Monday, September 18, 2006

West Indies big guns Brian Lara and Chris Gayle showed sparkling form ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy today in a stand of 151 at Kuala Lumpur.

Mike Hussey's unbeaten 109 was to no avail as Lara cut loose, making 88 off 80 balls, to set up victory with 16 balls to spare. Gayle chipped in at the top of the order with 79 runs, including 3 sixes. With Sri Lanka resurgent under Tom Moody's leadership, and South Africa also on promising form, the ICC Champions Trophy could prove to be a much more open a competition than the markets suggest.

Both the West Indies and Sri Lanka have yet to qualify for the competition, but only minnows Zimbabwe and Bangladesh stand in their way. William Hill were still offering 12/1 on the Windies to keep the title and 6/1 on Sri Lanka, who will be used to conditions in the Subcontinent. Australia were still favourites today at 3/1.
Now that all the tall, strong kids in the Carribean are learning basketball, rather than fast bowling, the Windies are no longer a force in test cricket. However their combination of cavalier batsmen, coupled with accurate medium pace and spin bowlers, suits the one-day area perfectly. Get your bets on quick though, they won't be out at 12/1 with England for much longer if this form continues. 12-1 is great value on Lara and his men in a knock-out tournament any side could win.
South Africa are warming up for the ICC Trophy tournament at home against Zimbabwe, and are 7/1 to return from India with the trophy. Today and Zimbabwe were reeling at 55-4 after 17 overs.

Mike Hussey's unstoppable form (he averages over 75 in both forms of the game) will, however, be a worry for England ahead of the ashes battle this winter. England struggled to dismiss Hussey in the one-day pre-ashes action last summer, now he is in the test team they will have to work him out, and fast.

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