ICC Champions Trophy Preview

June 1 – June 18 2017

The eighth edition of the ICC Champions Trophy will begin on Thursday night with the top eight ranked ODI sides all vying for glory in the prestigious tournament which will once again take place in the United Kingdom.

Tournament hosts and favourites England will be hoping to go one better after being edged out in the final of the 2013 edition by India. Their recent form has been strong, with nine wins from their last 10 ODIs leading into the competition, while they have also won 13 of their past 15 ODIs at home. Since their disappointing 2015 World Cup campaign there has been a noticeable shift in their approach, with a power-packed batting line-up consistently amassing scores in excess of 300, including a record 3/444 against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last year. Their bowling has been less impressive but they do at least have a variety of options that should put them right in the frame for their first ICC title since the 2010 World T20.

Winner: At home and in good touch, it’s difficult to see England not competing at the pointy end of the tournament and while their record in ICC competitions is not prolific, they have a balanced and confident side that is truly capable of going all the way so I’ll be having a small stake on the hosts to take out the trophy at 4.00 or better.

Winner: At home and in good touch, it’s difficult to see England not competing at the pointy end of the tournament and while their record in ICC competitions is not prolific, they have a balanced and confident side that is truly capable of going all the way so I’ll be having a small stake on the hosts to take out the trophy at 4.00 or better.

Top Wicket Taker: As England’s leading wicket-taker in ODIs this year, paceman Liam Plunkett represents good valueat 6.00 or better.

Reigning World Champions Australia will fancy their chances of a third Champions Trophy victory after picking a squad with an impressive pace battery featuring Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson. Productive IPL campaigns for Steve Smith and David Warner should hold them in good stead, while the recalled Aaron Finch has also scored plenty of runs at the top of the order in the warm-up games. However the absence of the much-maligned Mitchell Marsh may be felt more keenly than anticipated, with the all-rounder leaving a big hole with both bat and ball that either Moises Henriques or Marcus Stoinis will be asked to fill. While Australia have won eight of 12 ODI series’ since the World Cup, they have lost their last seven ODIs away from home.

Winner: Whilst I don’t wish to take on such a prolific side as the Australians, it’s difficult to make a case for them at such a short price, especially considering their inconsistency away from home so I’ll be staying away from the Aussies for now.

Top Run Scorer: No matter the circumstances, Australian skipper Steve Smith is a relentless run scorer and considering that his role will be to accumulate through the middle overs I’m happy to back him at 3.25 or bigger.

Top Wicket Taker: Returning from a long injury layoff, the big question is whether Mitchell Starc will be fit and firing but with 31 wickets in his past 14 ODIs and his fellow quicks not immune to injury, we find it impossible to take him on and so will be with the left-armer at 3.00 or better.

The Proteas actually claimed the inaugural Champions Trophy back in 1998 but since then have failed to win an ICC competition despite regularly boasting one of the stronger limited overs sides in world cricket. They came into this tournament in a similar position of strength, ranked as the number one ODI side after winning seven of their past nine series’. The top three of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis have regularly built platforms form which the likes of AB de Villiers and David Miller can launch at the death, while their bowling attack features an impressive mix of talented quicks such as Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris, augmented by a high quality spinner in Imran Tahir. Having avoided England and Australia in their group, South Africa should comfortably progress to sixth semi-final appearance.

Winner: Whilst I feel very confident that South Africa will advance from Group B and hence their outright price will diminish, I cannot overlook their regular wobbles in the final stages of big tournaments and hence will employ a back-to-lay strategy, siding with the Proteas at 4.80 or bigger, then looking to trade out at 3.00 or better.

Top Run Scorer: There’s plenty of competition in this market but at 5.00 or bigger it’s hard to go past Faf du Plessis who has scored 100 runs more than any other player in ODIs this year and has plenty of experience in English conditions.

Top Wicket Taker: In a three-match warm-up series against England, young paceman Kagiso Rabada looked head-and-shoulders above his peers so at around 4.00 he’s hard to go by, although don’t discount the unpredictable Wayne Parnell at 7.50 or better.

The defending champions will be hoping to replicate their success from the 2013 tournament which they won without dropping a game. However they face a unique challenge, having not played a fully-fledged ODI since January. As a result they have picked a squad that is heavy on experience with Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya and Kedar Jadhav the only members to have played less than 40 ODIs, while veterans MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh have been retained despite calls for more new blood. Captain Virat Kohli will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing IPL, however the primary issue for India could be their pace attack with the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Umesh Yadav not possessing the strongest records in ODI cricket, leaving a heavy reliance on Mohammad Shami.

Winner: Although favoured to reach the semi-finals, I have serious concerns over India’s ageing squad which looks a bit undercooked in this format and will be devoid of freshness, having all spent the best part of the last two months competing in the IPL. I’m happy to lay them at around 5.70 or better.

Top Run Scorer: After a frustrating IPL, we’re backing Virat Kohli to come good in this tournament and outscore his contemporaries, many of whom also failed to fire in their domestic T20 competition. A price of around 3.00 should be sought after when backing Kohli.

Top Wicket Taker: With an average of 24.89, skiddy quick Mohammad Shami has an outstanding record in ODI cricket and therefore we think he’s outstanding value to be India’s top wicket taker at 6.00 or bigger.

Big tournament specialists New Zealand will be hoping they can again exceed expectations and punch above their weight in a major competition. They warmed up for the Champions Trophy by taking out a tri-series against Bangladesh and Ireland without several key players who will take part here including Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Tim Southee and Trent Boult. However, worryingly for the Black Caps it was only their second ODI series away from home in their last ten and while they have an adaptable squad with plenty of all-round options it remains to be seen whether they have the quality to consistently challenge the bigger sides. Young all-rounder Mitchell Santner will be a key to their success, having taken 18 wickets in 11 ODIs this year, while also contributing handy runs down the order.

Winner: With their inconsistent form on foreign soil it’s hard to make a case for the Black Caps here but they do have a storied history of overachieving in these competitions so I am loathe to oppose them too heavily.

Top Run Scorer: Since the start of last year Kiwi opener Martin Guptill have scored an impressive 972 runs at an average of 51.16 so we can’t go past the impressive strokemaker at 3.25 or bigger.

Top Wicket Taker: In a very open field the value appears to be with left-arm orthodox Mitchell Santner who will get plenty of bowling through the middle overs and certainly appeals at anything larger than 6.00.

Pakistan will be looking to shake off the unwanted record of being the only team to compete in every version of the Champions Trophy and never make the final. Their recent record in ODI cricket doesn’t make for the most promising reading with just two wins in their last six, both against the West Indies who failed to qualify for this tournament. ‘Keeper-batsman Sarfraz Ahmed has recently taken over the captaincy from opener Azhar Ali who has been left to focus on his role at the top of the order alongside Ahmed Shehzad. Precocious talent Babar Azam will shoulder much of the responsibility in the middle-order after Umar Akmal was sent home for failing a fitness test. The one area where the Pakistanis do have plenty of depth and quality is in their pace department with Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz all set to enjoy the English conditions.

Winner: While it’s hard to see Pakistan going all the way, their collection of quality swing bowlers does suggest that they represent best value of the roughies at around the 30.00 mark.

Top Run Scorer: Plenty of contenders here with no clear standout which has me leaning towards the ultra-consistent Shoaib Malik at around 6.00. Shoaib has averaged 59.88 in his last 11 ODI innings’.

Top Wicket Taker: He may look the least threatening of their pace brigade, but medium-pacer Hasan Ali has taken an impressive 18 wickets in just eight matches this year at an average of 23.22 so we think he represents best valueat 4.50 or better.

Unfancied Sri Lanka will be hoping to cause a shock and make their way out of the group stage for just the second time in the past five editions of the Champions Trophy. Given that their only ODI series wins since 2014 have come against West Indies, Zimbabwe and Ireland, they face a significant challenge and will be the rank outsiders in Group B. Their batting does contain a useful mix of experience (Upul Tharanga, Dinesh Chandimal, Chamara Kapugedara) and youth (Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera) but it’s in the field where they look likely to struggle with none of their bowlers having reached double-figures in the wicket-tally this year and the majority conceding more than 5.50 runs an over, as illustrated in their last warm-up fixture where they failed to defend 356 against New Zealand.

Winner: Although they are a big price I just cannot see Sri Lanka giving this competition a shake so would advise staying away from them.

Top Run Scorer: With a century in the warm-up game against New Zealand and over 300 runs this year, we’ll be backing Upul Tharanga at the attractive price of 5.50 or better.

Top Wicket Taker: The return of veteran Lasith Malinga throws a bit of a wildcard into the mix, but we think leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna will get plenty of overs and be right in the frame at 7.50 or bigger.


Tournament underdogs Bangladesh face a huge task if they are to shock the cricketing world and advance to their first ever Champions Trophy semi-final. They did show some encouraging signs shortly after the 2015 World Cup with successive series wins over Pakistan, India and South Africa, but since then their form has tapered off with only three wins in their past nine ODIs. They can at least point to a steady side with seasoned veterans such as Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim and captain Mashrafe Mortaza, although the key to their success will likely lie with young quicks Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed who have both made encouraging starts to their international careers. Another youngster to look out for is off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz who at 19 is the second-youngest player in the tournament.

Winner: The best that could be said for Bangladesh is that they are no less likely than Sri Lanka, however I would still want to see triple-figures before I’d consider backing them.

Top Run Scorer: In his relatively short ODI career thus far, opener Soumya Sarkar has played some notable innings against quality opposition so I’ll be looking to back him at 4.50 or bigger.

Top Wicket Taker: Averaging under 25 in all forms of the game and with 13 wickets already this year I just cannot look past left-armer Mustafizur Rahman at around 3.50 or better.

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