Australia, always a favourite

The Australians have twice emerged victorious in this ODI competition, in 2006 and 2009. And it won the last ODI World Cup in 2015. This is a team that has constantly found the right answers in the 50-over format of the game.

Australia will depend on David Warner (right) and skipper Steve Smith to lead its batting.   -  Reuters

Australia will enter the ICC Champions Trophy with the belief that it can go all the way. Steve Smith’s side is a dynamic, well-rounded outfit.

The Australians have twice emerged victorious in this ODI competition, in 2006 and 2009. And it won the last ODI World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2015. This is a team that has constantly found the right answers in the 50-over format of the game. A side with multi-dimensional cricketers. Given the English conditions in early summer, Australia’s pace-heavy attack could call the shots. The side is high on fire power in this department.

ICC Champions Trophy schedule

Mitchell Starc leads a pack of speedy bowlers, who include Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, Josh Hazelwood and John Hastings. Hazelwood, in particular, will be a threat with his accuracy and two-way movement.

Then Australia has pace-bowling all-rounders such as Moises Henriques and Marcus Stoinis, who lend depth to the side. Pace is Australia’s strength.

Smith: We have a very good record in big championships

Grouped alongside England, New Zealand, and Bangladesh, Australia has a good chance of making the last-four stage, but there might be no easy games or opponents. The contest between old rivals Australia and England will have a lot riding on it. From a psychological perspective, a victory in the match could be critical. 

Australia has the batting might to put runs on the board. Smith is in rousing form, across formats, and the skipper will be carrying plenty of Aussie hopes on his shoulders. The manner in which Smith has been pacing his innings has been exemplary. He is a hard man to dislodge, has a variety of strokes and knows when to put his foot on the accelerator.

David Warner is a clear and present danger at the top of the order. This heavy-hitter has added maturity to his game.

Aaron Finch, another bustling shot-maker, can dismantle attacks up the order. The Aussies also have the option of using Chris Lynn, a dashing, spontaneous shot-maker against the new ball.

There are several game-changers in the middle-order with Glen Maxwell, being the foremost among them. He can alter the course of a duel in a matter of a few deliveries. There are other influential batsmen around like Travis Head, who can take apart attacks. And men such as Stoinis and wicketkeeper batsman Mathew Wade can prove powerful counter-punchers later in the order.

This Australian side is short on spin though and much of its aspirations here will rest on the young shoulders of young leg-spinner Adam Zampa. The Aussies could well miss an off-spinner or a left-armer in the later stages of the tournament when the surfaces, becoming more worn out, could increasingly assist spinners. 

Smith said ahead of the competition, “Trophies like this only come along every two years so it is a really important series. Australia has a very good record in competitions so hopefully we can keep that up. We want to win it, everybody does, and that is what we are focused on.” He added, “We have had a busy schedule but I’m feeling really good physically and mentally and things are in a good place. This tournament is really important one for us. England is a great place to play and all the boys are pumped up for this one.”

The competition comes at a time when the cricketers are locked in a dispute over contracts with Cricket Australia. Smith said, “We are sticking really strong together. We are backing what the ACA is doing back home. But as I said before it is about focussing on this tournament and making sure we are entirely switched on. I am sure everything will be resolved soon.”

The squad

Steve Smith (captain), David Warner, Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazelwood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Glen Maxwell, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade and Adam Zampa.

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