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Fit, firing seam attack key as Australia eye record third title

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Mitchell Starc: Australia's prolific wicket-taker (1:03)

Mitchell Starc has picked wickets, not leaked too many runs in his ODI career and won Australia matches, making him a key player for the Champions Trophy (1:03)

Overview

Australian cricket fans are in a quandary. On the one hand, they would love to see their country triumph in the Champions Trophy, and thus hold both major ODI world titles simultaneously. But on the other hand, even the most patriotic Australian could not wish to inflict upon the world the sight of those white victory jackets clashing with the Australian gold uniform as they did in 2009. It was less a sight for sore eyes than a sight to cause sore eyes. Richie Benaud is no longer with us, so the only Australians who should be wearing white jackets on a cricket field are the likes of Rod Tucker and Paul Reiffel. That said, Steven Smith and David Warner would certainly consider the fashion faux pas a small price to pay for Australia's third Champions Trophy title.

Australia enter this event as the only team to have won the Champions Trophy twice, but that is about as relevant to this tournament as Neil Harvey's recent batting form. The fact is that not a single player in this squad was part of either of those triumphs in 2006 and 2009. So, Smith's men start afresh. Seven of the players of the current squad did, of course, help Australia win the World Cup only two years ago, but that came in home conditions. In England, expect Australia to face a much sterner challenge. Still, with a powerful pace attack and a batting line-up boasting Smith, Warner, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, Australia's potential of faring well in the tournament is high. However, with matches against both New Zealand and hosts England in the group stage, especially in conditions that should suit both of those teams, there is little margin for error.

Champions Trophy history

1998 - Quarter-final
2000 - Quarter-final
2002 - Semi-final
2004 - Semi-final
2006 - Champions
2009 - Champions
2013 - Group stage

Form Guide

Australia's summer was bookended by away series defeats at the hands of South Africa and New Zealand, but in both cases Australia fielded significantly weakened sides. At home, they lost only one ODI during the summer in series victories over Pakistan and New Zealand.

Strength

The prospect of having Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins and James Pattinson all available simultaneously has excited Australian cricket for several years. But such have been the injuries suffered by the quartet - Cummins and Pattinson in particular - that it has rarely been a possibility. Now, Australia can enter a world tournament with their four strike weapons all part of the squad. Starc's ability to swing the ball has made him one of the most effective ODI bowlers in the world and, with Cummins, Pattinson and Hazlewood backing him up, the respite for opposition batsmen could be non-existent. "We've sort of grown up and come through the ranks together, but haven't had the chance to be in the same squad together," Starc said after the Champions Trophy squad was named. "I think it's an exciting time for the four of us and for Australian cricket too."

Weakness

What aids Australia's strength could also amplify their weakness. Starc and his colleagues should enjoy the swinging conditions in England, but Australia's top order will also face the challenge of handling the swinging white ball themselves. And the more the ball curves in the air, the more vulnerable Australia's batsmen might be. At the previous Champions Trophy, in England, four years ago, Australia failed to win a game - albeit with a very different group of players. Perhaps, more instructive is the fact that although Australia won the 2015 World Cup and lost only one match in doing so, that one game was the only fixture they played away from home in the swinging conditions in New Zealand, where Trent Boult and Starc swung through each other's batting line-ups to create a low-scoring thriller. Besides, Australia's two best batsmen - Smith and Warner - respectively average 27.90 and 28.16 in ODIs in England.

Stats

  • 2 - Number of times Australia have won the Champions Trophy. They are the only team to have won the tournament outright more than once (India also have two titles, one of which was shared with Sri Lanka due to an abandoned final)

  • 8 - Number of ODI centuries scored by David Warner in the past 12 months. However, Warner has never scored an international hundred in any format in England

  • 2 - Australia's current ODI ranking; South Africa are ranked No.1