The ICC Champions Trophy Preview: England start as favourites but must be wary of tricky group

The ICC Champions Trophy is almost upon us. The most underrated tournament in the cricketing world as it pits the best 8 teams in One Day Cricket against each other. No room for error and no easy fixtures. Nearly all the sides have named their squads and here we will analyse the chances of all 8 sides:

Group A:
Australia
Bangladesh
England
New Zealand

Australia: One of the favourites for this tournament and justifiably so as the world’s number 1 ODI team, they boast a formidable battery of pace bowlers headlined by Mitchell Starc who is probably the world’s premium ODI bowling threat. The return to fitness of Pat Cummins is a huge boost as is the return of James Pattinson. However, there are chinks in the armour of their batting, they need Aaron Finch to return to his best form as I do not hold out much hope that “the no-show” Glenn Maxwell will score runs when needed. Matthew Wade has not set the world alight since his reintroduction to the team and Australia have generally struggled to score runs in England in recent tours. They will rely on that nuclear arsenal of quicks to keep the totals down if they cannot then it could be an early exit. They are the wild-cards of this competition capable of winning it as well as not making the semis out of the Group of Death. I’m inclined to say the latter.

Prediction: 3rd in the Group          Player to Watch: Pat Cummins
 

Bangladesh: They have made huge strides in the white ball version of the game and have earned their way into this competition with some excellent results. However, they still lack the ability to score consistent wins outside of Asia and will be found lacking in what is a very tough group. They are also no longer a surprise package and will be taken seriously by the other sides in this group. Their batting is very strong though and if Tamim and Imrul Kayes can score runs at the top of the order their lower/middle order of Mushfiqur, Shakib & Mahmudullah can be very destructive. They will fancy their chances of causing an upset particularly if they find a pitch that has a little bit of turn in it and “The Fizz” is back to his best. Unfortunately, they will not make it out of this tough group but will have a good chance of pulling off an upset somewhere.

Prediction: 4th in the Group               Player to Watch: Mustifizur Rahman

 

England: The home side will be favourites due to a complete shift in their ODI mindset masterminded by talismanic captain Eoin Morgan. Their batting line-up is full of power, is proven ability, and is settled which is what makes them so dangerous. The presence of Ben Stokes who is fresh off an excellent IPL with both bat and ball means they have a fantastic balance. Their lower order hitting has real promise as Moeen Ali, Plunkett, Willey, Woakes are all more than useful players down the order and the pressure to score runs that the batting line-up will undoubtedly help their bowling which is the weaker of their 2 suits. Whilst home advantage is tempered by the ICC preparing the pitches they will still use their local knowledge to win their group. Moeen Ali will be key as his ODI bowling is actually very good as it is generally very miserly and allows Adil Rashid to attack at the other end, whilst his batting is invaluable asset at number 7. England will be disappointed if they do not win this tournament to justify their recent optimism.

Prediction: Winners              Player to Watch: Ben Stokes

 

New Zealand: The perennial over-achievers in world tournaments will again come very well prepared by the coach/captain tandem of Hesson & Williamson. They have an exciting blend in their batting with Guptill, Taylor, Anderson & Ronchi providing the power with the ever-present and brilliant Kane Williamson anchoring the innings they will always compete very well. Their biggest strength however will be their bowling attack in England with Boult, Southee, McClenaghan as their main seamers mixed in with all-rounders Corey Anderson, James Neesham and Colin De Grandhomme. However, their best bowler could be Jeetan Patel, the Warwickshire stalwart has great experience in England and with some of their games being at Edgbaston he is sure to play a huge part. I see them as a real threat as always in major tournaments and will certainly be making the semi-finals.

Prediction: Runners-Up          Player to Watch: Trent Boult

 

Group B:
India
Pakistan
South Africa
Sri Lanka
 

India: They have yet to announce their squad however I do not expect them to spring too many surprises. They have a sneaky pace attack that is actually better than most give it credit for. Shami, Bhuvaneshwar & Yadav are very good white ball bowlers and will be a test for all sides in this tournament. However as always India will live and die by Ashwin & Jadeja. If they can navigate the English pitches in June then India as always are a real threat. As stated in recent blogs their batting is what concerns me, they have little to no experience of English conditions and they will be in for a shock in a group with 2 sides who will have very good pace attacks. If they can score runs and their spinners aren’t fodder as they have been away from home in the past, they have a great chance of winning this tournament. They will definitely make it through this easier group regardless but they will need a little bit of luck with pitches and weather to make it further in my opinion.

Prediction: Semi-Finalists          Player to Watch: Mohammed Shami

 

Pakistan: The mercurial talent of the Pakistan team may be more likely to spring a surprise in England than anywhere else; however, their batting is just not strong enough to mount a serious challenge in a group where India and South Africa have better talent. They will beat Sri Lanka who will be the whipping boys of the group but will be beaten handily by both the other sides. Their only hope is that their bowlers can swing the white ball and Wahab can have the consistency so lacking in his game thus far. Shadab and Yasir Shah will possibly be neutered by the pitches so their seamers have to take early wickets. As I said earlier though their biggest problem is their inability to score 300, they are playing the old style of ODI cricket where 270/280 was a big score it won’t be enough in this tournament.

Prediction: 3rd in the Group         Player to Watch: Shadab Khan

 

South Africa: Prodigious talent but lack of squad depth is the story for South Africa. Their political issues are well-known and whilst this has weakened the squad their 1st XI is still as good as any in the competition. Quinton De Kock is the best young player in World Cricket and that allied to De Villiers, Du Plessis, Amla, Duminy and Miller means they have a power packed line-up. They also have the most exciting fast bowler in the world in Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir is the world’s best white ball spinner, Chris Morris is an excellent death bowler and Wayne Parnell offers them a left-arm option. They appear to be the most well-rounded team and if their greats fire with the bat they could be the team to beat. The only question mark is whether putting the captaincy back in the hands of AB De Villiers will have an unsettling effect on them, Du Plessis has been magnificent in the role since taking over and should’ve kept hold of it. They also need to shake off the choker tag, I believe this may not be the tournament for that as they will face a really tough semi-final whoever makes it through the Group A and this may be one-step too far for them. But they could win the whole thing and finally break their hoodoo.

Prediction: Semi-Finalists        Player to Watch: Kagiso Rabada

 

Sri Lanka: A team in transition led by the underrated and excellent Angelo Matthews whose bowling may be needed more than he would like in this tournament. They will play with a lot of passion as they always do, but will need to find someone to take some wickets otherwise they could be cannon-fodder in a group with 2 sides who are packed with power in their batting line-ups. They also don’t have enough in their batting to chase the big scores they will be set. Their only chance to win would be against Pakistan but even then, I feel their batting could be too fragile against a good Pakistan bowling attack. I hope they prove me wrong and are very competitive but I fear that they could be the whipping boys of the tournament.

Prediction: 4th in the Group        Player to Watch: Kusal Mendis

 

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