The Champions Trophy returns this year, and as was the case in 2013 it is the turn of England and Wales to host. A short, sharp competition, it sees the top eight ODI teams in the world competing against one another in 21 games over just 23 days.
The rise in T20 franchise cricket all around the world has impacted massively upon how the game is played today, with breath-taking shots, spectacular catches and eye-watering strike-rates becoming commonplace within limited-overs cricket. Sure to possess all of these and more, the Champions Trophy promises to excite fans of cricket throughout the world.
Australia - Prediction: Losing Finalists
Batsmen - Steven Smith ©, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, David Warner
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - John Hastings, Moises Henriques, Marcus Stoinis
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - Glenn Maxwell
Pace Bowlers - Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc,
Spin Bowlers - Adam Zampa
Wicketkeepers - Matthew Wade
The destructive opening pairing of David Warner and Aaron Finch are capable of dismantling any bowling attack, whilst T20 star Chris Lynn is one of the most explosive hitters of the ball currently in the game. Captain Steve Smith is one of the best all-round batsmen in world cricket, however struggled against the moving ball last time he toured England. He was not alone there, and whilst the white ball will not move around as drastically as the red, there are still flaws in the techniques of many of the top order - who of course are used to the fast, bouncy Australian wickets - which could well be exploited in English conditions.
The Australian bowling attack is one of the most well rounded within the tournament: the nagging consistency of Josh Hazlewood, the out-and-out pace of Pat Cummins and James Pattinson, or the 90 mph reverse-swinging yorkers of Mitchell Starc mean that opposition batsmen will be tested on all aspects of their game. A weakness could be the spin department, as whilst young leggie Adam Zampa has been a success in the Big Bash and IPL, he is yet to stamp his mark on international cricket. With only Glenn Maxwell behind him, this appears to be the area to target.
If their batsmen fire then it will take a special performance to stop Australia. Capable of taking apart any bowler in the world, their firepower with the bat is backed up by the quality of fast bowlers at their disposal. The major question mark, however, lies over the quality of their spinners, and whether they can be both economical and threatening.
Bangladesh - Prediction: 4th in group
Batsmen - Mosaddek Hossain, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Sabbir Rahman, Soumya Sarkar
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - N/A
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Mehedi Hasan,
Pace Bowlers - Mashrafe Mortaza ©, Taskin Ahmed, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Mustafizur Rahman
Spin Bowlers - Sunzamul Islam
Wicketkeepers - Mushfiqur Rahim
If Bangladesh are to progress into the next round, then they will need experienced openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes to have an outstanding tournament. Iqbal in particular has shown over the years that he is capable of being destructive, but they will need his power to come to the fore in all of their games. Wily all-rounder Shakib al Hasan remains one of the stand-out performers in his field, and is capable of hitting some lusty blows lower down the order.
In Mustafizur Rahim Bangladesh hold one of the most exciting fast-bowling prospects of today. Possessing stunning variations capable of bamboozling the best batsmen in the world, he has already shown at the tender age of 21 that he belongs on the world stage. Shakib al Hasan can prove a threat with his left-arm spinners, however you cannot rely on just two bowlers if you are to be successful.
In the Champions Trophy you cannot afford to have a bad game if you are to enter the knockout stages. Whilst a handful of the Bangladesh team can claim to be able to hold the ability to push top teams individually, there is not enough collective quality to do so consistently as a team.
England - Prediction: Winners
Batsmen - Eoin Morgan ©, Jason Roy, Alex Hales
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, David Willey
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, Joe Root
Pace Bowlers - Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood
Spin Bowlers - N/A
Wicketkeepers - Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler
The key to the recent success England have enjoyed has been their batting line-up, and the embarrassment of riches they have at their disposal. Jason Roy and Alex Hales are the powerful opening pair England have cried out for for years, whilst middle-order duo Joe Root and Eoin Morgan can adapt their game to be a success whether they enter after five runs or 205 runs. Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Sam Billings contribute a mixture of brute power alongside 360° hitting, whilst powerful tail-enders mean they bat all the way down to number 11. Probably the longest batting line-up in the competition.
David Willey is adept at swinging the new ball early on and could expose any slight deficiency in technique, whilst Chris Woakes is arguably the most-improved international cricketer of the past twelve months. Genuine pace is offered in the form of Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett, whilst Ben Stokes and Woakes are usually outstanding death bowlers. Teams could exploit the inconsistency of Adil Rashid, with he the most threatening - but also wayward - spinner in the side. If he gains confidence early then he will be a threat with his array of variations - however if not, then he could prove to be the weak-link in their attack.
For one of the only times in recent history, England enter a major tournament with as good a chance as anybody of winning the trophy. Home conditions should suit here, with English batsmen used to conditions they will be faced with. Able of chasing down any score set, it is their bowling which will prove to be the decisive factor in whether they have tasted success or not come June 19th. With home conditions in their favour, they look the team to beat.
New Zealand - Prediction: 3rd in group
Batsmen - Kane Williamson ©, Neil Broom, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - Corey Anderson, Colin de Grandhomme, James Neesham,
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - Mitchell Santner
Pace Bowlers - Trent Boult, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, Tim Southee,
Spin Bowlers - Jeetan Patel
Wicketkeepers - Tom Latham, Luke Ronchi
A team with a top order consisting of Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor is always going to be dangerous, with the vastly experienced trio an imposing sight for any bowling unit. On their day, all three are capable of causing carnage, and they will be tasked with setting platforms for big-hitting all-rounders Corey Anderson and Colin de Grandhomme to come in down the order and utilise their power to add runs quickly.
The New Zealand bowling attack is the one most suited to English conditions, barring the hosts. The right arm-left arm combination of Tim Southee and Trent Boult adds variety to their bowling attack, with the two both extremely skilful at swinging the new ball both ways. Mitchell McClenaghan adds a second left-arm pace option after Boult, and alongside the rapid Adam Milne provides good depth in their bowling. However, question marks remain over the fitness of Milne and if he can withstand the hectic fixture schedule of tournament cricket. Off-Spinner Jeetan Patel is one of the most efficient of the world and seldom goes for many runs in his allocated overs, whilst Mitchell Santner provides another good option for captain Williamson with his slow left-arm orthodox.
With messrs Williamson, Guptill and Taylor at the top of the card, New Zealand should never be short of runs; added in with the guile of Southee, Boult et al, Mike Hesson’s men look to have a well-balanced team on paper. Yet due to their inclusion in the same group as England and Australia, two teams who appear to be stronger outfits than the Black Caps, it will be hard for them to force their way into one of the two qualifying spots in Group A. Whilst they should not be ruled out of progressing out of the group stage, they are likely to fall foul of their tough draw.
India - Prediction: Semi-Finals
Batsmen - Virat Kohli ©, Shikhar Dhawan, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - Hardik Pandya
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh
Pace Bowlers - Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav
Spin Bowlers - N/A
Wicketkeepers - MS Dhoni
Defending champions India hold a lineup that has both experienced heads and youthful exuberance. Shikhar Dhawan, the leading run scorer in CT2013, and Rohit Sharma are ruthless at the top of the order, whilst the mercurial Virat Kohli can destroy seemingly any bowling attack. MS Dhoni will once again bring his power, quick-hands and brutal hitting to their side, whilst the underrated Ajinkya Rahane can provide solidity in the midst of carnage around him. The main issue is the fact that many, Kohli included, may be susceptible to the moving ball early on due to their minimal exposure of the conditions - and that could prove to be all the difference.
In Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja India carry two outstanding limited-overs all-rounders. Their nagging consistency can wear down the best, and they work together impeccably as a pair, constricting and suffocating batsmen of any run-scoring opportunities. Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be suited to English pitches, and the extra yard of pace he has developed recently gives him another weapon in his armoury. Finally, Jasprit Bumrah has evolved into one of the finest death-bowlers in the world, which aids their ability to defend any total.
There is no doubting the fact that India are a seriously talented one-day outfit. However, much of their recent success in coloured clothing has been seen on their own shores, and matching that abroad will prove a much harder task. Unlike in 2013 they will now consistently face teams playing an aggressive brand of cricket; when opposed with a top-class competitor, in relatively unknown conditions for them, they could come unstuck. With many of their team unexposed (Or so far unsuccessful) in England, it will be a challenge for them to repeat their victory of four years ago.
Pakistan - Prediction: 4th in group
Batsmen - Umar Akmal, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman,
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - N/A
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim
Pace Bowlers - Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Fahim Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz
Spin Bowlers - N/A
Wicketkeepers - Sarfraz Ahmed ©
The Pakistani batting line-up is led by veterans Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, who continue to churn out runs. Dangerous counter-attacking batsmen, they have the sufficient experience to know how to handle varying game situations. Ahmed Shehzad has the ability to put teams on the back foot straight from the off from his role at the top of the innings, whilst Babar Azam has shown in the recent series against the West Indies that he can make big runs.
The one area perhaps lacking though is their ability to push on and make big, competitive scores. They have only breached 300 five times in their previous 16 ODI innings, and in a day and age where challenging totals are rapidly rising to around 350, if they continue that run during the competition then they will be quickly left behind.
Pakistan hold somewhat of an underrated bowling attack, with the nucleus of their bowlers all proven on the international stage. The left-arm trio of Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz have shown their limited-overs capabilities numerous times previously, and combine express pace with skilful guile. The first two in particular have the ability to produce good lateral movement in the air, so should be suited to playing on English soil.
Away from their pace men, the lack of a real quality spinner may seriously hamper their hopes. Mohammad Hafeez can be a useful off-spin option, whilst Imad Wasim has potential as an all-rounder, but has not put his hand up to say he can be the front line spinner that Mickey Arthur’s men need. Neither can be counted on to send shockwaves through opposition dressing rooms.
The Green Shirts do not appear to be one able of challenging for the title. Their inability to post consistently big scores will be further highlighted by the level of competition surrounding them, whilst a bowling attack lacking any real depth or competition will likely struggle to keep opposing sides’ totals down.
South Africa - Prediction: Semi-Finals
Batsmen - Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, David Miller
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - Farhaan Behardien, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - JP Duminy
Pace Bowlers - Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada
Spin Bowlers - Keshav Maharaj, Imran Tahir
Wicketkeepers - AB de Villiers ©, Quinton de Kock
Any side that can count on a superstar such as AB de Villiers has the scope to post huge scores. The 33-year-old is one of the most dynamic players of his generation, and typifies the modern day batsmen in his ability to hit any area of the ground with consummate ease. Factor in fellow world-class players such as Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock and there is potential for the Proteas to cause real carnage. Faf du Plessis has enjoyed a stellar previous 12 months in One-Day International cricket and is a fine player in his own right, whilst the frustratingly inconsistent David Miller can change the momentum of a game in the blink of an eye.
The experienced Morne Morkel spearheads a fearsome pace attack, albeit with a Dale Steyn shaped hole in it. Despite the 85-test quick having to sit out the tournament as a result of a long-term shoulder injury, the 33-year-old’s shoes will likely be filled by Kagiso Rabada. One of the most exciting young fast bowlers on the planet, Rabada has seen his stock rise rapidly since the turn of last year thanks to his collection of 71 Test wickets in a mere 17 test matches, and can use the Champions Trophy to cement his place as one of the best best in his field. Chris Morris will join Morkel and Rabada, and can call on his canny ability to beat both edges of the bat through both pace and movement. The world’s top-ranked ODI side can also call on the top-ranked ODI bowler, in the shape of Imran Tahir, who is the best slow-bowling option for any team in the tournament. Seeking to exploit any lapse in concentration, he will utilise his cunning variations and pace changes to tie batsmen up in knots.
With the plethora of talent South Africa have at their disposal, they will surely be there-or-thereabouts come the end of the tournament. They can take confidence from recent ODI series’, winning 3-2 away in New Zealand, and securing a comprehensive 5-0 home whitewash over the Australians before that (Albeit with the tourists putting out a complete second-string bowling attack). However, having never won an international competition their squad lacks the know-how of how to win a trophy, and that is so important if a team is to be successful. Consequently, they are likely to fall just short.
Sri Lanka - Prediction: 3rd in group
Batsmen - Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedera, Upul Tharanga
Pace Bowling All-Rounders - Angelo Mathews ©, Thisara Perera
Spin Bowling All-Rounders - Seekkuge Prasanna
Pace Bowlers - Nuwan Pradeep, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga
Spin Bowlers - Lakshan Sandakan
Wicketkeepers - Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Mendis, Kusal Perera
Unfortunately for Sri Lankan fans, the days of having a top-order consisting of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardena have departed. Whilst the current crop are of course talented - they, obviously, would not have represented their country if they were not - they are understandably not yet in the same bracket as the aforementioned three. Various names have had the thankless task of succeeding the stars of yesteryear: Upul Tharanga, now 32, has taken on the mantle as the wise old head at the top of the order, and is a big-hitter on his day; captain Angelo Mathews is a class act, and can combine sumptuous drives over the top with a watertight defence; whilst Thisara Perera and Seekkuge Prasanna are your archetypal lower-to-middle order pair, who can blitz a quick 40 or 50. Despite the skills of their batsmen, on their last tour of England, few could adapt to the conditions facing them. A cloudy Edgbaston in early June is poles apart from Colombo mid-Summer, and the Sri Lankans could find the climate a struggle to adapt to.
Nuwan Kulasekara and Suranga Lakmal are both neat swing-bowlers, who can give the ball gentle movement both ways albeit not at extreme pace. The evergreen Lasith Malinga returns for another major tournament, however may not be able to display his once notorious repertoire of searing inswinging yorkers, deceptive slower balls and skiddy bouncers - all delivered from his infamous slingy action - as he may have done once upon a time due to recent injury and illness, from which he is still recovering. Seekkuge Prasanna is an accurate leg-spinner, who possesses a good googly, and will lead their spin department.
A steady side, the Sri Lankans are by no means pushovers, yet at the same time probably do not contain enough to be serious challengers. Angelo Mathews is a world-class performer, however there is not much around him to match his level of performance. With India and South Africa looking stronger outfits, the Lions face a big challenge to pip them and qualify for the semi-finals.