ICC Champions Trophy Tournament Preview

Written by Maverick White for @HollywoodbetsFollow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

The clouds that accompanied the early English summer during the test series between England and New Zealand seemed symbolic of the swirling demise of the ICC Champions Trophy. However, as the sun has baked the pitches flat in the ODI series and warm-ups, so the final tournament is looking more intriguing than ever. This will be the last installment of the Champions Trophy as the powers that be move towards implementing one championship per format in the not so distant future. With plans for a World Test Championship of some sort, the Champions Trophy became the victim of the proverbial chop. However, the English incarnation of the tournament looks set to be a feast of sumptuous cricket. Indeed, with the top eight teams in the game divided between two competitive groups, there’s bound to be some humdingers in wait. The bookies are having a tough time in marking out a clear favourite but from my vantage point, the crowd for the final at Edgbaston is looking less likely to be cheering on their hometown heroes by the day. I’ll be looking at my selected semi-finalists and earmarking a winner.

To Win Outright:
South Africa 4/1
England 4/1
Australia 5/1
India 6/1
West Indies 15/2
Pakistan 8/1
Sri Lanka 17/2
New Zealand 10/1

In my preview of the situation in Group A, England had yet to play New Zealand and had the confidence of yours truly to top their opposition. This has diminished somewhat as they have suffered two crushing losses at the hands of New Zealand on their home turf. Being struck with injuries to vital members of their bowling attack in Stuart Broad and Steven Finn, replacements Jade Dernbach and Chris Woakes have been less than impressive. Unless the English shuffle up their formula, they could be in for some tough encounters against sides with bullies in the batting department. Still, the odds have lengthened to 7/4 for a group win and they have another game against the Black Caps to find their feet. Don’t discount them just yet, especially not in making the semis. In terms of winning the tournament, at 4/1 it’s a solid bet but I’ll be looking elsewhere.

The subcontinental giants are probably South Africa’s biggest threat to making the final. In my convoluted opinions of how the group stages will play out, if the Indians beat the Proteas in the opening game it could set up a semi-final between South Africa and Australia. In this case, India become overwhelming dark horses. They know how to win international tournaments being the current holders of the World Cup, they are ranked the best ODI side in the world and have a tight unit of batsmen that can chase down any total on their day. Many have shied away from the Indians due to the conditions, believing the rising, swinging ball in England will be too much for their top order. Conversely, the conditions have looked ripe for Indian success and a high-scoring warm-up against the Sri Lankans in Birmingham saw India chase down 333 for victory, Virat Kohli with 144 and Dinesh Karthik also a centurion. Their bowling however, was shambolic. If this improves, the 6/1 on offer looks good for a small strike.

South Africa
The tragic hero of limited-overs tournaments, the Shakespearean-style narrative of the Proteas’ folly at international competitions is bound to come to an end at some point. Lest we forget, they have actually won an ICC Knockout before. However, way back in 1998 and hardly a tournament of prestige with a three-game winning streak securing victory, the single trophy is forgotten. As I discussed in my preview for Group B, they have all the tools capable of securing victory. However, with the flatness seen already in Birmingham and a potentially dry pitch at the Oval, the conditions may not suit them as much as first thought. Edgbaston will also host the final. Although I have no trouble with the notion of the Proteas progressing this far, potentially due to a helpful wicket in Cardiff, I don’t see them winning the thing. Save your money at 4/1.

TOP BET: Australia 5/1
The Aussies have hit my radar, hard. No one seems to be talking about the potential for them to win this tournament and I can’t understand why. They’ve been consistent performers in limited overs competitions over the years, indeed winning the bulk of them. Although missing the talismanic leadership of Ricky Ponting and the explosive nature of Michael Hussey, they’re still ranked second in the world and I believe they’ve built a solid group of players with key performers, in form, at the right time. Shane Watson impressed tremendously in the IPL and put any doubts to bed with a blazing 135 on a seaming Cardiff wicket. Mitchell Starc and Clint McKay were penetrative with the ball and had wickets aplenty. Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh impressed with the bat and although Warner and Hughes failed and Michael Clarke was rested, all three are match-winners in their own right. Bailey has a cool one-day head on his shoulders in the middle-order. All they require now is for Mitchell Johnson to pretend he was back in India. At 5/1 they’re a steal. Don’t miss out.

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