The group stage of the ICC Champions Trophy is coming to an end. By the end of the weekend only four teams will have a chance of winning. Richard O’Hagan looks at where your money should go.
Pakistan achieved a small amount of fame for themselves by being the first side to be knocked out of the Champions Trophy after losing both of their opening group matches. Misbah-ul-Haq’s men lost a tight match to the West Indies but then fell tamely to South Africa, and India’s win over the Windies on Tuesday then sealed their fate.
By contrast, that win for India made them the first team with a guaranteed semi-final place and this creates an interesting contest for their final group game, which is of course against their age old rivals Pakistan. This will be anything other than a dead rubber, with neither side wanting to lose to the other. Bet365 currently have India 8/15 to win that game, but at betting odds of 8/5 at Bwin, Pakistan look the much better bet. They would only have pride to play for anyway no matter who this game was against, but against an Indian side who might not go at the game full throttle (even if only subconsciously) it doesn’t seem wise to bet against them.
In the other group, England had a convincing win over Australia whilst New Zealand just edged out Sri Lanka in a low-scoring thriller. For the defending champions Australia, nothing less than a victory over New Zealand will now do, as without it they will be eliminated at the first hurdle. A big concern for them has been the fitness of captain Michael Clarke, who suffered a recurrence of the back injury which kept him out of the Indian Premier League and now looks set to miss all of the group matches. In his absence, they struggled to gain any momentum and if you’ve backed them to win this competition it would be advisable to start looking to lay that bet off.
England were themselves less than impressive with the bat, although they managed to combine their slow scoring with preserving their wickets. It took a late flurry of runs from the oft-maligned Ravi Bopara to take them to what would be a competitive total against the stronger sides in the competition. On a more positive note, their bowlers then made sure that Australia couldn’t get near to the run rate that they needed. James Anderson became the leading English wicket-taker in one day cricket, Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad provided skilled support, and spinner James Tredwell - called into the side at the last moment when Graeme Swann suffered a back spasm - bowled beautifully for a man who hasn’t taken a wicket in first class cricket yet this season. They are now 7/2 with Bet365 to win the competition but will need to up their game - at least with the bat - in their coming fixtures if they are to avoid India, the new favorites at 2/1 with Paddy Power, in next week’s semi-finals.The surprise team so far have been South Africa. They went into the competition without injured veterans Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, saw Dale Steyn - the number one bowler in the world - injure himself during the warm-up games and then had his new ball partner Morne Morkel tear a muscle in their opening fixture. Despite being shorn of all this talent, they ran India close in their opener before thrashing Pakistan, with Ryan McLaren, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Chris Morris leading the attack with aplomb. Their batting, the mercurial Hashim Amla apart, hasn’t really fired yet, but if they can keep this pace up then at 9/2 with Stan James they look a good outside choice for your sports picks to win the whole thing.