Cow Corner

Beleaguered England still ‘favourites’ for Champions Trophy

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There's nothing that extinguishes hype like a comprehensive series defeat at home to New Zealand, so the old saying goes.

England had been tipped by many - including the trusty satchel swingers - to thrive at the upcoming Champions Trophy, to be held on home soil, and the return of Graeme Swann from injury only heightened the sense of anticipation for the latest ICC limited-overs get-together.

Former England bowling coach, Ottis Gibson, who is in charge of World Twenty20 winners West Indies, even came out and confidently backed England to win the tournament, which gets under way on June 6 in Cardiff, without a flicker of a grin.

"England would be the best team to play in England in these conditions at this time of the year," Gibson said. "To my mind, they are the favourites and for the rest of the seven teams, it is who gets settled and used to the conditions quickly enough.

While Gibson's side suffered a 2-0 defeat to England in the ODI series last summer, it was West Indies who won the Champions Trophy the last time it was held in England in 2004, making a mockery of any 'home advantage' on offer. The same appeared true as Martin Guptill smashed a brutal and inspired 189 off 155 balls - his second successive century in the series - to marmalise England's bowlers in their 'own conditions' at the Rose Bowl on Sunday.

England's bowling attack is frankly far too one-paced and innocuous, with the exception of James Anderson and spinner Swann, and New Zealand's underrated batsmen took them to the cleaners again in Southampton with incredible efficiency.

Jade Dernbach's career economy rate of 6.24 is pitiful given that it cannot be offset by a particularly impressive strike rate, and Chris Woakes was not even trusted to bowl in the middle-to-late overs by Cook at either Lord's or the Rose Bowl.

The opportunity presented itself to give former Ireland wildcard Boyd Rankin a chance to impress with the ball in Southampton, but England stuck with a bowling attack that proved itself to be far too samey and vulnerable in the first ODI - this time with even worse results.

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England's weaknesses were highlighted while coach Ashley Giles made frantic notes on the balcony, often sinking his head into his hands as sloppy mistakes were made in the field and frontline batsmen threw away their wickets after having made starts.

The tournament will be played between June 6 and 23 and England need to quickly improve to show that they can compete with aggressive, proactive and positive sides such as New Zealand if they are to have a hope of challenging.

England have been made joint favourites along with South Africa for the Trophy with Australia just back at 5/1 and 6/1 respectively; the odds appeared incredible misjudged after their showing at the Rose Bowl with a side seemingly in transition once more under Giles.

A shellshocked Cook admitted after a second crushing defeat in the series that his side "have to improve, to perform better and to perform under pressure" but there is now just the third ODI against New Zealand before the tournament begins.

To put it in context, this was not an ordinary bad day at the office: New Zealand's 359 for three was the second-highest total ever conceded by England after the 387 for five in Rajkot in 2006. This is a bowling attack in utter disarray, given the way Guptill plundered his monumental unbeaten knock.

England's bowlers floundered as the Black Caps racked up successive partnerships of 120 and 109 for the second and third wickets, and it is too late for Giles to make sweeping changes with his squad already in place.

Apart from James Anderson first spell, England's bowling was pretty abject throughout, occasionally verging on woeful, with Dernbach's 10-over spell for 87 the fourth-most expensive return by an England bowler in an ODI.

The final 10 overs of New Zealand's innings were absolute carnage, costing 132 runs. Regardless of what happens in the third ODI at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, England will head into the Champions Trophy low on confidence and clarity.

Still, with the bookmakers making Cook's side joint-favourites to lift the ICC silverware; there could yet be something in that. But you would have to be crazy to back the hosts after Sunday's showing.

Odds for Champions Trophy

England 4/1

South Africa 4/1

Australia 5/1

India 6/1

West Indies 15/2

Pakistan 8/1

Sri Lanka 17/2

New Zealand 10/1

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