Australia will hope to make it their third title at the Champions Trophy where they will meet the challenge of seven of the other top teams in the cricketing world starting on June 1.
While India are the defending champions at the Champions Trophy, all eyes will be on the World Cup winners Australia, who will look to overturn their middling ODI form and go the distance in the competition.
According to cricket betting in Australia, it come as no surprise that the Aussies start rather short at 10/3 to win the Champions Trophy this year. Only hosts England are ahead, with bookmakers offering 3/1 for the hosts to clinch the title for the first time ever in their history.
Incidentally, England are yet to win a fifty-over ICC tournament, having made it to the final of the World Cup on three separate occasions, apart from a runner-up trophy in the Champions Trophy.
Australia, on the other hand, have easily been the best ODI side over the years, with World Cup wins in 1987, 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015 along with their two titles in the Champions Trophy.
And under Steven Smith they have shown they can more than compete – their poor showing in South Africa last year notwithstanding. A 5-0 drubbing at the hands of South Africa in 2016 can well be put down to a selection gaffe – their decision to send in a second-string team in a bid to rest the main guys in the lead-up to the long summer ahead, looked to have back-fired badly.
Since then, they have crushed New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee series 3-0 at home and then routed Pakistan 4-1 in another ODI series.
Interestingly, Australia were faced with a similar situation in their last ODI series they played before the long Test tour of India and the IPL, when they were without either Smith or David Warner, and went down 2-0 to the Kiwis away from home. It’s fair to say then, the duo hold the key to their team’s success going into this major ICC tournament.
A look at these two batsmen’s average since the end of the 2015 World Cup is a pointer to this fact as well.
Warner has played in 31 ODIs, scored 1899 runs at 65.48. Smith’s 1552 runs have been scored at a shade under 50.
What could also be the difference between Australia and favourites England is their bowling. Despite possessing a batting line-up that has taken giant strides in the white-ball format after having hit their lowest ebb in the 2015 World Cup – where they were knocked out in the first round – England’s bowling has been found wanting on occasions. Especially in conditions where pitches have been flat and there has been nothing for the bowlers.
In such conditions, the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins can be expected to out-bowl Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett and David Willey.
Where the English bowling could score over their Aussie counterparts is in conditions where the ball swings and that’s usually the case during Tests in England. Look back at recent ODI scores in the country and bowlers might be wishing they are anywhere but bowling in the UK.
Both teams, Australia and England, should be able to put it across New Zealand and Bangladesh from their group – although the Kiwis have known to surprise opponents in ICC events when least expected – but their real competition could come in the semi-finals. The group has India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and the first two of the aforementioned sides should go through to the semis as well.
South Africa are currently the top-ranked side and they could well challenge Australia or England in their knock-out encounter. Do Australia or England have the fire-power to thwart the number one side or will the Proteas finally overcome their mental issues and make an ICC final?
The next three weeks or so should tell us more.