Onions bullish but England's odds look slim

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The Independent Online

Bookmakers have taken a grand total of less than £1,000 on England to win the Champions Trophy. It is the lowest amount ever wagered on the team before a world event and reflects how low the team's stock has fallen after their 6-1 hammering by Australia in the NatWest Series.

Such is the perceived helplessness of England's cause that they are odds on to be eliminated at the group stage and a mere 16-1 with most bookies to win the tournament, the biggest price they ever have been before an ICC competition – and those odds might seem ungenerous.

Ladbrokes spokesman, Robin Hutchison said: "At times like this we are usually inundated with patriotic punters wanting to back our boys but we've never seen such a lack of interest in them. I'm sure every English cricket fan is praying for an upturn, but they are certainly not punting on it."

Only West Indies are less favoured to win the title and since they have sent virtually a third team it would have been the final indignity had they been more warmly tipped.

Ladbrokes, one of the big five bookmakers, have taken under £200 on England in the Champions Trophy and that figure can be multiplied by five to calculate the total layout. More than £80,000 has been taken on South Africa, 5-2 favourites.

England arrived in South Africa yesterday just before the low key opening ceremony at Centurion so can not be guilty of being over-familiar with conditions. They hit the ground making the right noises. As the fast bowler, Graham Onions, who made his ODI debut on Sunday said: "Write us off at your peril.

"If people have been doing that it is a massive gamble because we feel as though if we play the cricket we know we are capable of there is no reason we can't compete against the best players in the world." Massive gambles of course is exactly what people have not been taking.

The first match was a sell-out and ticket sales for the short, sharp tournament have risen dramatically in the last two days. The match between Pakistan and India on Saturday could have been sold out four times over and the only mild concern about attendances surrounds the neutral matches involving the lesser lights – such as England.

The ICC are giving themselves an early pat on the back for the structure of the tournament, rather like men who have seen the light only after it has been shining in their faces for 10 years.

Champions Trophy: Fixtures and times

Group A

Today, 13.30: Pakistan v West Indies (Johannesburg)

Saturday, 08.30: Australia v West Indies (Johannesburg)

13.30: India v Pakistan (Centurion)

Monday 28 September, 13.30: Australia v India (Centurion)

Wednesday 30 September, 08.30: Australia v Pakistan (Centurion)

13.30: India v West Indies (Johannesburg)

Group B

Yesterday: South Africa v Sri Lanka (Centurion)

Tomorrow, 08.30: South Africa v New Zealand (Centurion)

Friday, 13.30: England v Sri Lanka (Johannesburg)

Sunday, 08.30: New Zealand v Sri Lanka (Johannesburg)

13.30: South Africa v England (Centurion)

Tuesday 29 September, 13.30: England v New Zealand (Johannesburg)


Friday 2 October, 13.30: Winner Group A v runner-up Group B (Centurion)

Saturday 3 October, 13.30: Winner Group B v runner-up Group A (Johannesburg)


Monday 5 October, 13.30 (Centurion)

All matches live on Sky Sports 1/2; All times BST