England are yet to win a global 50-over tournament but may never have a better chance to put that right as they go into the ICC Champions Trophy on home soil as favourites in the outright betting.

This is the third time England has staged the event, and the hosts have been beaten finalists on the last two occasions in 2004 and 2013.

Now they are looking to go one better and at 5/2 for glory in the eight-team tournament, they will attract plenty of home support.

That they are yet to win a 50-over global trophy in more than 40 years since the inaugural World Cup is a damning statistic for a nation that invented the sport and exported it to opponents who so often seem to play it better.

It is one that keeps returning too, updated for extra resonance every time another opportunity is missed and the next arrives.

They have been especially hapless challengers at their own World Cup in 1999 - famously out of contention even before the tournament song had been released - and the last one in Australia and New Zealand two years ago.

In between, on the Champions Trophy's two visits to this country, England were twice bang in contention to win the trophy until agonisingly late in the day.

In deep September 2004 at The Oval, Michael Vaughan's team reduced West Indies to 147 for eight in pursuit of 218 - only to fall foul of an unbroken stand of 71 between numbers nine and 10.

Then in the most recent edition, in June 2013, Alastair Cook's world number ones flaked out with the bat chasing 129 from 20 overs against India on a rainy day at Edgbaston - despite recovering at one stage to 110 for four with 2.3 overs left to make another 20.

There is only one way to stop the cycle - and in the adventurous team assembled under and energised by Eoin Morgan, England's prospects are better perhaps than at any time since the early 1990s.

Their powerhouse batting extends all the way down the order, and they have some outstanding fielders too. If there is a comparative weakness it has to be the bowling attack, which is evolving - and may just be ready in time for the next World Cup in England in two years' time.

Before then, though, it would be rather handy to have the dress-rehearsal title already in the bag and they are 4/5 to at least get to the final once more.

Morgan's men appear to have many of the attributes needed to succeed where their predecessors have not.

Morgan, and coaches Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace, have revolutionised the team since the shambles of early 2015.

Much of the playing personnel was already in place but had simply not reached its potential. Since the statement of intent against New Zealand at Edgbaston, at their first attempt after the last World Cup,


England have demonstrated many times that they have the intent and ability to top 300 - even 400 – against strong opposition.

They have proved too, though, that their bowling attack can be exposed and punished.

England are therefore not a banker bet, for all the star quality of Indian Premier League revelation Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler - and several others.

Limited-overs cricket is an unpredictable beast, whoever the contenders, and this year's showpiece really is anybody's guess.

How will the elite IPL brigade react, for example, for each of their teams to the switch in continent and format? Will habitual big-hitting and pinpoint death bowling move seamlessly to the new challenge, or will it be a case of who adapts quickest and best?

Second in the betting at 13/4 is Australia, World Cup holders but weighed down or defiant by a vexed stand-off with their own board over a pay dispute which could yet put next winter's Ashes in doubt.

Along the way to the Oval final are some mouth-watering clashes, not least two Edgbaston sell-outs for India against Pakistan on the first weekend and then England and Australia on the second.

Among the other hopefuls, cricket's favourite modern cliche - albeit one repeatedly born out in fact - is that 2015 World Cup finalists New Zealand always punch above their weight.

In the post-McCullum era, they are perhaps between big tournaments but never to be under-estimated, with 7/2 available for them to reach the final and 8/1 to go all the way.

Pakistan (12/1), Sri Lanka (20/1) and Bangladesh (33/1) are plausible challengers, but Virat Kohli's India remain the likeliest lads from the sub-continent at 9/2.

If there are anything close to winners-in-waiting, South Africa have the all-round ability and strength in depth - unaccustomed as they are, like the hosts, to rising to the biggest occasions.

Plenty of runs should be in the offing too. It is the hosts who have put themselves on top of the world when it comes to racking up the all-time highest one-day international total.

England's 444 for three against Pakistan at Trent Bridge last summer exceeded by one run a record which had stood to Sri Lanka - against Holland - for a decade.

The 2015 World Cup changed ODI cricket, as 300-plus scores became not just utterly routine but also routinely chaseable. Overhead conditions, a mercurial factor in England, will help to dictate whether the upward trend continues.

But traditional limitations have disappeared - and especially early in the tournament when surfaces may be friendliest for batsmen, with or without cloud cover, teams will be reaching for the sky.

It is perhaps not entirely partisan to say the culmination of the last Champions Trophy was a little unsatisfactory but India’s odds stand out if there is anything like a repeat, with the surface playing significantly to India's strengths.

England collapsed from 110 for four to finish on 124 for eight after future nemeses Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja had done the early damage and then seamer Ishant Sharma interrupted the recovery.

The ball spun sharply and, worse, died in the tired pitch. Just the same three venues will again be in use for 15 matches in 18 days, with The Oval this time hosting the final, but organisers' promise of fresh pitches is more encouraging.

Arguably, hosts England and their Royal London Series opponents South Africa may have a minor advantage with early acclimatisation and the chance to find some form. Certainly England will be confident after their convincing victory in the series opener at Headingley, although the fitness of Stokes could be a concern.

There are plenty of other options in the pre-tournament betting, including group winners. England are 7/5 to top Group A which also includes Australia (7/5), New Zealand (7/2) and Bangladesh (20/1).

South Africa’s extra time to acclimatise could help them make a fast start to their campaign and they are 27/20 to win Group B ahead of India (33/20), Pakistan (9/2) and Sri Lanka (8/1).

In terms of top tournament batsman, England’s Joe Root and Australia’s David Warner lead the betting at 8/1 followed by Steven Smith (9/1) and Kohli (12/1).

At bigger odds, England opener Jason Roy looks good value at 18/1. Stokes and Buttler may provide the fireworks towards the back end of the innings, but whether they can play with uninhibited freedom could depend on how Roy lays the platform at the top of the order.

One of England's best batsmen at last year's World Twenty20 in India, the opener has made three centuries and nine fifties in 40 one-day internationals and will be expected to supply the early impetus alongside Alex Hales.

Quinton de Kock also looks a good bet at 14/1, especially if South Africa go all the way to the final. The wicketkeeper-batsman has already earned comparisons with Adam Gilchrist and for good reason.

Aged just 24, De Kock already has 12 ODI centuries, sometimes taking the spotlight away from the destructive AB de Villiers, while he is particularly efficient at dealing with short-pitched bowling and is strong on the leg side.

At odds of 20/1, Rohit Sharma of India could prove a better bet than team-mate Kohli.

A more orthodox talent than fellow ODI openers Roy or De Kock, Rohit is still capable of matching the very best of master blasters as he proved when he scorched 264 against Sri Lanka in November 2014 - the highest individual ODI score.

As he remains the only batsman to register two double hundreds in the format, his presence cannot be underestimated and he proved his pedigree outside India with an unbeaten 171 in Perth 18 months ago.

About the Author

The 888sport blog, based at 888 Towers in the heart of London, employs an army of betting and tipping experts for your daily punting pleasure, as well as an irreverent, and occasionally opinionated, look at the absolute madness that is the world of sport.

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