Stan Hey: 6-5 Against

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The Independent Online

Imagine, in your nightmare, that you are an England international one-day cricketer on the verge of a 7-0 series defeat by a gloating Australia.

It will be over tomorrow. But what's this, the ICC Champions Trophy, featuring the top eight national teams in a limited-over tournament? You have to fly to South Africa. You wake up – it was just a nightmare, wasn't it?

According to one bookmaker, Victor Chandler, England are the 9-2 outsiders just to qualify from their group which contains the hosts South Africa (5-4), one-day wizards Sri Lanka (9-4) and an improving New Zealand (4-1). Further humiliation resides in the 12-1 odds for England winning the tournament.

To a punter it seems folly to expect emotionally drained Test players suddenly to change format and more logical to have a specialist, separate 50-over team. But eight Ashes players are in the 15 man Champions' Trophy squad.

One thing that England have achieved in the NatWest Series is to make Australia believe that they are a great side, because it's feasible that they will be beaten to the semi-finals by group rivals India and Pakistan. South Africa, 11-4 favourites, should win, but have choked before in knockout tournaments.

My bet is £10 win Sri Lanka, 11-2 Chandler. They have inventive batsmen and masterful bowlers – Lasith Malinga (fast), Ajantha Mendis (slow) and Muttiah Muralitharan (spin), Strictly Come Bowling.

*Mastery delivered a small windfall in the St Leger, proof that you need only be right once with ante-post bets. Manchester City won for us too – but Adebayor's antics will cost City dearly at Old Trafford tomorrow.

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