HOPING TO COME GOOD
England, S. Africa bid to end title droughts
SOUTH Africa and England are the perennial underachievers in one-day international cricket, mixing high hopes with high-profile failures in the big tournaments.
They’ll have to cope with the favourites’ tag at the eight-team Champions Trophy starting tomorrow.
The South Africans are the topranked ODI team, with the topranked batsman (AB de Villiers) and the top-ranked bowler (Imran Tahir). That should install the Proteas as the outright favourites but it’s been a long and painful trophy drought since winning their only piece of ICC silverware at the inaugural Champions Trophy in 1998. Four semi-final defeats in the Champions Trophy to go alongside four semi-final losses in the Cricket World Cups.
The English, playing at home and with a newf o u n d e n t h u s iasm for the oneday format under coach Trevor Bayliss, are many people’s tips. Yet they have never won an ICC trophy, having been a runner-up three times at the World Cup and lost finals on home soil in the Champions Trophy in 2004 and 2013.
Still, it would be a surprise if the two teams didn’t qualify for the semi-finals in what should be a competitive tournament and being held across three locations — The Oval in London; Edgbaston in Birmingham; and Sophia Gardens in Cardiff, Wales.
India and Australia — ranked Nos 2 and 3, respectively, and teams that regularly deliver on the big stage — are the other likely semifinalists.
With its rapid-fire schedule and the strength of its field, the Champions Trophy is arguably the preferred 50-over event for players and fans compared to the Cricket World Cup, which can drag on for six weeks and where many results can be predicted.
Pakistan, New Zealand, and Sri Lanka should be competitive, while the rank outsiders, Bangladesh, are capable of causing a shock — as shown in the 2015 World Cup when they beat England to reach the knockout stage.
That Bangladesh qualified for the event ahead of the West Indies, the 2004 winners and current T20 world champions, underlines the team’s quality.
“This tournament is going to be hard for us, playing a group that is very hard in the conditions,” Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza said of opponents England, Australia and New Zealand. “On your day, you can do anything; we have quality players who can change the game.”
India might be the team to beat. The defending champion have not played an ODI since January and are burdened with expectation, as ever, but have matchsharp players due to the majority of their squad being involved in the T20 Indian Premier League. So high-scoring are modernday ODIs that the mindset and range of shots are not too dissimilar over the two shorter formats, so the IPL could prove to be ideal preparation for India.
And then there’s Virat Kohli, cricket’s superstar player not just in India but beyond. The captain averages nearly 82 in his last 16 ODI innings and top-scored with 43 in the 2013 final.
“We won last time because our fast bowlers did very well, our spinners were strong and our opening batsman did well. They were the main three factors,” Kohli said.
“This year, the team is a lot fitter, the cricketers are a lot more mature, because that was a very young group four years ago.”
Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand.
India, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka.