The ICC Champions Trophy had a very damp start- not just the opening ceremony (not too many liked it), but also the first 8 matches. None of them provided anything to note- all were major mismatches. The US, or rejects from West Indies and Asia, were not in the series at all- they didn't look the part. Bangladesh have their old problems surfacing yet again. Kenya are not the same team since March 2003, and the President's YES Men were NO better.
But the fun is over. The action starts now, as only the top teams are playing. Whoever loses, is out of the series. The scene calls for each team to play its best cricket, to stay in the tournament. Especially the team in the same group as the Australians, who have to do something very special. New Zealand may bT deep, but what matters is how many runs will be scored. There may be a lot said about the Kiwis playing their best cricket against the Australians and giving it everything, but recent form shows exactly the opposite- agaainst the Australians, they're helpless and hopeless, especially their batting.
The Pakistani side are a more improved team since May 2004, and now have the better of their rivals across the border. Their only problem is that they're either very good, or just plain terrible. With Woolmer in command, they're a lot better organised. The Indians have one problem too many. As a batting side, they lack the big shots, they don't last long and all their players have been out of form. Their pacers are in woeful form, yet we see pace bowlers picked in packs, while the lone spinner has no support. They have to play very, very well to be in contention to win the trophy.
The pool featuring England and Sri Lanka will be watched most eagerly, since England are the home team. They have some players who can get the team into a commanding position and dictate terms to the opposition, such as Trescothick, Flintoff and Harmison, as well as the reliable Gough, Collingwood and Strauss. Their fielding has also improved since the last Natwest series. The Lankans won't give in too easily, given their good run of form, winning the Asia Cup and 5 ODI's against the South Africans. Even without Murali, they have played well.
The last pool consists of a few teams struggling for form. The South Africans, who had lost as many as 10 straight ODI's, struck some form in the last match. The West Indians got one good win against the Banglas, but they were a little scratchy, especially in fielding, considering the dropped catches. The series may be a turnaround for one of these teams, but it certainly is a lot more competitive from this day.