The Antipodean Derby is a tough opener for both sides and the Kiwis can provide a banana skin for the Aussies in Edgbaston, says James Buttler...
"If Australia are distracted by the pay dispute, if Williamson can find top gear from the off and if they take their chances, the Kiwis are the value play against their great rivals."
Australia v New Zealand
Live on Sky Sports 2 and Betfair Live Video
Two-time Champions Trophy winners, Australia arrive for their tournament opener as second favourites to lift the title, but would have preferred an easier way of easing themselves in. The dangerous Kiwis will be up for this one.
The Aussies took the trophy in 2006 in India and 2009 in South Africa, are the current World Champions and number two in the ICC ODI Rankings, but they enter the fray under the cloud of a financial dispute between players and Cricket Australia. Coach Darren Lehmann has admitted this would have a negative effect on preparations, but that could easily be bluster as I've never known an Australian side to turn up for a major tournament remotely undercooked.
While they lost 2-0 in New Zealand in early 2017, they won 3-0 in Australia in late 2016 and also beat Pakistan 4-1 at home. In the warm-up games Aaron Finch smashed 137 from 109 balls against Sri Lanka last week and Travis Head made 85. In contrast the bowlers have taken longer to adapt to English conditions and with the they were not helped when their second warm-up was abandoned.
They benefit from the return to fitness of Mitchell Starc and all-rounder Moises Henriques continues his recovery from a back injury and has begun bowling again. And any team which boasts Steven Smith, David Warner and Glenn Maxwell in their line-up has serious firepower.
New Zealand find themselves fifth favourites for the tournament, but, whether you take ICC Rankings with a pinch of salt or not, are third in the world for a reason. They are an attacking side that won't roll over for anyone.
Despite coming out an even 1-1 against Group A minnows Bangladesh in the recent tri-series in Ireland, they swept Ireland aside and narrowly lost 3-2 to South Africa in New Zealand in early 2017. They are previous tournament winners of this tournament in Kenya in 2000, but with all due respect, that was before nations took it seriously. They have been edging closer to a global crown, finishing runners up to Australia in the 2015 World Cup.
Tom Latham, Neil Broom, Ross Taylor and skipper Kane Williamson lead a strong batting unit. With keeper-batsman Luke Ronchi and all-rounders Corey Anderson, Colin de Grandhomme and James Neesham backing up the top order there are plenty of runs. They will rely heavily on Adam Milne, Trent Boult and Tim Southee with the ball and Kane Williamson has vowed to put attacking bite back into their play which has been lacking since the retirement of Brendon McCullum. If they can do that they are not to be underestimated.
Kane Williamson is the key. The New Zealand captain said: "We want to be playing our best cricket and we know if we are able to do that, it gives ourselves the best chance of beating a team like Australia, who are a very good one-day side. It is important that you go out, play with that freedom that gives you the best chance to put your best performance together. Champions Trophy is far more fickle in nature that you need to try and go out and play with that confidence straightaway and grab momentum straightaway."
I'd have Australia as marginal favourites, but the Betfair boffins have them at 1.584/7 and New Zealand far too long at 2.747/4. But, are you ready for the ifs? If Australia are distracted by the pay dispute, if Williamson can find top gear from the off and if they take their chances, the Kiwis are the value play against their great rivals.
Australia Top Batsman
Remember this is a 50-over competition. In T20 I'd always advise to stick to a batsman in the top three, whereas in this slightly longer format you can reasonably look further down the order. That said, Australia's two best players are David Warner at 5/2 and Steven Smith at 11/4, both fresh from good IPL tournaments. But the man who steadily improved at the IPL was Aaron Finch and he's hit the ground running in English conditions he's used to after county stints in recent seasons. So, at 4/1 Finch is the play and the longer nibble would be the big hitting Glenn Maxwell at 7/1.
New Zealand Top Batsman
Kane Williamson is the best New Zealand batsman, but is too short for me in this market at 13/5, particularly when Ross Taylor and Tom Latham are both available at 4/1. I'm playing Latham at 4/1 and having a longer nibble on the big hitting Colin De Grandhomme at a very tempting 16/1.
If ever a market was invented to provide an opportunity to place two or three bets and sit back and enjoy them throughout a game it's the Man of the Match market. Warner is 5/2 to be top Aussie batsman, yet if he does top score he has a healthy chance of being named Man of the Match at 7/1. That said, I like the all-rounders in this market as they give you a double chance. Spread your stakes across Moises Henriques at 16/1, Colin de Grandhomme and Corey Anderson, both at 20/1, and you have three healthy horses with every chance.
Top Team A/B Runscorer Double
This market is one where you can play the pedigree thoroughbreds, while watching your other big odds bets with interest. Take a look for yourself, but I'm taking a double of Steven Smith to top score for Australia and Kane Williamson to lead from the front for the Kiwis at 12/1. It gives you a healthy price on the best two players on paper.
1 unit on Steven Smith and Kane Williamson to be Top Team A/B Runscorer Double @ 12/1
0.5 unites each on Moises Henriques @ 16/1, Colin de Grandhomme @ 20/1, Corey Anderson @ 20/1 to be Man of the Match