Champions Trophy 2013 June 6, 2013

Defending champions face stiff test

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Overview

Unlike the glory days of the late 1990s and early 2000s, there isn't much global silverware currently held by the Australians. But the Champions Trophy is still in their possession, and has been since 2006. Whether it remains theirs depends on how Michael Clarke and his men handle the next few weeks. And they will need to come to grips with the conditions better than they did during their ODI series in England last year, when they were trounced 4-0. It was their heaviest ever defeat in a bilateral one-day series. Notably, though, their best batsman on that trip was George Bailey, who has been promoted to vice-captain for this Champions Trophy.

The challenge for Australia is to keep their eyes on the immediate prize, rather than letting their minds wander to the upcoming Ashes series, in which seven members of the Champions Trophy squad will be taking part. Clarke has spoken of the importance of the one-day tournament in giving Australia confidence ahead of the Ashes, although the four-day warm-up games against Somerset and Worcestershire will be of greater relevance. Still, they will be especially happy if one or two players who have struggled in Test cricket of late - Shane Watson and Phillip Hughes, for example - take the chance to pile up some runs ahead of the Tests, regardless of format.

The Australians have selected a very different squad from that which bowed out in the quarter-finals of the most recent major ODI tournament, the 2011 World Cup. Gone are Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin, Michael and David Hussey, Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and others. In their place are an exciting group of multi-skilled young men who should form part of the national limited-overs team for many years to come, such as James Faulkner, Mitchell Marsh, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Glenn Maxwell. Whether they can display the consistency to win a major tournament is the big question.

Key player

At the last Champions Trophy, Shane Watson started slowly - he made ducks in his first two games, but finished with the biggest bang imaginable, with unbeaten centuries in the semi-final against England and the final against New Zealand. Australia's Test side has suffered due to Watson's lack of runs in the past two years, but he has remained reasonably productive in the limited-overs format. His IPL form - 543 runs at 38.78 - was encouraging as well. Ahead of the Ashes it will also be important for Watson to continue increasing his bowling workload after resuming in the IPL.

Surprise package

It is starting to look as if 2013 might be James Faulkner's breakout year. Faulkner, 23, made his ODI debut against West Indies in February and proved himself a capable and feisty bowling allrounder. That should have been no surprise, for Faulkner has won the Ricky Ponting Medal as Tasmania's best player in each of the past three seasons, which has been a period of exceptional strength for the state side. A left-arm medium-fast bowler with a good change of pace, Faulkner continued his strong year by sitting second on the IPL wicket tally with 28 at 15.25 for Rajasthan Royals. After being named in the Ashes squad earlier this year, Faulkner said he had never been to England. The Australians are hoping he takes an immediate liking to the surroundings.

Weakness

As in Test cricket, the moving ball remains a problem for Australia's batsmen, which was clear during the one-dayers in England last year. Never was it more obvious, though, than during their disastrous 74-all-out batting first against Sri Lanka at the Gabba in January, when Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga ran through them in 26.4 overs. Five days earlier they had been skittled for 170. Watson, David Warner, Phillip Hughes, Clarke and Bailey are potentially a very strong top five, but they will face swinging conditions in this tournament. How they handle them will not only determine their success in the Champions Trophy, but will provide a pointer to the Ashes.

Champions Trophy history

In 2009, Ponting led Australia to the title in South Africa, successfully defending the prize they had won by beating West Indies in India in 2006. In fact, not since the days when the tournament was called the ICC Knock Out - back in 2000 - have Australia failed to reach the semi-finals. They enter the tournament on an eight-match Champions Trophy winning streak, having last been defeated by West Indies in their opening game of the 2006 edition.

Recent form

Australia sit third on the ICC one-day international rankings and the 2012 battle against England was the only series they have lost since the 2011 World Cup. However, they were pushed at home by Sri Lanka earlier this year and had to settle for a 2-2 series, before they swept a listless West Indies 5-0.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • landl47 on June 6, 2013, 18:00 GMT

    Anybody who underestimates the Aussies does so at their peril. This side might be very good or very bad on any given day. If England catches them on a very good day, Aus will win.

    The opening match is going to be very important for both sides, but perhaps more so for Australia. England knows pretty much what it's capable of. The Aussies don't know which side will turn up. A win and they might ride the momentum all the way to the final. A loss and they might fold up.

    It makes for a fascinating first game for both sides.

  • andrew-schulz on June 8, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    Might want to get your facts updated mr Coverdale. Australia are quite comfortably second on the irrelevant ratings, and have been since before this tournament after England's abysmal showing against New Zealand.

  • JG2704 on June 8, 2013, 9:23 GMT

    People have seen my team preferences already but I'd definitely strongly consider picking Tredwell and Bopara as (if memory serves me correct) Australia weren't too comfortable vs either the last time the 2 sides met. Maybe even just go with 2 pacers - my choice right now would be Bres and either Finn,Broad or Jimmy. They won't do it but I reckon Australia would prefer to face a 4 man pace attack than one which included 2 spinners and Bopara.

  • dunger.bob on June 8, 2013, 5:29 GMT

    @ Herbert : "I have swung round in the time it has taken me to type this!" .. mate, don't you hate it when that happens. I once spent an hour composing this deep and meaningful post and when I proof read it I realised I had neatly shot my own theory down in flames. .. doh! .. re. your point about the warm up games. .. presumably there won't be anyone who can spin the ball playing for either county as well.

  • jmcilhinney on June 8, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    @Hammond on (June 7, 2013, 11:12 GMT), your comments are ridiculous and embarrassing. I know that you like to claim to be an Aussie but you're obviously an England supporter. I've lived in Australia for nearly 40 years after having moved here as a child from GB and I would never use "us" to refer to Australia in a cricketing sense and neither would any other England supporter. If you feel the need to use cheap tricks like that to try to undermine the opposition fans then, like a couple of others I could name on both sides, you mustn't have any real faith in your team. I pity you for that. I suggest that you build your self-worth on your own deeds rather than those of a cricket team you have no actual input to.

  • dunger.bob on June 7, 2013, 23:03 GMT

    Australia is the new Pakistan in a way. As Land47 says, they are a Jekyll & Hyde proposition and I suppose a bit dangerous because of that. .. I'm as loyal and proud an Aussie as the next bloke but I just can't see them winning this tournament.. My heart says they could suddenly discover some form and get on a roll, gathering momentum and confidence until they finally break out in a glorious display of ODI magic in the final. ... and then I wake up and look around me. .. It just doesn't look possible. ... I also think the absence of Clarke is a good thing. These boys have got to learn to stand on their own 2 feet. .. for far too long it's been left to one or two of the seniors to bail them out of trouble and that has got to stop. To be honest I'd rather see them get rolled for 50 every second game than put up a score purely on the back of Clarkes batting. ..Come on guys, help the poor bloke out a bit... I hope for a clean hard fought battle tonight ending in a last ball tie. Cheers

  • Mitcher on June 7, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    England really dominated that ODI tournament: Said no-one ever.

  • Hammond on June 7, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    Let us see if we have any old glory left in the tank because without MC all I can see are half decent grade cricketers. England have it all over us.

  • DMJR on June 7, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Aussie dominance is over now

  • Herbet on June 7, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    I can't believe we have given the Aussies warm up games agianst Somerset and Worcestershire, two teams with no bowlers of any real class. We should have given them games against full strength Middlesex, Warwickshire and Yorkshire sides, and get them really worrying about swing. On the other hand, at least they will come in to the tests without having faced any quality seam bowling to get their eye in. I have swung round in the time it has taken me to type this!

  • landl47 on June 6, 2013, 18:00 GMT

    Anybody who underestimates the Aussies does so at their peril. This side might be very good or very bad on any given day. If England catches them on a very good day, Aus will win.

    The opening match is going to be very important for both sides, but perhaps more so for Australia. England knows pretty much what it's capable of. The Aussies don't know which side will turn up. A win and they might ride the momentum all the way to the final. A loss and they might fold up.

    It makes for a fascinating first game for both sides.

  • andrew-schulz on June 8, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    Might want to get your facts updated mr Coverdale. Australia are quite comfortably second on the irrelevant ratings, and have been since before this tournament after England's abysmal showing against New Zealand.

  • JG2704 on June 8, 2013, 9:23 GMT

    People have seen my team preferences already but I'd definitely strongly consider picking Tredwell and Bopara as (if memory serves me correct) Australia weren't too comfortable vs either the last time the 2 sides met. Maybe even just go with 2 pacers - my choice right now would be Bres and either Finn,Broad or Jimmy. They won't do it but I reckon Australia would prefer to face a 4 man pace attack than one which included 2 spinners and Bopara.

  • dunger.bob on June 8, 2013, 5:29 GMT

    @ Herbert : "I have swung round in the time it has taken me to type this!" .. mate, don't you hate it when that happens. I once spent an hour composing this deep and meaningful post and when I proof read it I realised I had neatly shot my own theory down in flames. .. doh! .. re. your point about the warm up games. .. presumably there won't be anyone who can spin the ball playing for either county as well.

  • jmcilhinney on June 8, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    @Hammond on (June 7, 2013, 11:12 GMT), your comments are ridiculous and embarrassing. I know that you like to claim to be an Aussie but you're obviously an England supporter. I've lived in Australia for nearly 40 years after having moved here as a child from GB and I would never use "us" to refer to Australia in a cricketing sense and neither would any other England supporter. If you feel the need to use cheap tricks like that to try to undermine the opposition fans then, like a couple of others I could name on both sides, you mustn't have any real faith in your team. I pity you for that. I suggest that you build your self-worth on your own deeds rather than those of a cricket team you have no actual input to.

  • dunger.bob on June 7, 2013, 23:03 GMT

    Australia is the new Pakistan in a way. As Land47 says, they are a Jekyll & Hyde proposition and I suppose a bit dangerous because of that. .. I'm as loyal and proud an Aussie as the next bloke but I just can't see them winning this tournament.. My heart says they could suddenly discover some form and get on a roll, gathering momentum and confidence until they finally break out in a glorious display of ODI magic in the final. ... and then I wake up and look around me. .. It just doesn't look possible. ... I also think the absence of Clarke is a good thing. These boys have got to learn to stand on their own 2 feet. .. for far too long it's been left to one or two of the seniors to bail them out of trouble and that has got to stop. To be honest I'd rather see them get rolled for 50 every second game than put up a score purely on the back of Clarkes batting. ..Come on guys, help the poor bloke out a bit... I hope for a clean hard fought battle tonight ending in a last ball tie. Cheers

  • Mitcher on June 7, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    England really dominated that ODI tournament: Said no-one ever.

  • Hammond on June 7, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    Let us see if we have any old glory left in the tank because without MC all I can see are half decent grade cricketers. England have it all over us.

  • DMJR on June 7, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Aussie dominance is over now

  • Herbet on June 7, 2013, 10:07 GMT

    I can't believe we have given the Aussies warm up games agianst Somerset and Worcestershire, two teams with no bowlers of any real class. We should have given them games against full strength Middlesex, Warwickshire and Yorkshire sides, and get them really worrying about swing. On the other hand, at least they will come in to the tests without having faced any quality seam bowling to get their eye in. I have swung round in the time it has taken me to type this!

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 7, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Clint McKay = class act. Bowled really well against England in previous ODI's. Warner and Hughes should not be in tests - the short formats are their forte. So they might surprise a few critics like me in this tournament...

  • on June 7, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    I suppose the major draw for me is to see if any Aussie players will be in good nick for the much more interesting series in a month. ODI form doesn't translate well to Test form but it will be a step in the right direction if Watson can strike the ball well and Hughes can make a good innings or two. OD form is simply not a good guide to Test form, likewise the results of OD series are next to meaningless when trying to draw conclusions about any Test series.

  • on June 7, 2013, 6:47 GMT

    More rubbish gets written about cricket than any other sport, skill, fitness and confidence are a must and event then you need things to run your way in any given moment. Any team could win this tournament. The worst result for any team would be England losing to Australia on Saturday. That would really hurt them, Engkand will be nervous.

  • Jayzuz on June 7, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    @ ravi_hari, how can winning their last 6 ODI games in a row and being ranked #2 constitute bad form? Counting one of two practice games and tests in the sub-continent is just silly. Australia can't beat SL? Aus just beat the WI in 39 overs in the practice game, who in turn beat SL. How does that work? One game is not "form", dude.

  • ravi_hari on June 7, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    All said and done, I dont think this Aussie side will reach the second round. They are totally out of sorts and do not know whom to pick. Only a couple of players have shown some form in the practise matches and the recent international appearances have not been different. If at all they win, it will be only against old foes NZ. I expect England to maul them and SL will just walk over. I will be surprised if Aussies can beat any of them on current form. If Clarke misses the opener, it will be a cake walk for England. Just look at Aussie batting - excpeting Watson every one is struggling. Warner is going through his worst phase and he should be pushed down the order. It would be better to open with Wade and Watson. The seond problem for Aussies is ther batting order. For some strange reason Clarke is not allowing Watson to open. I think after Gayle, Watson is the most destructive opener in the world today. Pushing him down is most foolish. I feel this Aussie team is a sinking ship.

  • Jayzuz on June 7, 2013, 2:39 GMT

    Should be a good game. I'll be particularly interested to see what kind of track has been laid down. If it is the barren wasteland we have seen so far in the tournament, it will be an advantage to Australia - but not that much.

    BTW, Australia is currently ranked #2, not #3, Brydon.

  • hmmmmm... on June 7, 2013, 1:07 GMT

    Nice summary Landl47 - a balanced view from an english supporter you should have a word to F-F-L one day about that! I agree, this will be fascinating. Tournaments make ODI's much more interesting than the endless 5 game series which usually culminate in a dead rubber or two. England are steady and reliable and will win if Australia lose the plot (as we are prone to doing these days - particularly at the sight of any sideways movement of a cricket ball),but they lack the fire power that Australia has to take the game away without KP.

  • HatsforBats on June 7, 2013, 0:43 GMT

    Given the form of our top order of late I'd predict that they'll be in the runs shortly. Thankfully our bowling attack should be able to keep us competitive in most games. P.s. I still swear I have never seen anyone move the ball more than Kulasekara did at the gabba, it was hooping miles.

  • Mitty2 on June 7, 2013, 0:07 GMT

    Also, (continuing), since that injury, Mckay is bowling at 125km/h... Did anyone else notice that? There have always been his critics wanting him to be dropped despite his phenomenal record, and these critics' desire has rightly been ignored. But back then he was at least bowling at 135km/h, (maybe a little bit less), and that's a huge drop off to now. He's a very smart ODI bowler, is practically the leader of the attack, and has never looked innocuous because he still had some pace... But right now our bowling trio of Mckay, Starc and MJ looks very easy to score runs off. And England, with their top 3 who struggled to score runs off the medium pace of the NZ bowlers, will surely relish the quickness (and inaccuracy) of Starc and MJ, and will just milk Mckay.

    Also, we need a spinner, Doherty despite all his inefficiencies, is adequate enough. We played 5 and six quicks in both warm up games without a specialist spinner... Why?

  • Mitty2 on June 6, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    I usually don't like to relate ODI's to tests, as some do - see FFL listing last year's irrelevant and ill prepared for ODI whitewash as yet another reason why England are so far superior to Australia in test cricket - but with everything stacked against us, team form is absolutely vital. And for this reason, a win over England in our first match would be a crucial and necessary boost. Any thing to mitigate the factors such as poor recent history in England, a generally poor batting line up and an overall lack of trust and confidence individually/as a team - see 'homeworkgate' - is, as I said: 'absolutely vital'.

    Clarke is the huge factor. England, with the two new balls went the approach of a top three of accumulators, and that has prevented collapses but hasn't usually lead to large scores, we instead, went the stroke makers. And with recent scores of 65, 74 and 170, you do question. Clarke needs to be the rock for everyone to build around (if he plays). Hughes needs a HUGE series.

  • Mitty2 on June 6, 2013, 23:58 GMT

    I usually don't like to relate ODI's to tests, as some do - see FFL listing last year's irrelevant and ill prepared for ODI whitewash as yet another reason why England are so far superior to Australia in test cricket - but with everything stacked against us, team form is absolutely vital. And for this reason, a win over England in our first match would be a crucial and necessary boost. Any thing to mitigate the factors such as poor recent history in England, a generally poor batting line up and an overall lack of trust and confidence individually/as a team - see 'homeworkgate' - is, as I said: 'absolutely vital'.

    Clarke is the huge factor. England, with the two new balls went the approach of a top three of accumulators, and that has prevented collapses but hasn't usually lead to large scores, we instead, went the stroke makers. And with recent scores of 65, 74 and 170, you do question. Clarke needs to be the rock for everyone to build around (if he plays). Hughes needs a HUGE series.

  • Mitty2 on June 7, 2013, 0:07 GMT

    Also, (continuing), since that injury, Mckay is bowling at 125km/h... Did anyone else notice that? There have always been his critics wanting him to be dropped despite his phenomenal record, and these critics' desire has rightly been ignored. But back then he was at least bowling at 135km/h, (maybe a little bit less), and that's a huge drop off to now. He's a very smart ODI bowler, is practically the leader of the attack, and has never looked innocuous because he still had some pace... But right now our bowling trio of Mckay, Starc and MJ looks very easy to score runs off. And England, with their top 3 who struggled to score runs off the medium pace of the NZ bowlers, will surely relish the quickness (and inaccuracy) of Starc and MJ, and will just milk Mckay.

    Also, we need a spinner, Doherty despite all his inefficiencies, is adequate enough. We played 5 and six quicks in both warm up games without a specialist spinner... Why?

  • HatsforBats on June 7, 2013, 0:43 GMT

    Given the form of our top order of late I'd predict that they'll be in the runs shortly. Thankfully our bowling attack should be able to keep us competitive in most games. P.s. I still swear I have never seen anyone move the ball more than Kulasekara did at the gabba, it was hooping miles.

  • hmmmmm... on June 7, 2013, 1:07 GMT

    Nice summary Landl47 - a balanced view from an english supporter you should have a word to F-F-L one day about that! I agree, this will be fascinating. Tournaments make ODI's much more interesting than the endless 5 game series which usually culminate in a dead rubber or two. England are steady and reliable and will win if Australia lose the plot (as we are prone to doing these days - particularly at the sight of any sideways movement of a cricket ball),but they lack the fire power that Australia has to take the game away without KP.

  • Jayzuz on June 7, 2013, 2:39 GMT

    Should be a good game. I'll be particularly interested to see what kind of track has been laid down. If it is the barren wasteland we have seen so far in the tournament, it will be an advantage to Australia - but not that much.

    BTW, Australia is currently ranked #2, not #3, Brydon.

  • ravi_hari on June 7, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    All said and done, I dont think this Aussie side will reach the second round. They are totally out of sorts and do not know whom to pick. Only a couple of players have shown some form in the practise matches and the recent international appearances have not been different. If at all they win, it will be only against old foes NZ. I expect England to maul them and SL will just walk over. I will be surprised if Aussies can beat any of them on current form. If Clarke misses the opener, it will be a cake walk for England. Just look at Aussie batting - excpeting Watson every one is struggling. Warner is going through his worst phase and he should be pushed down the order. It would be better to open with Wade and Watson. The seond problem for Aussies is ther batting order. For some strange reason Clarke is not allowing Watson to open. I think after Gayle, Watson is the most destructive opener in the world today. Pushing him down is most foolish. I feel this Aussie team is a sinking ship.

  • Jayzuz on June 7, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    @ ravi_hari, how can winning their last 6 ODI games in a row and being ranked #2 constitute bad form? Counting one of two practice games and tests in the sub-continent is just silly. Australia can't beat SL? Aus just beat the WI in 39 overs in the practice game, who in turn beat SL. How does that work? One game is not "form", dude.

  • on June 7, 2013, 6:47 GMT

    More rubbish gets written about cricket than any other sport, skill, fitness and confidence are a must and event then you need things to run your way in any given moment. Any team could win this tournament. The worst result for any team would be England losing to Australia on Saturday. That would really hurt them, Engkand will be nervous.

  • on June 7, 2013, 6:57 GMT

    I suppose the major draw for me is to see if any Aussie players will be in good nick for the much more interesting series in a month. ODI form doesn't translate well to Test form but it will be a step in the right direction if Watson can strike the ball well and Hughes can make a good innings or two. OD form is simply not a good guide to Test form, likewise the results of OD series are next to meaningless when trying to draw conclusions about any Test series.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on June 7, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    Clint McKay = class act. Bowled really well against England in previous ODI's. Warner and Hughes should not be in tests - the short formats are their forte. So they might surprise a few critics like me in this tournament...