With momentum on their side, can England win the Champions Trophy on home soil, or will one of the other big teams in world cricket take home the silverware?
The ICC Champions Trophy comes to England and Wales on June 1st, with England, Australia, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan battling it out at the Oval, Edgbaston Cricket Ground and Sophia Gardens ahead of the final on June 18th.
England will be hoping to make amends for the last tournament in 2013, when they were beaten by India in the final. Captain Eoin Morgan will be hoping England can keep up the momentum they have gained so far this year. A 3-0 clean sweep over the West Indies in March lifted spirits in the camp after an ODI series loss to India in January, with Alex Hales and Joe Root both putting in magnificent batting performances.
In order to reign victorious, England will need to make sure they find a way to defeat India, who will go into the tournament as one of the clear favourites. World class batsmen such as Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane will be a match for any bowler and England will need to show they have learnt lessons from their January loss.
However, India are not the only top contenders. Australia, South Africa and New Zealand all have the players and experience needed to take the trophy home. Let’s take a closer look:
Who will England have to look out for?
Currently sitting at the top of the ODI rankings, South Africa will be heading to England hoping to prove why they are viewed as the world’s best.
Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and captain AB de Villiers are all listed in the top ten ODI batsmen while Imran Tahir leads the list of ODI bowlers. South Africa can win on both sides of the ball, and will be looking to assert their dominance of the ODI game.
Australia, ranked second in the world, are not short of star power, either. Star batsman David Warner continues to leave his mark on the game, becoming the first player ever to score seven ODI centuries in a year. The accurate bowling of Josh Hazlewood will be sure to intimidate other teams and has taken five ODI wickets in one game twice (against South Africa in 2014 and West Indies in 2016).
New Zealand will be looking for heroics from their all-rounder Mitchell Santer, who has developed into one of their key players since entering the ODI fold in 2015. Bowler Trent Boult - the joint wicket taker at the 2015 Cricket World Cup - can also be a nuisance to even the best batsmen with his fast and accurate delivery.
Could there be a surprise winner?
While the consensus is that South Africa, England, India, New Zealand and Australia are the five to beat, there is certainly the chance for another country to surprise everyone with a big win.
Bangladesh will face England on the opening day of the tournament and it could be the perfect time for an upset. Captain and all-rounder Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has bags of experience and will be sure to have his young side motivated ahead of the big game, while Shakib Al Hasan is one of the best all-rounders in ODI cricket. Whether they can go all the way, however, remains to be seen.
For Sri Lanka, captain Angelo Matthews will be a vital part of their success and has become perhaps the best player of their current generation. While they don’t have the strength in depth of other teams and would certainly be a surprising tournament winner, the Sri Lankans could easily sneak a few victories.
It is a similar case for Pakistan, who have one of the best ODI players in the world in Mohammad Hafeez. The all-rounder is capable of both intelligent and powerful batting, while his off-spin technique makes highly efficient at containing batsmen.
A winner outside of England, Australia, India, South Africa and Australia would be a massive surprise, but all of the teams have strengths and weaknesses that should make the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy a thrilling tournament.