MELBOURNE: Cricket World Cup co-hosts Australia and New Zealand have been drawn in the same group for the 2015 tournament, while title-holders India will face off against long-time rival Pakistan, officials said Tuesday.
The first match of the prestigious one-day tournament will be held in Christchurch, the New Zealand city devastated by an earthquake in 2011, when the locals take on Sri Lanka on February 14.
Later that day, Australia will face Ashes foes England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground — also the venue for the day-night final match of the flagship tournament of the 50-over game on March 29.
“The 2015 tournament will mark 40 years since the first World Cup in 1975 and that history of great contests and heroes helps make the tournament what it is – the most sought-after prize in our increasingly global game,” said ICC chief executive David Richardson.
“I’m absolutely confident that the success of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will further strengthen the status of 50-over cricket as a successful and viable format alongside Tests and Twenty20 Internationals.”
Australia and New Zealand, whose prime ministers attended launches at simultaneous events in Melbourne and Wellington, are grouped with England, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and two qualifiers in the contest, held once every four years.
Title-holders India are pooled with Pakistan, South Africa, the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and one other qualifying team.
“This is one of the biggest events in world sport,” Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said of the tournament, which is expected to draw a global television audience of close to one billion people.
“It will attract cricket fans from around the globe and also promote Australia and our close friend New Zealand internationally — especially in India and other parts of south Asia.”
Forty-nine matches will be played in 14 venues across the two host nations, with Australia staging 26 games at grounds in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
New Zealand will host 23 games in seven cities, including Christchurch where international cricket is set to return for the first time since the 6.3-magnitude quake which killed 185 people in 2011.
The tournament, which was last staged in Australia and New Zealand in 1992, will also visit the cities of Auckland, Dunedin, Hamilton, Napier, Nelson and Wellington.
The top four sides from each pool will go through to the knockout stage.
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said he was encouraged by the draw.
“We’ve had recent success over both Sri Lanka and England in one-dayers, so to face them and a qualifying team in the first three matches is certainly an encouraging draw for us,” he said.
Ireland has already qualified but the other three other teams will be determined by the ICC World Cricket League Championship 2011-2013 in October and a qualifier to be hosted in New Zealand in January and February 2014.
England, Australia (co-host), Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, New Zealand (co-host), Qualifier 2 (TBD), Qualifier 3 (TBD)
South Africa, India, Pakistan, West Indies, Zimbabwe, Qualifier 1 (Ireland), Qualifier 4 (TBD)
Matches scheduled for February and March 2015