Champions Trophy 2013 Predictions

To be honest, given my rather hit and miss IPL predictions, I wasn’t going to bother previewing the upcoming Champions Trophy, but as the tournament draws closer, I feel myself looking more and more into the other team’s camps to see how they are doing and what sort of form or preparation they are taking into the tournament. I’ve already written a piece on Sri Lanka’s chances here.

Group A

England

A lot of people are tipping England to win the whole tournament and it is easy to see why. Unlike past management regimes, Andy Flower appears to be taking this pretty seriously despite the Ashes on the horizon. The only real surprise in their squad is the inclusion of Ravi Bopara despite any real evidence for his inclusion, averaging just over 30 in First-Class cricket so far this season for Essex. However, even without Pietersen their top order is solid and on home conditions could lay the platform for Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan who are excellent finishers with Morgan showing the ability to rescue crisis situations. Bowling-wise, Anderson and Swann will provide the biggest threat but Finn and Broad will always be dangerous. Question marks remain over Chris Woakes who does not show much variation to supplement his lack of pace. I expect England to have too much for Australia and perhaps even SL whose lack of preparation and our lack of a clue in English conditions will make things hard for them. I’d say that they will top the group. Here is their squad:

Alastair Cook (c), James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Chris Woakes

William Hill odds:

To win the tournament: 4/1
To win Group A:               13/8
To qualify from Group:  1/2

Australia

If England are taking the Champions Trophy seriously, you get the feeling that the Aussies will be looking squarely at the Ashes the following month. Coming to the UK with in all sorts of controversy and strife, Australia look a shadow of the side that won the last tournament. That said, the Australia squad does possess depth in the bowling department and where their batting can be hit or miss, all it takes is for Dave Warner to slash a few to the third man boundary for them to be on their way. Long gone are the days when Phil Hughes was being compared in hushed whispers to The Don, but in his 10 ODIs, he averages 52 with two tons and a 50 – admittedly these have only come in Australia against Sri Lanka and the West Indies. In James Faulkner they have an excellent limited overs bowler and even Mitchell Johnson showed a glimpse of his old self in the recent IPL. I don’t expect Australia to get particularly close to winning this, but all it takes is for someone to underestimate them. Here is their squad:

Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey (vice-capt), David Warner, Shane Watson, Phil Hughes, Adam Voges, Mitchell Marsh, Matthew Wade, Glenn Maxwell, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Clint McKay, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Xavier Doherty.

William Hill odds:

To win the tournament: 9/2
To win group:                   15/8
To qualify from Group: 8/13

New Zealand

I think New Zealand are dark horses for this tournament. But then again, I say they are dark horses for every tournament. Perennial semi-finalists at World Cups, their ODI side is stacked at every base. Williamson, Guptill, Taylore and McCullum can chase down any score if they click whilst Southee, McClenaghan, Boult and Mills are solid ODI bowlers as is Nathan McCullum and they have always been excellent fielders. They will benefit from Vettori coming back from injury and Luke Ronchi’s inclusion. Like England they will benefit from playing ODI cricket in the immediate lead-up to the tournament. I reckon they will finish second in the group. Here is the squad:

Brendon McCullum (captain), Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Andrew Ellis, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Colin Munro, Luke Ronchi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori and Kane Williamson

William Hill odds:

To win the tournament: 12/1
To win the group:              5/1
To qualify from group:   6/4

Sri Lanka

Lack of preparation and an inexperienced and out of form captain, I fear for our chances. I’d be happy if we made it into the semi-finals and beat the Aussies (only because I will be at the Oval for that match) but cannot see it happening. That said, the chances are that we will go with two spinners meaning a better control over the opposition batting. I was looking forward to the warm-up matches to give a better indication of our chances but the first match against Pakistan was rained off. The remaining two against India and the West Indies will be vital if we ever plan to do anything on this tour. The squad:

Angelo Mathews (c), Dinesh Chandimal (vc), Dilhara Lokuhettige, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Mahela Jayawardene Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Perera, Thisara Perera, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Sachithra Senanayake, Lahiru Thirimanne

William Hill odds:

To win the tournament: 8/1
To win group:                    10/3
To qualify from group:  EVS

Group B:

India

The Indians will always be a threat at any ODI tournament. They will be keen to make an impression in England after their last visit which was atrocious. I do not think though that they have learnt their lessons from that tour.  I think they are a better fielding unit these days than they were then but technique against the swinging ball will be a problem once again, exacerbated by the fact that they will be facing South Africa and Pakistan who are stocked with quality seamers who will benefit in the seaming conditions. Having said that, in Bhuvneshwar Kumar they perhaps a seamer who can get early wickets at the top of the order. I don’t think they will take this competition particularly seriously but the final match of Group B against Pakistan is a mouth-watering prospect as both sides will be fiercely supported throughout their stay here. By sheer dint of the talent they have, I reckon they will go through; topping the group in the process. The squad:

Dohni (c), Dhawan, Kohli, Raina, Karthik, Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Mishra, Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Ashwin, Jadeja, Ishant Sharma

William Hill odds:

To win the tournament:  6/1
To win the group:              5/2
To qualify from group:   4/5

South Africa

The best Test team have yet to truly assert their 5-day dominance into 50-over success. The series defeat to New Zealand a case in point. Without Graeme Smith, their batting will rely heavily on AB De Villiers, Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla, but Faf du Plessis and David Miller can chase down most totals. Dale Steyn will will spearhead their attack but Morne Morkel is coming off a disappointing IPL and Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rory Kleinveldt and Aaron Phangasio will need to really step up to make an impression given the batting lineups in Group B. I can’t see them making the semi-finals. Here is the squad:

AB de Villiers (capt, wkt), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Alviro Petersen (see below), Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

William Hill odds:

To win the tournament:  4/1
To win the group:             11/8
To qualify from group:   4/9

Pakistan

Predicting the fortunes of Paksitan are like predicting the weather during the English cricket season. Which is why I think they will go all the way and win the whole thing. Where they lack in consistency, they make up for in ‘X-factor’. Added to the fact that they have been in the UK longer than every other overseas side (apart from New Zealand) playing Scotland and Ireland and have acclimatized to the conditions and have a few ODI games under their belts. It will be interesting to see how Mohammed Irfan fares after a decent ODI series in South Africa, whilst Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz will be dangerous in English conditions. Oh, and Saeed Ajmal might get a few as well. I think they might struggle to get out of the group but fancy them to finish second and then go on to win from there on end. The squad:

Misbah (c), Ali, Rehman, Shafiq, Farhat, Kamral Akmal (wk), Adil, Junaid, Hafeez. Irfan, Ajmal, Jamshed, Malik, Riaz, Afridi/Amin.

William Hill odds:

To win the tournament:     13/2
To win the group:                  10/3
To qualify from the group: EVS

West Indies 

The West Indies are usually everyone’s ‘second team’. You know, the team everyone would like to do well, although not at the expense of their own sides? Whats not to like about them? At their best they play fun attacking cricket, the locals are a laugh and they have larger-than-life characters. Yeah they used to be my ‘second-team’ as well, that was before they went and betrayed my affection for them and going and winning last year’s T20 World Championship. I can barely stand Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo’s petty dances these days. Darren Sammy’s exuberance wears thin. I used to feel sorry for them and their fans when they got handed out a whipping. Now just watching them brings back painful memories. New Zealand are my ‘second team’ now. They’ve never hurt anyone.

The Windies though come into this tournament after many of their stars having excelled in the IPL. Gayle, Bravo, Pollard and Smith of course, but the emergence of Jason Holder could be a boost to their pace department as backup to Rampaul and Roach. Johnson Charles is a talented batsmen able to get things off to a brisk start as well. Sunil Narine will also be a threat, but I was mildly surprised that Ashley Nurse wasn’t in the squad as a potential backup or replacement for him. Marlon Samuels hasn’t had quite the same year this year (thus far) that he had last year, but he will have to do in that respect. Like Pakistan, the Windies are very unpredictable, but I feel that they would fare better on slower pitches. I cannot see them upsetting the other teams in their groups on this tour. Still, it will be nice to see Tino Best again. Here is their squad:

Dwayne Bravo (capt), Denesh Ramdin (wkt), Tino Best, Darren Bravo, Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle, Jason Holder, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith

William Hill odds:

/To win the tournament:   7/1
To win the group:                 9/2
To qualify from group:      11/8

Latter Stages

So I have gone for England and New Zealand to top Group A and India and Pakistan in Group B. Which would mean a semi-final lineup of England vs Pakistan on March 13th at the Oval and India vs New Zealand on March 14th at the SWALEC. I think Pakistan will come good at the clutch and beat England and whilst I don’t think many would be backing against India in the other semi-final, I can kind of see New Zealand causing a major upset there with their seamers, although how much Cardiff will help them compared to some of the other grounds, I don’t know. Perhaps spin might be a better bet in which case it is India’s game. But I will go with New Zealand to make the final against Pakistan where once again I feel Pakistan will put in the performance when they need it most, leaving them with the trophy.

So there are my predictions. Obviously they come with a huge disclaimer that I am not a tipster of any sort and please do not follow these predictions based on me telling you so. Hell, I always tip SL to flop at major tournaments. It makes losing in the final just that little bit less shit.

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