India to face Pak in opener

MELBOURNE (AP) — The ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 will be staged in Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29, and India will begin its title defence against traditional rival Pakistan in Adelaide on February 15,the International Cricket Council (ICC) has announced. India, which won the 2011 event when it defeated Sri Lanka by six wickets in the final in Mumbai, will complete its group fixtures against Zimbabwe at Eden Park, Auckland, on March 14. In the group, India will also play South Africa (in Melbourne on February 22), Qualifier 4 (in Perth on February 28), West Indies (in Perth on March 6) and Ireland (in Hamilton on March 10). England and Australia have been drawn in the same group and the 2015 Cricket World Cup final will be played as a day-night match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, with the semifinals set for Sydney and Auckland, New Zealand. Tournament organizers announced that New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and two qualifiers will join Australia and England in Pool A of the 14-team tournament that is held every four years.

South Africa, defending champions India, Pakistan, the West Indies, Zimbabwe, Ireland and a qualifier will compete in Pool B. Australia and New Zealand will host 49 matches over 44 days during February and March 2015. Other Australian venues for the tournament will be the Sydney Cricket Ground, Brisbane's Gabba, the WACA in Perth, Adelaide Oval, Manuka Oval in Canberra and Bellerive Oval in Tasmania. Christchurch, Dunedin, Nelson and Hamilton are among seven New Zealand host cities. The final will be played at the MCG on March 29 while the semifinals will be played at Auckland's Eden Park on March 24 and at the Sydney Cricket Ground on March 26. "When it comes to 2015, I don't think you will be able to keep anyone away," said Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who attended the launch in Melbourne. "This is going to be a great, great World Cup with the sheer talent of the teams that will be here in our country at that time and across the Tasman in New Zealand."

The 2015 quarterfinals, contested by the leading four teams in each group after preliminary play, will be staged at Sydney, the MCG, Adelaide Oval and in Wellington, New Zealand. Australia opens its schedule at the MCG against England on Feb. 14, 2015. Australia's other pool matches are against Bangladesh at the Gabba on Feb. 21, against New Zealand at Eden Park on Feb. 28, against a qualifier at the WACA on March 4, vs. Sri Lanka at the SCG on March 8 and against another qualifier at Bellerive Oval on March 14. The decision to award an opening Pool A match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka on Feb. 14, 2015 to Hagley Park in Christchurch appears to be risky as the ground does not yet exist as an international venue and can't be developed as one until it receives the approval of New Zealand's Environment Court.

Christchurch has had no international cricket stadium since the February, 2011 earthquake which leveled much of the central city, killing 185 people. Local cricket officials proposed enclosing and developing the existing Hagley Oval as a cricket stadium but local opposition has been strong, leaving the Environment Court to make the decision on whether development can proceed. Tournament chief executive John Harnden said rather than one pool of teams playing solely in Australia and the other in New Zealand, each team will play their pool matches in both host countries. Both Australia and New Zealand were co-hosts for the 1992 World Cup when the MCG had the final which saw Pakistan defeat England.