SA, India in same ‘Champs’ group

2016-06-01 13:20
AB de Villiers (Gallo)

Cape Town – At first glance, South Africa appear to have a relative stinker of a group draw for the next ICC Champions Trophy one-day international tournament.

The Proteas are the same pool (Group B) as Subcontinent powerhouses India -- the defending champions -- Pakistan and Sri Lanka for the eight-team event, to be staged in England and Wales from June 1-18 next year.

That leaves premier World Cup champions Australia in Group A with close-proximity rivals New Zealand, England and Bangladesh.

The top two teams in each group go into the semi-finals, with the showpiece set down for The Oval in London; the only other venues to be used for the tournament are Sophia Gardens in Cardiff and Edgbaston in Birmingham.

AB de Villiers’s team would have reason to feel pretty intimidated by their group, of course, had the tournament been staged somewhere on the Subcontinent, but the fact that it is in English early-season conditions, where strong seam attacks and sound batting techniques tend to come into their own, helps to level things up a lot.

Currently ranked third in ODIs, they ought to feel reasonably confident of advancing to the semis.

England also hosted the last edition of the Champions Trophy, in 2013, and until fairly recently the future of the tournament was in some doubt.

But there has been a resurgence in backing for it, considering that some pundits believe it holds public attention better even that the longer World Cup, which also features several minnow teams and does not always guarantee “strength versus strength” contests.

It is important to South Africa as every major ICC jamboree – whether World Cup, Champions Trophy or World T20 – is an opportunity to end their big-tournament hoodoo.

They can at least boast having been first winners of the Champions Trophy, back in 1998 under Hansie Cronje in Bangladesh, but have not even made the final in six subsequent ones.

Next year’s event confirms a long Proteas presence in the United Kingdom, as they are also due to play England in a short bilateral ODI series immediately before the Champions Trophy – a useful acclimatisation exercise – and then a four-Test series plus a handful of T20 internationals stretching into August.

 Confirmed SA fixtures at Champions Trophy:

June 3: v Sri Lanka, The Oval

June 7: v Pakistan, Edgbaston

June 11: v India, The Oval

Read more on:    ab de villiers  |  cricket

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