ICC Champions Trophy: England need wicket-takers back, says Nass
Last Updated: 04/06/13 11:38am
Jos Buttler: Has the ability to produce phenomenal one-day knocks, says Nasser Hussain
Go hard or go out - it's time to deliver in the ICC Champions Trophy.
The tournament, showcasing the 50-over talents of the eight best one-day teams in the world, sparks into life on Thursday when India take on South Africa at Sophia Gardens on Thursday.
You can watch each and every group game - plus the semi-finals and final - on Sky Sports and we'll have the latest views and news right here on skysports.com.
First up we asked Nasser Hussain and Nick Knight to run the rule over the four teams in Group A - Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and hosts England - and assess how each will get on.
Nick on Australia
Australia have got an excellent record in the Champions Trophy and you can never write them off. Their first match, against England at Edgbaston on Saturday, will be an absolute cracker! I'm sure Australia are professional enough to put the Ashes to the back of their mind, but if they don't they'll find it very tricky to go through to the semi-finals.
A lot will rely on how David Warner, and whoever opens with him, perform at the top of the order. Given the likely conditions, the regulations and the use of two new white balls, it makes sense to pick three or four proper Test match players in the top order to give Michael Clarke, the best player in the team, the support he needs.
Shane Watson has seen it all before, of course, while vice-captain George Bailey and Phil Hughes both have plenty of experience in English conditions under the belt, as does Adam Voges. I think Voges is a very good pick - someone who could stabilise things in the middle if it's not going well. I rate him as a good, experienced cricketer who is more than capable of doing really well in one-day international cricket. He may even bowl a few little left-armers.
This is a squad with an interesting blend of youth and experience. I've heard that James Faulkner is a really high-class prospect, while Mitchell Marsh and Nathan Coulter-Nile - as yet uncapped - will both be determined to lay down some markers. Glenn Maxwell looks like he could have the makings of a decent all-rounder.
When Australia's bowling attack is hot, it is more than capable of knocking over top orders. I quite like Clint McKay and Mitchell Starc with the ball, but Mitchell Johnson is forever an enigma. In form he can cause you all sorts of problems; out of it he's going to get whacked for 60 or 70 off his 10 overs.
I think it's a fair call to expect England to progress through to at least the semi-finals and if they don't, it will be disappointing. I'm not sure that Sri Lanka have enough firepower up front with the ball to knock sides back, so that leaves New Zealand and Australia battling it out for the other semi-final place and it will be a pretty tough contest. I certainly wouldn't write off the Black Caps.
Nasser on England
The NatWest Series has shown how badly England need their best players to be fit. If Stuart Broad and Steven Finn are injured - or short of their best - they look desperately short of wicket-takers, particularly if the ball doesn't move. The Kookaburra balls haven't swung when the sun has come out and that has to bring the sub-continental sides into it.
But I still fancy England to get to the final if they can get everyone on the park; history shows you that they do have a good home record, even factoring in the defeats to New Zealand.
England have made a clear decision to pick their best players rather than a 'specific' one-day side; the team that lines up against Australia will virtually be their Test match side and they have to find the right balance between showing intent and not getting in and getting out, which is happening way too often. If Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott can set up the innings, it gives the likes of Jos Buttler the opportunity to cut loose.
Buttler can be phenomenal in one-day cricket and together with Eoin Morgan there are few better men to make use of that last powerplay where you can't put fielders everywhere. I know a lot of people feel that Matt Prior has been harshly treated and I wouldn't rule him coming into the one-day side at some point in the future but Buttler he has to be the way to go at the moment.
The same goes for Joe Root, who continues to impress; I've no doubt that he will be a very good one-day player but I have to say that I think Ravi Bopara was very lucky to get in that squad.
The worrying thing about England is that they've never done well in global 50-over tournaments. In fact they've never won one but in home conditions, if they are at full strength and the ball moves, this is certainly a great opportunity.
Nick on New Zealand
New Zealand have really impressed me in this NatWest Series, not least because they do the basics of one-day cricket so well. Martin Guptill is clearly in superb form, while Brendon McCullum is a very innovative, instinctive captain.
They have a significant advantage over other teams in as much as they've been playing in English conditions, giving many of their squad a decent chance to adapt. On that basis you can't discount them qualifying for the semi-finals. This is a squad that isn't short of experience - the likes of Guptill, Kyle Mills, Grant Elliott, James Franklin have all played plenty of cricket in England.
McCullum is a wonderful player. He never quite got going in the Test match series but he blew England away in the winter every time he took guard and found his range on Sunday at the Ageas Bowl and looks settled down the order.
Ross Taylor scored a hundred against England in Napier and his form on this tour is getting better and better. He's another key man for them. I'll be interested to see how Luke Ronchi goes, too, because I think he's a better than he has played so far.
New Zealand have changed their attack around since the Test series. Neil Wagner has returned home and Trent Boult is out injured but Tim Southee looks like he's a constant - fitness permitting. I was really impressed with Mitchell McClenaghan in New Zealand, even though we didn't see a lot of him before he was injured. He looks a handful and I remember he beat Cook for pace out in Hamilton. I doubt Franklin will play when Southee comes back.
New Zealand set themselves up slightly differently from teams like England - they've got decent support acts in the middle order from the likes of Grant Elliott - and while I'm concerned that they might be a bowler light, I think that overall they are in pretty good shape.
Nasser on Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka - with their batting line-up and Lasith Malinga's firepower - have to have a chance of winning the trophy. If you look at their record in ICC tournaments they are normally there or thereabouts and I doubt it will be any different this time.
The lad Kusal Perera looked a good player in their warm-up game against India and he'll only benefit from playing alongside batsmen with the experience and ability of Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal. They've got some hitters down the order too - the likes of the skipper Angel Mathews.
Malinga is a massive part of the equation, though - massive. When teams are looking to tee off in the last 10 overs you need someone like him to rein things in.
My only concern is that (apart from Malinga) their attack is a bit one-paced; if it stays sunny, will their collection of one-dimensional, medium-pacers be able to defend a score? They struggled against India despite making 333-5 and in the end India got there with an over to spare.
That could make it difficult for Sri Lanka but I wouldn't write them off.
Watch the first match of the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy live on Sky Sports 1 HD from 10am on Thursday.