Yorkshire Post article: Guide to the ICC Champions Trophy

21 09 2009

Tournament offers a welcome change for Strauss despite the challenge of Smith’s rampant Proteas.

Published date: 21 September 2009

By Sam Rider

StraussFIFTY-OVER international cricket takes centre stage at the ICC Champions Trophy, which begins on Tuesday. Looking to follow up on the success of the World Twenty20 held in England this summer, South Africa, who take the mantle of favourites, play host to the top eight one-day teams across the globe.

Andrew Strauss’s England will look to draw on the glimmer of hope taken from their solitary victory over Australia in staving off a whitewash during the recent NatWest series.

"It’s the Champions Trophy, it’s one of the big events, to be honest," said the England captain, whose side open against Sri Lanka on Friday.

Contrastingly Australia, the holders who won in Mumbai in 2006, are looking in rude health after bouncing back from Ashes defeat and along with South Africa will be the ones to beat. Ricky Ponting, reinvigorated in the one-day 6-1 series win, remains the major threat.

Despite the momentous victory over Australia in Test cricket, Strauss knows a lot of hard work is required to make any impression in South Africa.

"We can be proud of ourselves the way we played in the Ashes," he said. "As a Test side, we have got a lot of the component parts in place; as a one-day side, it’s clear we have got some work to do still."

Still without the injured Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, Joe Denly’s ability to hit over the top during the powerplays will be crucial in offering the impetus for any success.

Speaking about the fresh challenge, Strauss said: "We are going away thinking at least we don’t have to play Australia again in the next game, and you never know.

"I wouldn’t be at all surprised if particularly the likes of Ravi [Bopara] go out there and see it as a fresh challenge and smash them all over the place."

South Africa, despite a lack of competitive games recently, boast the prodigious talent of Albie Morkel and present the greatest threat of demolition to an inconsistent England.

Proteas captain Graeme Smith said: "We have really focused hard in the last three weeks to train as well as we can by making it as competitive as possible.

"The guys are motivated and excited and I think we can use the freshness to our advantage by getting in and playing good cricket up front."

India captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and superstar Yuvraj Singh are the top two ranked batsmen in one-day cricket respectively and will be identified as the key wickets in haulting their charge to victory.

And  Pakistan, surprise victors in the latest World Twenty20 will draw on a lethal bowling attack led by the cunning Shahid Afridi to progress from Group A.

 Champions Trophy

Since its inauguration in 1998 no team has retained the trophy whilst England’s best performance came in 2004, when they lost in the final to the West Indies.

The tournament, transferred from Pakistan last year due to security concerns will be played in Johannesburg between September 22 and October 5.

It consists of two groups of four, with teams playing each other once. The top two go through to the semi-finals and the final takes place at the SuperSport Park in Centurion.

Group A:

West Indies

Group B:

New Zealand
South Africa
Sri Lanka