ICC Champions Trophy | Detailed analysis and predictions of Group A

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SportsCafe

ICC Champions Trophy | Detailed analysis and predictions of Group A

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Bastab K Parida

05/31/2017

In the Champions Trophy, there hasn't been any room for complacency and the Group A, which comprises England, Australia, New Zealand, and Bangladesh, promises for an intriguing competition. With England being the clear-cut favourites, the other three teams will try to not give an inch to the other.

Australia

Strength:

After enduring a horrendous 2016, which included a first ever ODI whitewash at the hands of South Africa, the Australian team for the first time in over two decades looked like an ordinary side. However, following some impressive performances against India, albeit in a completely different format, and the emergence of the ‘dream quartet’ of Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood, has made them a team to be feared yet again.

Their batting line-up also paints a confident picture going into the tournament, with the opening combination of David Warner and Aaron Finch capable of destroying any bowling line-up in the competition. With Steve Smith leading the batting pack, putting up a big total or chasing one won’t be that difficult for the Aussies. Apart from that, the presence of a strong bench can help Australia as well. Everyone including John Hastings, Travis Head, or even Marcus Stoinis have earlier proved that they can play a big role if given a nod. 

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Weakness:

While swinging conditions are best suited to their pacers, it could also be their undoing. At the previous Champions Trophy in 2013 in England, the Australia batsmen failed to counter the challenge of handling the swinging deliveries as they had failed to win a single game in the tournament. Their two main stars, David Warner and Steve Smith, have not had the best of times in the England and average a mere 28 each which is well short of their career averages. Although spin is not supposed to play a big role, at least in the ongoing early summer, the benefits of having good spinners to stem the run-flow in the middle overs have been well documented. But apart from Adam Zampa, who is yet to cement his place in the line-up, Australia doesn’t have a reliable option to bank on. Head and Glenn Maxwell give the two-time champions two part-time options, but again, how much the think-tank believes in them is yet to be seen. 

2013 result: Group stage exit.

Best finish: Champions in 2006 and 2009.

Probable XI: Steve Smith (c), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc

England

Strength :

The presence of a strong batting lineup till number nine has made England a limited-over giant post the 2015 World Cup debacle. Ben Stokes has become the hottest property in world cricket while Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, and Chris Woakes can punch above their weight even in times of turmoil. The new-found resolve at the back has certainly helped the batsmen bat freely without any inhibitions at the top of the order. In 2013, they did not have the best team but still made it to the final. The current team might just stay on to deliver the sucker punch this time around. Their squad checks every box in the book that Champions usually have and on 18th June, Eoin Morgan might become the first English captain to lift the England's maiden major One-day Trophy.  

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Weakness :

History is a cruel mistress and England’s record at the World event, apart from the T20 World Cup triumph in 2010, has been forgettable. They have developed an ultra-aggressive style which has entertained many over last one year, but that also proved to be their undoing in the just-concluded third one-day of the series against South Africa, in which they lost six wickets for 20, within the first five overs of the game. The inexperience of playing the big matches might come back to haunt them in the latter part of the tournament.

2013 result: Beaten finalists.

Best finish: Beaten finalists in 2004 and 2013.

Probable XI: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood

New Zealand

Strength :

Since their 2015 World Cup final appearance Down Under, the Kiwis have been on a steady decline. But, in the last one year, they have played 22 ODIs - the most by any team - which might help them to acclimatize to the demands of the 50-over game. They also have vast experiences in the form of Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill, with both coming in with the reputations of performing in big matches. Since the beginning of the 2015 World Cup, Martin Guptill is the second highest run-scorer in ODIs with 2222, just behind David Warner (2244). The biggest threat, however, that the Kiwis possess is their bowling attack that consists of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, and Mitchell McClenaghan who have the capability to exploit the English conditions to the fullest.

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Weakness :

For a team to perform well in England, it should opt for the attacking approach, however, Kane Williamson is used to be a more defensive one. The side does not lack the middle-order impact players on their side, but they have failed to deliver in crunch situations. Another problem that needs to be addressed is that Luke Ronchi, who will be pushed down the order again because Latham occupies the opening slot, where the former is seen relatively comfortable. The Kiwis also don’t have a good wicket-keeper batsman in their side and Latham, who captained the side in Ireland, has been inconsistent, to say the least. In the last 10 ODI innings he has played, Latham has been dismissed on a single digit six times. Similarly, the likes of Corey Anderson and James Neesham, because of their inability to deliver consistently, have weakened middle order. They can beat any team on their day, but they are yet to do away with the tag of being underperformers away from home.

2013 result: Group stage exit.

Best finish: Champions in 2000.

Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Luke Ronchi (wk), Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Trent Boult 

Bangladesh

Strength :

Bangladesh's journey from perennial also-rans to the most improved One-Day International side has been well documented and their Champions Trophy qualification after a hiatus of 11 years - ahead of West Indies - is the testament to their growing abilities. While there remained doubts over their big-match performances, they blew that reputation to smithereens by defeating much-fancied teams on any given day in the past. 

Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, and Sabbir Rahman form a formidable top-order, with the experienced troika of Mushfiqur Rahim, Shakib Al Hasan, and Mahmudullah adds much-needed steel and experience. With Mashrafe Mortaza's vast experience - both as a leader and a pace bowler - coupled with the variations of Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed, Bangladesh has one of the potent pace-bowling line-ups in the tournament. 

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Weakness: Tamim Iqbal has proved his capability at the top of the order, but Bangladesh will have to get rid of being overly reliant on him. Apart from him, though Bangladesh have a very good bowling attack, it is highly unlikely that their tail-enders could contribute much with the bat. They are yet to do away with inconsistent performances away from home.

2013 result: Didn’t play.

Best finish: Never qualified after the group stage. Managed a solitary win against Zimbabwe in the 2006 edition. 

Probable XI: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mehedi Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza (c), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed

SportsCafe’s Predictions of each match 

England vs Bangladesh, Kennington Oval

England’s last game against Bangladesh in a global 50-over tournament was a watershed moment for the English side because of the depressing defeat they suffered against the minnows. The match is expected to go in favour of the home team who is familiar with the conditions that will provide some movement in the first half of the day, it is also more likely to support the team that chases. In all likelihood, England will exact the revenge of the 2015 World Cup.

Australia vs New Zealand, Edgbaston

The battle between the Trans-Tasman rivals has always been an exciting one on the global stage, but the chances of winning are bleak for the Kiwis due to their lack of impact middle-order players to tackle the fearsome Australian pace quartet. Their propensity to succumbing in pressure situations gives their opponents the maximum chance of starting their campaign on a winning note. More so, if Australia win the toss and choose to bat first because the pitch plays better during the first innings as reflected in the average first innings score (243) compared to the average second innings score (195).

Australia vs Bangladesh, Kennington Oval

The Kennington Oval, where Bangladesh played their warm-up game against India, was a batsman’s paradise but seamers can have a ball as evidenced by Bangladesh's demolition at the hands of India. Though, the average runrate of 5.24 runs an over in the ground suggests otherwise, the new wicket should be a good one for both the batsmen and the bowlers. Given Australian pacers' wealth of experience and Bangladesh bowlers’ non-familiarity, the two-time Champions might blank Bangladesh easily. 

England vs New Zealand, Sophia Gardens

If New Zealand win the toss, they should bat first, post a big first innings total and then leave the pacers to do their job. Batting first is essential especially because rain is predicted on the day. New Zealand are a pretty balanced side but defeating England, that too at Cardiff, which has flattened out considerably for limited-over cricket of late, is a task easier said than done. England have a better batting line-up and have tremendous success at the venue in last two years as shown in the 60% win percentage at the venue. England, in all probability, will upset the Kiwis.

New Zealand vs Bangladesh, Sophia Gardens

Recently, in the tri-series in Ireland, Bangladesh, riding on collective team effort, defeated a second-string New Zealand side, but the repeat of the act seems pretty gloomy as all the top stars, after their stint in the IPL, have already joined the team. The Black Caps will be acclimatized with the Cardiff pitch after their match against England and have a better chance at defeating the sub-continental side and also because they have bowlers fit for the bowling conditions. 

England vs Australia, Edgbaston

This match comes with a dollop of excitement as the Ashes rivals will lock horns to prove their supremacy. Despite getting the better of England in many global events earlier, Australia will find the English a very tough nut to crack in their home conditions. This is one such encounter wherein who bats first will matter most. Though it is highly unlikely that any first innings total is big enough to threaten either opponent, England will be at the advantage position if they chase considering they bat deep even if the average first innings score(243) is more than that while chasing(195).

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