The Champions Trophy has begun and we have already witnessed a brilliant match between England and Bangladesh where Joe Root hit a scintillating century to clinch 8 wicket victory for England.
Although Bangladesh had done well to post a score in excess of 300, Root’s belligerent innings was filled with class and zeal to display England’s domination at home.
On Friday, we have another marquee clash set to be undertaken between Trans-Tasman rivals and former Champions Trophy winners Australia and New Zealand. Australia have won the Championship twice in 2006 and 2009 and along with India has been the only team to do so. The Kiwis, on the other hand, claimed the trophy in 2006 and it remains their biggest silverware till date.
Ranked No. 2, Australia have always been one of the greatest One Day International teams. Filled with iconic players, this year too, the Kangaroos will aim for the title once more in the cricketing extravaganza.
This time around, the Aussies have a well-balanced team filled with power hitters, exceptional all-rounders and death defying bowling machines.
Let’s have a look at the exceptional squad the Kangaroos are set to unleash on the British soil
Indian Premier League heroes and outright match winners
Australia’s regular opener and Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper in the Indian Premier League David Warner needs no introduction. A pinch hitter par excellence and a man who can bail out his team from the toughest of conditions, scored 641 runs in 14 games and won the Orange Cap in this year’s IPL.
His exploits for Australia have been famous and the shorter formats of the game are what he relishes the most. The stout man would be waiting to make another statement on the international scene in the not-so-friendly batting conditions in England.
The young and maverick Australian captain has batted like the legendary Donald Bradman in the recent Test series against India and Pakistan. Further, as the skipper of Rising Pune Supergiant, he took his team to the Indian Premier League finals after taking over the reins from iconic former Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.His majestic batting form, excellent technique and ability to lead under pressure have become part of cricketing folklore.
He will be a force to reckon with as he aims for his first big international trophy and etch his name in the history as one of the greatest captains to lead the Kangaroos.
The young hard hitting batsman hasn’t represented his country a lot of times in international cricket but showed his prowess with the bat in the recently concluded Indian Premier League for Kolkata Knight Riders.
Along with the West Indian Sunil Narine and KKR captain Gautam Gambhir, the tall right-hander gave some brilliant starts to his franchise. His capability to take the game away from the opposition makes him highly dangerous in the shorter formats.
Rarely since the day speed machines like Brett Lee, Shoaib Akhtar, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Bond retired, have we witnessed someone bowling at exceptional speeds of 145 km/per hour-150 km/per hour plus on a consistent basis.
Along with Kagiso Rabada, Mitchell Starc, Umesh Yadav, Wahab Riaz and Varun Aaron, Cummins is one of the fastest bowlers of his era.
Since his sensational debut in Test matches against South Africa, he has improved on his tenacity apart from bowling an impeccable length.
The recent Test series against India and his Indian Premier League performances for Delhi Daredevils, saw him bowl with zeal and bowl uncomfortable bouncers at the batsmen.
Capable of troubling and unsettling the batsmen with raw pace, he will form a potent bowling attack with the more experienced Mitchell Starc as Australia relish the prospect of unleashing their deadly speed batteries on swinging English conditions.
The fulcrum of Australia’s middle order and Kings XI skipper in the recently concluded Indian Premier League – Glenn Maxwell’s batting heroics need no introduction.
Despite having an average Test series against India, he roared back to form and played some imperious knocks for his franchise in the IPL. Time and again, he has bailed the Kangaroos out of tough situations in the international arena and the ‘Champions Trophy’, also dubbed as the ‘mini World Cup’ offers him another chance to do justice to his fine talent.
He has been termed the best speedster of his era by none other than the ‘Sultan of reverse swing – former Pakistan great Wasim Akram.’ Akram has also expressed confidence that Starc will break the barrier of 400 wickets in his Test career.
Starc has risen along with time to become the leader of the Aussie pace attack and his performances in the 2015 ODI World Cup and Test series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India have helped him cement his place as the greatest fast bowler of his generation.
Lauded by cricket pundits, former greats and cricket fanatics alike, Starc bowls with hostile pace apart from having an armour filled with variations. Impeccable bounce, swing and reverse swing are some of his weapons used to intimidate batsmen. His fastest delivery has been recorded at above 160 km per hour and he regularly bowls in the dreaded 145-150 Km per hour bracket.
Hazlewood with his fantastic line and length along with variations in the pace, forms the perfect counterpart to Starc. Many former greats have been reminded of the legendary Glenn Mcgrath when they witness Hazlewood bowl a brutal off-side length.
His finesse in bowling has been helped with an increase in pace and his recent performances on the docile Indian tracks will definitely boost his confidence. The deadly duo of Starc and Hazlewood has made life tough for batsmen all over the globe and together they have one of the all-time best strike rates for fast bowlers, especially in Test matches.
A strong and formidable batting line-up
A majestic batting line up including the likes of David Warner, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Chris Lynn, Aaron Finch, Travis Head have the capability to tear apart any opposition. Wicket-keeper batsman Matthew Wade too would like to chip in with few runs after an average Test series in terms of runs scored against India.
Most of the batsmen have had good practice in the recently concluded IPL and will be raring to post some imposing scores in the Champions Trophy.
Excellent mix of all-rounders
Marcus Stoinis, John Hastings and Moises Henriques offer good options of fast-bowling all-rounders to the team and English conditions are the best place for these guys to ply their trade.
Capable of scoring useful runs especially lower down the order, they also give the team the option of bowling some quiet economical overs during the middle period of the innings.
Overall, they will also be the X-factor for their team and are capable of springing some surprises.
Deadly pace attack
The imposing foursome – Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson will form the crux of Australia’s well-built pace attack.Whereas speed-guns Starc and Cummins are more renowned for unsettling the batsmen and dominating them with pace, Pattinson and Hazlewood use their variations and deceptions to flummox the willow-wielders.
The Australian management is relishing the prospect of unleashing their ‘Fab four’ upon opposition teams and many former greats have started comparing the foursome with legendary West Indian ‘pace-quartets’ of the 1960s- to early 1980s.
However, the tournament will definitely witness belligerent bowling performances from the Kangaroos bowling arsenal and fans are waiting with bated breath as to what team combination is unearthed by the Aussies in their first match.
Lone spin warrior Adam Zampa
Adam Zampa, the highly talented, young leg-spinner is the only specialist slow bowler in the Australian squad. The googly specialist impressed one and all in the Indian Premier League’s 2017 edition as he formed strong partnerships with Imran Tahir and Washington Sundar. His ability to fox the batsmen with slower balls, beat them in the air have built an aura of invincibility around him.
However, he won’t receive much support from the other end apart from the occasional spin of Glenn Maxwell and Aaron Finch. Thus, huge responsibility rests on the shoulders of the boy from New South Wales and he will have to unleash all his weapons to spice up the tournament.
The Australian squad
Steven Smith (C) David Warner, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Matthew Wade (Wk), Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, John Hastings, James Pattinson, Adam Zampa
Overall, the mighty Aussies remain the team to beat along with defending champions India. As predicted by many former greats to earn a spot in the semifinals along with India and England, the Kangaroos would like to sound the death knell for their opponents from their first game in the cricketing extravaganza.