The 2019 Cricket World Cup is almost upon us! These are the biggest question marks hovering over what shapes as an exhilarating tournament. 

1. Can Australia claim back-to-back Cricket World Cup titles?

Australia have won four of the last five Cricket World Cups, including an emphatic victory on home soil in 2015. They are on the third line of betting to retain their title at $4.60, behind England ($2.75) and India ($3.80).

But even that level of backing from punters seemed unlikely during a tumultuous 12 months following the ‘Sandpaper-gate’ saga in South Africa. A stellar run of recent one-day international form and the return of Steve Smith and David Warner ensures Australia are the team no one wants to encounter at the business end.

The Aussies came from 2-0 down to win a five-match series in India, then swept Pakistan 5-0 in the UAE. With Smith and Warner back in the fold, they have carved out impressive warm-up wins over West Indies, England and Sri Lanka.

The squad is dripping with match-winners such as Aaron Finch, Usman Khawaja, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc. A nudge at Australia to make the final at $2.37 looks outstanding value – and is sure to shorten quickly.

South Africa ($10) and New Zealand ($11) look the only nations capable to hoisting the trophy outside the big three.

2. Will Smith and Warner find immediate redemption?

Australian cricket endured some its darkest days in the wake of the year-long suspensions handed down to Steve Smith and David Warner. But the veterans’ returns shape as the key factor behind their World Cup title bid.

Smith has been in astonishing form this month, scoring *89 and *91 against New Zealand XI, then blasting 76 against the Windies and 116 against England. Australia’s top scorer in the 2015 tournament (sixth overall) with 402 at 67, Smith is a tantalising $17 to lead the tournament this time around.

After topping the IPL run charts, Warner’s one-day form has been modest. His 43 against England was his best in five 50-over pre-tournament outings. But the opener is one of the game’s genuine master blasters and an $11 top runscorer chance.

The duo should be able to block out the barrage of crowd abuse destined to come their way throughout the tournament.

Warner ($3.00) and Smith ($3.75) are strongly favoured in the Top Australia Runscorer market, with Aaron Finch ($4.33) and Usman Khawaja ($6.00) worth considering.

3. Is Cummins set to be the Starc of the 2019 tournament?

Mitchell Starc was named the player of the 2015 World Cup. He took a tournament-high 22 wickets (equal with New Zealand’s Trent Boult), while his first-over dismissal of Brendon McCullum was the key moment of the final.

Injuries have restricted Starc’s ODI outings over the past 18 months, but he has looked good in warm-up fixtures. He is on a crowded second line of Top Tournament Wicket Taker betting at $15.

But reigning Allan Border Medallist Pat Cummins ($17) looms as Australia’s potential 2019 World Cup spearhead. His Test summer heroics aside, Cummins took 17 wickets in five ODI’s against India and Pakistan in March. The 26-year-old’s warm-up match form has been top-shelf as well.

India’s Jasprit Bumrah is the Top Wicket Taker favourite at $11, while Boult, Adil Rashid and Kagiso Rabada have all been backed into $15.

4. Can England handle the host country and favouritism pressure?

England have been backed into $2.75 World Cup favouritism – despite having never won the tournament. They are three-time finalists, but last finished runners-up in 1992.

Familiar conditions should aid their cause. But when they last hosted the World Cup in 2003, England were bundled out before the Super Sixes stage.

A batting line-up featuring Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Eion Morgan, Jos Buttler and Jason Roy, the all-round explosive of Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and Tom Curran, and a bowling attack with Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid has to be taken seriously.

But the pressure on England to perform will be relentless.

Backing the home nation to exit at the semi-final stage is paying a juicy $3.00. But including them as part of the final quinella with India ($4.50) or Australia ($6.00) also provides plenty of value.

5. Will Kohli live up to world’s greatest tag?

Virat Kohli is widely considered the world’s best batsman and most influential player. He is the red-hot $7.50 favourite to be the 2019 World Cup’s top runscorer.

A staggering 10 centuries in his past 28 ODIs – including three against Australia in 2019 alone – help explain his lofty status. But the Indian captain also shoulders more expectation and responsibility than any other player at the tournament.

Kohli was a major disappointment at the 2015 World Cup, getting past 50 just once and falling for 1 in the semi against Australia. He needs fellow champions MS Dhoni (the only other survivor of India’s 2011 triumph) and Rohit Sharma, and young match-winners Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah to play their part if India are to be any value as $3.80 second-favourites.

Nevertheless, an India v Australia final is shaping as the most attractive Quinella market option at $7.00.