournament, but the ICC accepted the BCCI’s request and pushed back the date of their first match.
The return to the 1992 format, and the schedule, were approved by the ICC’ chief executives committee (CEC) during the ICC’s quarterly meetings on Monday and Tuesday. The ICC Board, which meets on Thursday, is yet to ratify the CEC’s decisions.
Along with hosts England, seven other countries – Australia, Bangladesh, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka – secured a direct entry to the World Cup last September. In March, Afghanistan and West Indies booked the final two slots after finishing as the top two teams in the World Cup Qualifier.