ICC Champions Trophy Preview
The much discussed 50 over format will be in the headlines again with this Tuesday seeing the start of the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa. In this piece I will hopefully guide you to some riches over the next two weeks.
According to the rankings it promises to be a fascinating, closely fought competition with only a few points separating Australia, South Africa & India. First though lets look at the hosts South Africa (5/2), justifiable favourites mainly because they have had a break from the international fold for a few months and will come into the tournament on home soil fresh. Graeme Smith (14/1 top tournament batsman, 7/2 top SA batsman) returns from injury to captain a side packed full of talented & experienced one day players. They will take some beating if they get into their groove early.
Closest rivals to them could well be there winter rivals Australia (4/1), who have bounced back from their Ashes defeat by clinically destroying England in the current ODI series and are looking better by the game. Ricky Ponting's (14/1 top tournament batsman, 11/4 top Aussie batsman) century at Trent Bridge was one of the best I've seen in recent years and he will be looking to lift another piece of silverware. Brett Lee (14/1 top tournament bowler) is looking sharp now and they seem to have good batting strength. They are my tips for the tournament.
India, Sri Lanka & New Zealand have recently contested the Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka, a tournament won convincingly in the final by India.
India (4/1) obviously have the playing talent to win it, but as we saw with the World Twenty20 earlier this year, they have to eradicate that poor performance that seems to affect them in major tournaments.
Sri Lanka (6/1) have had two recent defeats to New Zealand (10/1) in their home series but did exact revenge in the tri nations competition preceding this and I expect them to go better out of the two teams again. They will be expecting big things from the explosive batting of Tillakaratne Dilshan (16/1 top tournament batsman, 11/4 top SL batsman) & fast bowler Lasith Malinga (14/1 top tournament bowler) as well as the wily Muttiah Muralitharan (16/1 top tournament bowler).
Pakistan (7/1) showed in the World Twenty20 that they are dangerous underdogs capable of beating any team on their day.
That leaves us with the two outsiders - England & West Indies. England (12/1) have lurched from one disaster to another in their current ODI series and it would take a big effort from Andrew Strauss (22/1 top tournament batsman, 5/2 top England batsman) and the management to galvanise a side which looks to be woefully lacking in confidence.
The same could be said about the West Indies (14/1) who are still in the midst of arguments between the players & the WICB, meaning they have a weakened squad for the tournament, however the ICC have said that if the dispute ends, Gayle, Chanderpaul and co. could still have a chance to play in the tournament so watch this space....
As usual at William Hill, we are offering a wide range of pre match & in-play markets. so make sure you join us for what promises to be an enthralling two weeks of cricket.