It will be painfully drawn out, and towards the end of the group stage dreadfully dead-rubber-tastic, but don’t let the OTT format of the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup put you off.
The planet’s greatest one-day exponents have gathered in England for a jamboree of big hitting, and I’m expecting fireworks between now and late July.
Will we see a major upset in the mould of Pakistan’s stunning ICC Champions Trophy success last week?
It’s unlikely, but of all the underdogs it’s 10-1 rated West Indies that catch the eye.
They arrive as current T20 World Champions, and boast two of the sport’s most exciting talents.
At the crease Deandra Dottin is as explosive as they come in the middle order, and their exceptional all-rounder Stafanie Taylor (ranked world No.2 in bowling, and No.5 with the bat) is another match winner in waiting.
With ball in hand pace merchant Chamilia Connell also has the potential to rip through the best top orders.
The West Indies lack consistency, but are capable of beating anyone. Should they make the semi-finals it could be game on.
It’s the Aussies who start as 11/8 favourites in defence of the crown they won in India four years ago, and it’s easy to see why.
They are a very solid outfit, led by the wonderful batsman Meg Lanning, and boast enough strength in depth to rest and rotate as they see fit throughout the competition.
Australia and England are the only squads to boast a complete set of full-time professional cricketers.
Gifted all-rounder Ellyse Perry and batter Elyse Vilani (who made 137 v South African in a warm up game) will almost certainly propel them to the semi-finals without too many alarms.
India are my next tip to make the final four, and at 13/2 they offer decent value to lift the trophy.
Mithali Raj is as classy as they come with the bat. Jhulan Goswami is a high class all-rounder, and although she’s looked a bit out of touch in the warm-up games, Harmannpreet Kaur is capable of delivering magical batting.
I don’t believe too much should be read into England’s thrashing of India in the build-up to the tournament. When it matters, they are sure to be in the mix.
So if India, Australia and West Indies are going to make the semis, will hosts England join them?
Heather Knight’s side are playing with real confidence at the moment, and have the ability to repeat their 1993 success, when the World Cup was last held in their own country.
Pleasingly a number of key players have run into form of late with Knight, Sarah Taylor, Lauren Whitfield and Nat Sciver all delivering big innings this month. They are in a position where if one batter fails, they have enough talent elsewhere in the side to make up for the blip.
For me the key player though, will be fast bowler Anya Shrubsole.
One her day the right-armer can skittle out the very best and make life so much easier for the batters. If she enjoys a good tournament, so will England – and with home conditions likely to suit, it’s expected she will do the business.
England, with home advantage are ranked as second favourites with Grosvenor Sport at 9/4, and I think the price is just about right.
As we saw with the men’s ICC Champions Trophy, one off day can kill the very best, most in-form teams, so this is not an easy tournament to call.
My head says Australia, but my heart says England. I’m going with my heart.
Adrian Clarke’s Prediction
For more cricket odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s cricket betting.