Kohli has to fire for India

India To Get Off To Winning Start

Defending champions India begin the attempt to win back-to-back titles in the ICC Champions Trophy in their Group B opener against old rivals Pakistan.

Virat Kohli’s men enter the tournament as one of the leading contenders to win the crown and will bear the weight of expectations to get off to a winning start.

India have been in good form of late in ODIs, defeating England and New Zealand in their last two series, although both victories came on home soil.

They did hammer Bangladesh in their warm-up match, with their seam bowlers thriving in English conditions, while some key batsmen were able to fire.

Pakistan overcame the West Indies in their recent series, and like their opponents defeated Bangladesh in their warm-up contest.

Sarfraz Ahmed’s side come into the tournament with a relatively inexperienced squad, with the hope that the young players in their team will inject a surge towards the latter stages.

They will be determined to get off to a strong start, although the challenge ahead is a tough one against Kohli’s in-form side.

With so few matches in the tournament – it’s imperative to get off begin the competition with a win, due to the knowledge that a defeat in the second game could end title aspirations.

As a result, expect an intense encounter with so much on the line. We’ll now break down the latest betting odds for the clash at Edgbaston.

India’s Top Batsman

Kohli has to fire for India

Kohli had by his standards an underwhelming IPL season, notching just three fifties for Royal Challengers Bangalore. His side notched just three wins in their 14 matches, finishing bottom of the table for the first time in the history of the competition.

The 28-year-old will be determined to bounce back and confirm his status as the leading batsman in ODI cricket. However, he and his team-mates will have to overcome a rift between the captain and coach Anil Kumble.

The future of the coach is far from certain due to reportedly negative feedback from Kohli to the BCCI, putting all concerned under pressure. Should the batsman find his best form at the crease all will be forgotten if he delivers a second Champions Trophy crown on the bounce for his country.

However, if he fails to produce his best – criticism may land at his door, especially following his poor IPL performance. India failed to reach the final of the World Twenty20 and another underwhelming competition could pressure on his role as captain.

In Kohli’s last outing in ODI cricket he played a pivotal role in defeating England on home soil, scoring a hundred and a half-century to guide his side to a 2-1 series triumph.

The 28-year-old has fired against the best teams in the world over the past year, scoring runs against New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and the Three Lions. There is always extra motivation for Indian players to rise to the occasion against Pakistan and the stage appears set for a Kohli masterpiece.

Therefore backing the Indian skipper to top score for his side in the contest at +250   with William Hill is the bet to take for the contest.

Pakistan’s Top Batsman

Ahmed’s side are in need of inspiration in this tournament and the player that could provide it is their rising star Babar Azam.

The 22-year-old is the only player from his country to be ranked in the top 10 of the ICC rankings in limited-overs cricket and he will be determined to make a strong impression in his first experience of a 50-over competition.

Azam has notched five ODI centuries and six half-centuries in just 22 matches, although the majority of his high scores have come against the West Indies.

He did blast a century and a score of 84 against Australia at the start of the year, proving that he does have the quality to take on the best attacks in the world.

Azam has the ability to score at an impressive rate and playing at number three should have plenty of time to rack up the runs.

One concern about his play was his struggles when he last played in England. The 22-year-old struggled in his outings at Headingley and Trent Bridge, while his highest score of the tour came at the Ageas Bowl where he notched 40.

India have the bowlers to challenge Azam with the moving ball and could expose the flaws in his technique. Therefore the young batsman will have to be at the peak of his powers from the off to provide Pakistan with impetus against their great rivals.

Backing the 22-year-old to lead his way for the Green Shirts at +350   with Ladbrokes is the option to take at Edgbaston.

Top Bowler

Kumar is in good form ahead of the contest

Bhuvneshwar Kumar was once again the star of the IPL as he top the wicket column for the second year on the spin. The 27-year-old won the Purple Cap for striking 26 times in the competition, highlighting his impressive form ahead of the Champions Trophy.

Kumar has thrived in English conditions in the past and will be relishing the prospect of lateral movement early in the innings. He has already shown his promise by taking six wickets in his side’s two warm-up matches against New Zealand and Bangladesh.

He looked particularly potent in the latter contest, striking three times at The Oval for just 13 runs. As a result, expect him to continue to dominate against an inexperienced line-up in similar conditions, with odds of +600   at 32Red to lead the wicket column at Edgbaston.

Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir could challenge due to his knowledge of the surface and his ability to bowl solid yorkers at the end of the innings.

However, the 25-year-old will be faced with tougher quality batsmen, who may just milk him for low-risk runs and attack the other bowlers in the Green Shirts’ side.

Winner

India will be determined to get off to a strong start in the tournament to sooth tensions in their camp. The contest will be fiery due to the intense rivalry between the two teams, with little love lost between the two sets of players.

Kohli’s men have form and experience on their side and should be able to rise to the occasion to see off Pakistan, despite the presence of young emerging talent on the Green Shirts.

As a result, backing India at -225   with Bet365 to win the contest and start their defence of their crown on the front foot.

Tips Summary

India To Beat Pakistan
Sunday 4th June, 10:30am GMT
Odds: -225

Virat Kohli To Be India’s Top Batsman
Sunday 4th June, 10:30am GMT
Odds: +250

Babar Azam To Be Pakistan’s Top Batsman
Sunday 4th June, 10:30am GMT
Odds: +350

Bhuvneshwar Kumar To Be Top Bowler
Sunday 4th June, 10:30am GMT
Odds: +600

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