Waqar Younis names England as ICC Champions Trophy favourites
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Former legend Waqar Younis became the latest high-profile former cricketer to back England for success at the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy tournament which commences on Thursday as he believes that the team's aggressive approach to the ODI format will fetch them well in home conditions.
Waqar feels Eoin Morgan’s side have the momentum heading into the eight-team tournament with success over South Africa in the 3-match ODI series giving them the ideal preparation. He commended the English fast bowlers for their wicket-taking instincts and urged the hosts not to cut down on their aggressiveness.
“England has that slight edge over the other teams. They are hitting their straps before the tournament and in Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, they have wicket-taking bowlers who are aggressive and want to stem the flow of runs by taking wickets,” he said. “It's an attacking, and at times risky, policy but it's one that is working very well for them and they should carry on with this approach.”
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Several former players like Brian Lara, Kapil Dev, and Ian Chappell have backed England to go one better than when they lost in the 2013 Champions Trophy final to India with the likes of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes representing the hosts’ remarkable change in approach to the 50-over format since being dumped out of the 2015 ICC World Cup in the group stages itself.
England lost in the final of the 2004 edition as well to West Indies, the last time they hosted the tournament, but there is a genuine feeling in the England camp that the team can go all the way this time around.
While most of the above predictions have been based on England’s batting strength, Waqar believes that their quartet of fast bowlers are aggressive in their own right considering how they are always looking to take wickets.
With the added advantage of playing on their home turf, the former Pakistan coach feels they are slightly better off than the likes of Australia, South Africa and defending champions India.
As for Pakistan’s chances, the 45-year-old believes that the Sarfraz Ahmed-led side are firm underdogs for the tournament with instances like Umar Akmal being sent back home from England based on fitness grounds not helping their cause one bit.
England are placed alongside Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh in Group A and will get the tournament off to a start when they play against Bangladesh at the Kennington Oval on Thursday.
They next face New Zealand at Cardiff on June 6 before playing their final group game against Steven Smith's side at Edgbaston on June 10.
The number of cricket pundits backing England for their maiden Champions Trophy success in 2017 is growing by the day and why not. Eoin Morgan’s side are serious contenders for the title with a well-balanced outfit that can overcome any side on its day.
They should, however, be cautious against over-confidence as well as deal with the favourites tag and the added pressure that comes with being the host country.