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India v West Indies ICC Championship

It seems that every other cricket pundit has been tipping up the West Indies to win the ICC 50-over Championship and they will all be thinking “so far, so good” after the Caribbean boys opened their Group A account with a victory over Pakistan.

Coral put the Windies up at 7/1 at the start of the tournament, but they are now 9/2 third favourites behind India (3/1) and England (100/30) and have also been cut to 7/4 second favourites to win Group B.

But a hard fought victory against mercurial Pakistan and big-ups from the media are all well and good. Now it’s time for a really big challenge – a clash at The Oval tomorrow with the top ranked India, who most punters still regard as the team most likely to lift the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston on June 23rd.

India out-batted South Africa in a high-scoring affair in Cardiff last Thursday and though a victory over a team missing world class trio Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn could be regarded as a little devalued, the Proteas are still a strong side and M S Dhoni’s boys needed to be on their game.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan put South Africa on the back foot with a better than run-a-ball century, but there was also an excellent contribution with both bat and ball from Ravindra Jadeja (a quick-fire unbeaten 47 and then 2-31 to help keep India on top).

Jadeja can be backed at 12/1 to be India’s leading scorer – Dhawan is 3/1 favourite – but that’s a big ask for somebody coming in at number seven behind such a strong batting line-up and 4/1 that he is their top bowler is perhaps a better bet.

As has frequently been said, the best laid plans of any one-day captain can be torn to shreds if Chris Gayle in on one of his going days. The Windies charismatic opener came into this tournament as the leading batsman and though, by his standards, he scratched along for 39 off 47 balls against Pakistan, there are sure to be fireworks somewhere along the line before this competition is over.

Gayle is predictably a hot 2/1 favourite to be the leading Windies scorer, while spin wizard Sunil Narine is also, at 9/4, a warm order to be their top bowler.

If the West Indies (6/5) can roll over India tomorrow, they will really start to justify the confidence many have in them and indeed be vying for tournament favouritism. But India (4/6) are ranked world number one in this format for a reason and should not be opposed lightly.

Written by Jon Freeman