Top Four Title Contenders – ICC Champions Trophy

England can break their tournament duck

The ICC Champions Trophy begins in earnest on Thursday when England face off against Bangladesh.

Defending champions India will be determined to defend their crown following a premature exit at the last major tournament – World Twenty20 – they hosted in 2016.

Australia will have their sights set on capturing their second 50-over crown in the past two years following their exploits at the 2015 World Cup.

Perennial contenders South Africa enter the tournament as the number one ranked side in the world, but will have to shake their chokers reputation to win their first title in 19 years.

The host nation, England, have twice failed to win the crown on home soil, falling short in the final on both occasions. However, Eoin Morgan’s men are considered the leading contenders for the crown and will be a tough match in familiar conditions.

We’ll now break down the odds of the four contenders in their bid to win the ICC Champions Trophy.

India

India triumphed on English soil last time out

The defending champions return to the site of their win four year ago. India narrowly edged out England in a rain-affected final by five runs to win the tournament for the second time.

A great deal has changed in the India side since their win, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni handing off the captaincy to Virat Kohli.

The 28-year-old is the superstar of Indian cricket and one of the finest batsmen in the world. He will be determined to shine in the tournament and add to his tally of 27 ODI centuries

Through Kohli alone India can make a charge for the latter stages of the competition due to his ability to win matches single-handed at the crease.

His recent form has been outstanding, notching huge scores against England, New Zealand and Australia, meaning he should be at his peak level for the tournament.

India have been impressive in their recent outings, winning their last three series on the bounce, including wins over England and New Zealand on home soil.

The test of their credentials will be whether they are able to win in English conditions once again. Kohli has not always thrived against the moving ball and that could potential leave his side exposed, although there is enough quality to pick up the slack.

Value should come into the equation when backing India to win, with odds of +450   with Bet365 to win the competition.

Australia

The Baggy Greens are always a threat at major tournaments and this time around will be no different. Steve Smith’s men are the World Cup champions after a fine performance in the 50-over tournament two years and will be desperate to prove that they are still the kings of the format.

Smith will lead the charge at number three in the line-up, transferring his outstanding form from the Test arena to ODIs. The 27-year-old comes into the competition fresh off an impressive stint in the IPL, captaining Rising Pune Supergiant, although his side fell short in the final.

The Aussie skipper along with David Warner rank in the top 10 batsmen in the world in ODI cricket, and both men will be driving force behind their side’s push for the crown.

If they are allowed to dominate and rack up the runs, allowing their team-mates to play supporting roles around them then the Baggy Greens’ should thrive. However, should the duo put pressure on the less experienced players in the middle order then their push for the title could be undone.

The same could be said for the bowling unit, with Mitchell Starc carrying the fortunes of the side. He was the man of the tournament at the 2015 World Cup, notching 22 wickets. The 27-year-old has to fire as other than Josh Hazlewood – there is a shortage of experience in the side.

As a result, it may be worth passing on the Aussies to win the tournament due to their overreliance on their star men.

South Africa

The Proteas are one of the most balanced sides in the tournament, with a plethora of talent in their batting line-up and bowling unit. AB de Villiers remains one of the most destructive batsmen in the world and he will be leading his side’s charge towards their first crown in 19 years.

His average of 54.23 is the leading figure in the modern era, with 24 centuries to his name. De Villiers’ strike rate of 100.23 highlights his quality at the crease, never wasting a delivery. His ability to smash the ball out of the ground makes him a threat to every team in the competition.

The 33-year-old is surrounded by talent in the form of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis along with David Miller and Jean-Paul Duminy in the lower order. The depth of their batting makes the Proteas a dangerous threat.

Kagiso Rabada, the newly crowned number one ODI bowler in the world, leads their bowling unit. He has impressed in his fledgling career and will be determined to make an impact in his first 50-over tournament. Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell and Chris Morris round out a formidable unit – one that will not be taken lightly by any team.

South Africa’s issues have always been coping with the pressure of big matches. Their recent loss to England in the last over proves that has not gone away. Therefore it will be a risk to put serious money on the Proteas this around.

England

England can break their tournament duck

The pre-tournament favourites have gone full circle since their last appearance in a 50-over tournament two years ago.

England were the laughing stock of the World Cup and were eliminated in the group stage following a defeat to Bangladesh and thrashings at the hands of New Zealand and Australia.

Since then the Three Lions have been one of the most dominant sides in limited-overs cricket and were only denied their second World Twenty20 crown by Carlos Brathwaite’s incredible striking.

Eoin Morgan’s men are eerily similar to South Africa in terms of the depth of their side, boasting a number of quality batsmen and bowlers.

England proved their quality by defeating South Africa in their ODI series, displaying their power in the opener and their character under pressure in the second contest.

On home soil they’re a formidable foe for any side in the world and will be aiming to capitalise on their familiarity with conditions.

There are match-winners throughout the side – with Alex Hales leading the charge at the top of the order along with Jason Roy and Joe Root, who will be desperate to enhance his reputation in contrast to his counterparts at the top of the world rankings.

Morgan, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes provide power in the lower middle order that could set daunting totals for their opponents.

Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes lead the pace attack, with the subtle spin of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali filling out the side.

There’s more than enough talent to win the competition, therefore England have to seize the initiative to claim the crown. At odds of +300   with BetVictor it’s a smart bet to take.

Tips Summary

India To Win ICC Champions Trophy
1st June – 18th June 2017
Odds: +450

England To Win ICC Champions Trophy
1st June – 18th June 2017
Odds: +300