Whenever you play against England, you try to raise your game just a little bit because you know you’re playing against a rival.
It’s always been enjoyable, good, hard cricket. It’s a game you want to play in because you want to test yourself against the best to see where you are as an individual and as a team.
Personally, I always enjoyed the games against England most and my Test debut came against them in Durban back in 1995, so the fixture will always hold a special resonance for me.
From a South Africa point of view, this is probably the best time to catch England – in that first game, when there might be a few nerves floating around.
When you’re at home, there’s a lot of media and sponsor commitments and expectations from the home crowd.
People always want your time, so in some ways playing a World Cup at home is tough. England will have to be wary of that and manage their time and their space.
Having said that, Eoin Morgan is a fantastic captain and his side have played some really good cricket at home – especially against Pakistan recently – and we’ve seen what they’re capable of.
I’m not totally unhappy with catching England first up at The Oval. It could play into South Africa’s hands but they’re such a good side it won’t be easy.
Having seen England’s recent series against Pakistan, they’re a very dangerous side – particularly with bat in hand. That’s the one area they’ve really improved.
They play with a lot of freedom, post big totals and have experience chasing down big scores.
South Africa will have to make sure they have some well-thought-out plans of how to contain that batting line-up because they’re dangerous and coming into a home World Cup with a lot of confidence.
Coming in with a side that is pretty cemented and players understanding what their roles are is a recipe for a successful tournament.
England epitomise modern one-day cricket. It’s only a few years since I’ve retired but it already feels like the game has moved on massively.
The batters are so skilled but my only worry is the game has moved too far in favour of the batsmen.
I always believe the game should be an even contest between bat and ball – they probably need to look at adjusting the fielding regulations, and allowing an extra man outside the ring, because the bowlers need a bit more protection.
No bowler wants to go out there and concede 80 or 100 runs every time – they need an opportunity to show their skills as well and the game would still be entertaining.
For me, it’s England, Australia and India who are the three sides most likely to win it other than South Africa which makes this first game a great benchmark.
But having played in some World Cups with some strange results, anything can happen – nothing is guaranteed, so it will be fantastic to finally get going.
This article was first published by the ICC.