Group A: England, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Australia
Captain: Eoin Morgan
Best Performance: Finals (2004, 2013)
W-L Record: 11-10
The last two times England hosted a Champions Trophy tournament in 2004 and 2013, the team reached the final. In both matches – against West Indies and India – the hosts were favorites at most stages. In 2004, they let Ian Bradshaw and Courtney Browne pull off a miracle for a West Indies side that was 147-8 chasing 219 at The Oval. In 2013, they restricted India to 129 in a truncated 20-over game, before collapsing in a heap when the expensive Ishant Sharma was brought back into the attack. Everyone remembers Alastair Cook’s forlorn face in the dressing room when the final ball of the tournament was bowled by Ravichandran Ashwin to James Tredwell.
This time, however – the third time the tournament has been held in England – Eoin Morgan’s team starts as firm favorites. Back during the World Cup in Australia, the England ODI team was mocked at for being mediocre and outdated. A system revamp by new director Andrew Strauss ensured that England is now one of the most aggressive limited-over teams. This has been confirmed by their march to the finals of last year’s World T20 in India, where they again lost to West Indies after dominating most of the match.
If Ben Stokes is fit to play all their games, the balance will afford a spot to in-form Moeen Ali. Thus, England will bat till 10 in a stunningly versatile line-up of specialists and all-rounders. They’re coming off a series win against no. 1 side South Africa in these conditions. Despite the record batting collapse in the final game, a line-up consisting of Alex Hales, Joe Root, Morgan, Stokes, Jos Buttler, Ali and Chris Woakes is intimidating by any stretch of imagination. The emergence of Stokes as a top all-rounder in world cricket over the last year has been a boost to a team. The spin bowling is in good hands too, with Ali more than a part-timer now, and showing great consistency to partner Adil Rashid.
The bowling is fragile, especially with the absence of the experienced pair of Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson. The likes of Jake Ball, Mark Woord, David Willey and Liam Plunkett are still cutting their teeth at the highest level, and often offset the tight bowling of Woakes and Stokes.
The form of Jason Roy is a worry after he had a stellar 2016 at the top of the order, but signs are that the captain will stick with the clean-hitting opener. Root is also in a slump of sorts, and he can’t convert his good starts into big scores. He isn’t doing justice to his own reputation of being England’s next captain and greatest batsman in the future.
Captain: Kane Williamson
Best Performance: Champions (2000)
Finals Reached: 2000
W-L Record: 12-8
The dark horses of almost every ICC tournament, New Zealand aren’t as highly regarded as they were at the World Cup in 2015. Back then, Brendon McCullum almost led them to a stunning victory, leaving them being unbeaten right till the final against Australia at Melbourne. The one match they played away from home conditions proved to be their downfall. In the 2013 Champions Trophy, New Zealand were unfortunate, with their group game against Australia rained out. Later, they defeated Sri Lanka by one wicket, and almost beat England in a truncated 24-over game, falling short by 10 runs. They finally crashed out of the tournament without reaching the semifinals.
Opener and main batsman Martin Guptill has taken over the role of basher McCullum since his retirement. He looks to be back in good form, as proven by his scintillating century in the warm-up game against Sri Lanka. Tom Latham, his younger opening partner, is also coming of age with some important knocks. With the guidance of Kane Williamson at 3, they look to have a stable top order. The experienced Ross Taylor is always available to shore things up at 4. Corey Anderson lends them the balance in the middle order as an extra bowler and big-hitting batsman – important on the smaller grounds of England. All-rounder and funnyman James Neesham needs to be given more of an opportunity if he has to come good on his promise of being their next big thing.
Williamson’s leadership hasn’t been as aggressive as his predecessor – and the captaincy seems to have affected his batting. He failed in India when his team needed him to lead the way with the bat, but he still remains their most important batsman. He has adapted to the shorter formats better than most, but must inspire his troops to rediscover the spark they had under McCullum.
The bowling, once World Class, now seems pedestrian despite the presence of Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Mitchell McClenaghan and Adam Milne. They have been carted around over the last few months, and even Mitchell Santner – the discovery of the 2016 World T20 – is hardly the left-arm spinner he was last year. His batting will be important, though, and his spin partnership with Jeetan Patel will go a long way in deciding the bowling fortunes of his team.
Prediction: 3rd in Group Stage behind England and Australia