Champions Trophy Pakistan v West Indies
This is the final ICC 50-over Champions Trophy before it morphs into the World Test Championship and it promises to be one of the very best with all eight sides boasting solid claims to win it.
Punters have been scratching their heads wondering who to bet on in the build-up to the tournament with an outsider staking a big claim one day and a favourite faltering the next. The upshot is just a spread of 4/1 (India) to 10/1 (New Zealand) in Coral’s outright winner betting market.
It’s all very much up in the air, which makes these next few weeks so exciting, and two of the most unpredictable teams, West Indies and Pakistan, are certain to get the Oval crowd all hot and bothered in the sunshine tomorrow as they kick off their Group B campaigns.
Coral, who rate both nations at 7/1 to lift the Trophy, also find it difficult to split the two in this encounter, Pakistan just shading favouritism at 4/5.
The Windies are tipped up to go all the way by half of the Sky commentary team and it’s easy to see why. Everywhere you look there are potential match winners, from opener Chris Gayle, who can blow a team away when he gets his eye in, through to the off-spinner Sunil Narine, who still bamboozles some of the best batsmen in the world.
Gayle (Coral’s 5/2 favourite to be leading West Indies batsman tomorrow) is the leading run-scorer in the tournament’s history and has powerful back-up from the likes of Johnson Charles (7/2) and Kieron Pollard (8/1).
The West Indies beat England in the Final in 2004 the last time it was played here and no team will be appreciating the arrival of summer more than the Caribbean boys.
But one should never write off Pakistan. They are two places above the West Indies in the world rankings, but more relevant than that, have a happy knack of coming up with the goods when under the radar. This is basically a raw squad, but a very exciting one with a new seam attack featuring the seven-foot plus Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan to go along with the brilliant veteran spinner, Saeed Ajmal.
Opener Mohammed Hafeez is 100/30 favourite to be top Pakistan batsman and he is also a more than useful off-spinner, often used to very good effect at the start of an innings. If Pakistan do go a long way in this tournament, it is very likely that Hafeez will have played a key role with both bat and ball.
Pakistan might just nick it, but this is so hard to call.