BETTING COLUMN: Can England spring a World Cup surprise?

File photo dated 13-06-2014 of England's Joe Root celebrates scoring 200 not out during day two of the Investec Test match at Lord's Cricket Ground, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday December 16, 2014. Joe Root finished 200 not out - his maiden Test double-century at Lord's - as England posted 575 for nine declared on the second afternoon of the first Investec Test against Sri Lanka. See PA story SPORT Christmas June. Photo credit should read Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.

File photo dated 13-06-2014 of England's Joe Root celebrates scoring 200 not out during day two of the Investec Test match at Lord's Cricket Ground, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday December 16, 2014. Joe Root finished 200 not out - his maiden Test double-century at Lord's - as England posted 575 for nine declared on the second afternoon of the first Investec Test against Sri Lanka. See PA story SPORT Christmas June. Photo credit should read Anthony Devlin/PA Wire.

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England begin their World Cup cricket campaign against Australia in the early hours of Saturday morning and are 2/1 at BetVictor to give the co-hosts a shock.

England are 10/1 to lift the Trophy, but the competition looks a three-horse race to my eyes with the Aussies (7/4), South Africa 3/1 and New Zealand 11/2 the most likely winners, with the latter getting my vote.

The Black Caps have long been my choice for the tournament and they appear to be peaking at the right time.

They lost an ODI series to South Africa last year but thrashed AB de Villiers’ side in a warm-up game on Wednesday and if you are having one bet on this World Cup, the 2/1 for New Zealand to hit most sixes in the tournament looks a fair price.

Joe Root scored 85 in England’s last warm up game in a defeat to Pakistan and I’m sure all sides will now want the action to begin.

Root is 33/1 to be the leading run-scorer in the competition but 4/1 to be England’s top scorer; he and Ian Bell are the class acts in the batting order, but Gary Ballance has been backed 20s into 10s and there are suggestions that he might be preferred to James Taylor against Australia in the opener.

England got off to a great start in the Six Nations with a win against Wales in Cardiff on Friday and they are evens at BetVictor to give Italy a 28 point start in the handicap at Twickenham on Saturday.

England are evens to win the tournament, 2/1 for the Grand Slam and 6/5 for the triple crown.

Gary Anderson backed up his Word Championship success over Phil Taylor with a narrow 7-5 win in week one of the Premier League in Leeds and is worth including in any accas for Thursday as he looks a fair price (4/7) against Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall (5/4) looks a decent bet against reigning Premier League champion Raymond van Barneveld.

The FA Cup takes centre stage this weekend with Crystal Palace entertaining Liverpool in a game that will evoke such fond cup memories for Eagles’ fans and manager Alan Pardew, who scored the winner in a famous semi-final success at Villa Park back in 1990.

Liverpool are improving almost week-by-week at the moment, however, and the Reds are 11/10 to win at Selhurst Park on Saturday evening with the Eagles 11/4 and the draw at 13/5.

Raheem Sterling is likely to return for Brendan Rodgers’ side, and having fallen just short in the Capital One Cup, Liverpool are hoping to go one better in the FA Cup.

Liverpool are 9/2 to lift the trophy behind Arsenal (9/4) and Manchester United (11/4), but if they can get over what will be a tough obstacle against the Eagles they have nothing to fear from a paceless United and a fragile Arsenal.

For all your weekend sporting odds check out BetVictor.com