The last ever ICC Champions Trophy kicks off on Tuesday in Cardiff. 

The tournament, which sees the world’s top eight ranked sides go head to head, has often been derided over the years, so much so it has been scrapped by the ICC. However, this tournament represents everything that the more prestigious World Cup should be; short, sharp and exciting.

There are no dead rubbers in the Champions Trophy. There are no minnows who are easily beaten. This is a competition, which boasts the best of the world’s cricketing talent and promises to be an absolute cracker. 

So let’s see who is in the tournament and who can be expected to be there right at the end.

Group A

Australia 

Winners of the last two Champions Trophies, Australia are a side you can never count out. They have had well publicised difficulties lately and they have real issues with the blend of their squad. 

This is not an Australia side that will fear opposition as those featuring Hayden, Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist used to. However, they are a handy one-day side and have the players capable of going all the way if they click. 

Skippered well by Michael Clarke, Australia boast dangerous power hitters such as Shane Watson, David Warner and George Bailey and have a batting line up that can compete with the best. 

The bowling department is equipped with some fast, explosive seamers but looks seriously vulnerable in the spin department. Spinners play such a huge role in One Day cricket these days and with Xavier Docherty and Glenn Maxwell as spin options, Australia could struggle.

Prediction: Group Stage elimination

New Zealand 

Nobody should be surprised by New Zealand’s one day series win over England, as they are a terrific one-day side. Consistent performers at the major ICC events, New Zealand always seem to be in the mix come the latter stage of tournaments and could well be again. 

Having won away one-day series in South Africa and England, confidence will be high. They have the advantage of having played in England for the last month and so are used to conditions. 

The bowling department is probably their weakness, however Tim Southee is in excellent form and if they can get Daniel Vettori back to fitness they will look much stronger. The batsmen are in great shape and with Guptill, Taylor and McCullum are a real threat to the opposition.

Prediction: Runners-up

Sri Lanka  

A top drawer cricket side in all forms of the game. Their batsmen are exceptional and would expect to consistently post scores close to, or in excess of 300. With Dilshan, Mathews and Perera they have explosive players while they have the class of Sangakkara and Jayawardene. Bowling is their potential chink in the armour. 

Malinga aside they could struggle but if their bowlers can step up to the plate, Sri Lanka are a side to fear. One concern would be if the ball starts to swing early in the innings. Sri Lanka don’t tend to deal with the moving ball particularly well. I don’t fancy them to go all the way but should make it out of the group.

Prediction: Semi-finalists

England 

Boasting an impressive recent one-day record before being destroyed by New Zealand, England were pre-tournament favourites less than a week ago. Now they look weak, fragile and simply not destructive enough to match some of the more powerful sides in the competition. 

A top four of Bell, Cook, Trott and Root looks one-dimensional and tentative, while the supposed pinch hitters Morgan and Buttler are horribly out of form. A bowling department potentially bereft of Finn and Broad leaks runs and lacks penetration. If England manage to click they have potential to exploit home conditions, but they need to beat Australia in the opening game to have any chance of progression.

Prediction: Group Stage elimination

GROUP B

Pakistan  

Pakistan are a very dangerous one day side. The bowling is weakened by the absence of Umar Gul but still looks threatening with the class of spinner Saeed Ajmal and the pace of Junaid Khan. 

There are no easy games in the ICC Champions Trophy and Pakistan will have to hit the ground running. If they can get enough runs on the board, their bowlers are capable of seeing them home. However they may struggle if the ball swings and so may find it difficult to get out of the group.

Prediction: Group Stage elimination

South Africa 

They seem to be slipping somewhat under the radar which may well suit them. South Africa, along with New Zealand are probably best equipped to deal with conditions and that makes them contenders. Amla, Duminy and Miller are superb batsmen while Captain A.B De Villiers is arguably the best ODI players in the world. When you have bowlers such as Steyn. Morkel and Tsotsobe you are always in with a shout, so rule South Africa out at your peril.

Prediction: Semi-Finalists

India 

Current World Champions, India are always dangerous. The batsmen are most definitely their strength even without Tendulkar and Sehwag. Virat Kohli is a wonderful batsman and along with captain M.S Dhoni and Suresh Raina, India have some real firepower. Their squad selection caused some head scratching with the omission of Yuvraj and Gambhir. Also the bowling looks poor and will ultimately be their downfall. I can’t see India getting out the group.

Prediction: Group Stage elimination

West Indies 

Flamboyant, unpredictable and pure theatre, the West Indies are the must watch side of the tournament. If West Indies fire they are unstoppable. There are days though when it all goes horribly wrong and that makes them impossible to predict. Chris Gayle is the standout name and if he gets going, the crowds at Cardiff, Edgbaston and The Oval will need hard hats. Well supported by Samuels, Bravo and Pollard, the West Indies are well equipped. In the bowling they have pace through Roach and Best plus the mystery spin of Sunil Narine. Watch out for West Indies.

Prediction: Winners


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