Champions Trophy 2013 June 6, 2013

Defending champions face stiff test



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.


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

  • andrews 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.

  • John 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.

  • rob 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.

  • John 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.

  • rob 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

  • Mick on June 7, 2013, 21:28 GMT

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

  • Geoffrey 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.

  • Dilan on June 7, 2013, 10:24 GMT

    Aussie dominance is over now

  • Richard 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!

  • Nicholas 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...