Captain – Mashrafe Mortaza
Dangerman – Mustafizur Rahman
At just 21 years of age, Mustafizur has already seen his stock rise in his short career to date. He is now rated as one of the best T20 bowlers in the world, and will hoping to make an equally impressive impression on the 50-over version of the game in this tournament – it is certainly the platform from which he might just do it, too.
After being spotted and given his first chance by the Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, Mustafizur has developed some key one-day bowling skills, and his fast off-cutters in particular have won him plaudits across the sub-continent, culminating in him being rewarded with an IPL contract with the Sunrisers Hyderabad for which he has fulfilled with aplomb.
Why they’re a Threat
Bangladeshi cricket’s rise to become such a well-respected outfit has taken perhaps longer than they had wished when they become a full ICC member in the year 2000, however their results in 50 over cricket in recent times have meant that they fully deserve to be at the top table. They’re stock his also started to rise in test cricket as well after they had huge recent wins over England at home and Sri Lanka away.
They currently sit above both Pakistan and the West Indies in the ICC rankings, and when they have everyone fit, they can boast a solid unit of international profiles, led admirably by Mashrafe Mortaza, but also including Shakib al Hasan, who is potentially their most important player of the last decade.
They recently drew with Sri Lanka away from home in all three formats, so they bring in some form to the competition.
Not the only Asian country to struggle on the green tops of the mid-season English wickets, Bangladesh will be another side extremely vulnerable to collapsing in a heap if their batting innings gets off to a bad start. If one of their two star batsmen don’t drag them up to decent total, they have regularly been culpable for falling away badly towards their tail and may struggle for enough consistency to get through the group stages.
History doesn’t look too fondly upon Bangladesh’s past performances in the Champions Trophy. They haven’t qualified for the tournament since 2006, and although 2017 will be their fifth appearance in the tournament, they have only managed one win to date – a 101 run victory over Zimbabwe in Jaipur in 2006.
Look out for Chances?
The tournament will, as always, be blessed by the colour and vibrancy brought to the three hosting stadiums by the local populations with Asian heritage here in the UK. Although Bangladesh may lose out in numbers to the large swathes of Indian and Pakistani fans expected to attend, what the lack in mass they make up for in noise, and there is always some pretty impressive full body tiger artwork on display too. Always a fantastic addition to the competition.
40/1 – Eighth favourites (Betfair)
AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers. Along with Indian superstar Virat Kohli, de Villiers is the player most likely to pull the crowds into non-England matches in this tournament. No.1 in the ICC ODI rankings coming into the tournament, AB is capable of things barely plausible before his arrival to international cricket in 2004 as a twenty-year-old.
He recently became the fastest man to 9000 ODI runs by overtaking Saurav Ganguly’s thirteen-year record, and three years ago blasted a memorable 31-ball century against the West Indies at the Wanderers, Johannesburg. He also holds the record for the fastest ODI 50 (16 balls) and 150 (64). Straight off the back of the IPL, his natural ball-striking ability is potentially the single biggest attribute South Africa have in their not insignificant armoury going into the competition.
Why they’re a Threat
Onlookers may find it odd how South Africa are not the heavy favourites for the title. Currently top of the ICC ODI rankings, they have won their last seven ODI series on the bounce, and had won 12 consecutive matches until New Zealand halted them in Christchurch in February.
Along with the best ODI batsman in the world, they also have the number one ranked ODI bowler in Imran Tahir, and he will be backed up by a powerful seam attack including Kagiso Rabada and the fit-again Morne Morkel, as well as all-rounder Chris Morris, who is capable of some huge lower order hitting. They are regularly the best all-round unit in the competition. Even without the talismanic Dale Steyn, whose failure to recover from shoulder surgery in time for this tournament sees him left out, this time is no different.
Pressure, pressure, pressure. Even armchair cricket fans know that South Africa are capable of pulling out a flawless impression of a rabbit in the headlights as soon as the thermometer passes above room temperature.
The list is extensive. Karachi in ’96, Headingley and Edgbaston in ’99, basic maths in 2003, and Dhakka in 2011. There’s a fair few more that could be added, but all of the above games were knockout matches that were perfectly winnable but for last minute chokes. South Africa have always been a major force in one-day international cricket, but the longer this horrendous tag stays with them, the harder it is for them to shake it off.
South Africa sneaked into the semi-finals in 2013 after a D/L affected tie with the West Indies saw them through on net run rate by the skin of their teeth. However, they were still seen as a tough task for England in the last four.
On the day, they were simply blown away by England’s pace attack after they were put in by Alastair Cook, and soon found themselves 80-8 in the 23rd over. It is debatable whether this was one of South Africa’s finest chokes, or whether they simply got beaten by a superior team at a humid Kennington Oval. Either way they crashed out with typical aplomb in the latter stages of the competition.
Look out for Chances?
County cricket board members sniffing about their team hotels trying to extend the long list of Kolpak signings this year. The likes of Kyle Abbott and Rilee Roussow shook South African cricket early in 2017 when they defected to join the county championship. Abbott’s impact on Hampshire’s first season back in Division 1 may well serve as a testing reminder of what can be achieved by taking advantage of the controversial loophole.
If certain South African players have a big tournament, don’t be surprised to hear the rumour mill sparking into life by the end of June.
4/1 – Third favourites (Betfair)