Eight teams, playing 15 games, over 18 days… here is your guide to this explosive ICC ODI tournament.
What is it?
The Champions Trophy is a 50-over tournament that takes place every four years, and is virtually a smaller-scaled version of the World Cup. The eight top-ranked ODI nations are split into two groups of four, with the top two sides from each group progressing to the semi-final. The tournament is played out over a a 18-day period, featuring a total of 15 games.
When is it?
It begins on Thursday! Hosts England, who are incidentally the favourites will take on Bangladesh at the Oval (10:30am), with Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and South Africa opening their campaigns on Friday and Saturday. The group games are played out until June 12, before semi-finals on June 14, and 15, with the competition reaching its climax on June 18 at The Oval.
Who is playing in the tournament?
England (hosts), Australia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh.
Who could win it?
South Africa are the no.1 ranked ODI team, and they have an incredible batting lineup to say the least. As well as having the world’s no.1 ranked batsman in AB de Villiers, the Proteas have the likes of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Cock, and JP Duminy. South Africa have built up a reputation for failing to perform at major international events, and they’ve just lost a three-match series to England (2-1).
The hosts have been tipped by many to end their ODI silverware drought, and are the favourites with the bookmakers. Eoin Morgan’s side have dramatically improved over the last 18-months, and are another team that has a batting lineup that plenty of sides would dream of having.
Two-time winners Australia are the second-favourites to lift the trophy, and the Baggy Greens’ have a remarkable number of international accolades to their name. The side have been in a period of transition of the past two years, but the pedigree they have on the big stage could aid them massively in this tournament.
Outside of those three, the only other contender for me is India. The Men in Blue are skippered by arguably the best-ever ODI batsman in Virat Kohli, and the defending champions have a well-balanced side, that cannot be ruled out – albeit on unfamiliar conditions to them.
Who are the players to keep an eye on?
We’ve already mentioned de Villiers, a batsman who lets his run do the talking for him. Kagiso Rabada took four wickets for the Proteas against England on Monday night, and his teammate Amla broke another run-scoring record in that match, becoming the fastest player to reach 7,000 ODI runs. Joe Root is arguably England’s biggest hope with the bat, while prolific all-rounder Ben Stokes has been in fine form as of late, and the IPL’s most valued player could make the difference for England if he can shake off an ongoing knee problem
Among the Aussies, it is hard to look past the trio of Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and David Warner. All three have performed consistently at the highest level, and have come up trumps in previous tournaments. It is fair to say that the trio hold the key to Australia’s hopes in the tournament. India have their heavyweights in MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, and of course Kohli, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been somewhat of an unsung hero for the side in recent matches, and comes into the tournament on the back of a terrific IPL campaign.
Bangladesh’s Tanim Iqbal has been in fine form in the last few months, most recently racking up a ton against Pakistan last week. The Men in Green have a prolific bowler in Mohammad Amir, and facing his scintillating pace is always a tough task for batsmen.
New Zealand have gone off the boil recently, but it is important not to forget that they have one of the world’s best batting talents in their captain, Kane Williamson. Sri Lanka have a magic-man in Lasith Malinga, and Asela Gunaratne is an aggressive batsman who has been tipped by many to score heavily in this tournament.
Tournament Winners – South Africa
Leading Run Scorer – Joe Root
Leading Wicket Taker – Mitchell Starc