Short, sharp ICC Champions Trophy begins on Tuesday

JOHANNESBURG -- Blink and you’ll miss it. With 15 matches packed into two weeks of action, there’s no time to settle into the ICC Champions Trophy gently. The new-look event with just the best eight teams in the world at two venues in one destination begins on Tuesday with host South Africa taking on ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 finalist Sri Lanka at Centurion. A big crowd will be there to see if Graeme Smith and his men can take their first step towards repeating the achievement of the 1998 Proteas and lifting one of the biggest prizes in the game.

West Indies are in Group A alongside Australia, India and Pakistan. All their tournament matches will be played at The Wanderers in Johannesburg. In the first round: vs Pakistan (September 23), vs Australia (September 26), vs India (September 30). Group B is made up of South Africa, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and England.

ICC President David Morgan is confident of the success of this year’s tournament.

“The ICC, having learned from past programming errors, has scheduled this year’s ICC Champions Trophy with a markedly different format from previous editions,” said Mr Morgan.

“It involves the top eight-ranked sides, it is a short event lasting just 14 days and the prize money is four times what it was in 2006, totaling US$4million, which includes a cheque for US$2million for the winning team,” he said.

“I am grateful to the people from Cricket South Africa and the ICC for all their good work in putting this tournament together.

“I believe it will be a great success as the best players in the world demonstrate their skills in the 50-over format at international level. I have no doubt the matches will be played in a good spirit and I hope the best team wins.”

Meanwhile, ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat has called on South Africa’s legendary sports-mad population to unfurl their flags and turn up in great numbers to the matches at the Wanderers and Centurion.

“This is one of cricket’s three ‘majors’ and with the various enhancements we have put in place, I am sure the ICC Champions Trophy 2009 will be exciting and remembered with great fondness by all those involved,” said Mr Lorgat.

“It makes me proud, as a South African, to return here to stage this event. I know that the sports-loving people of my country will again be a key component in its success. Tickets have been priced very fairly and we are delighted with how rapidly they have been snapped up. Top players, great venues and enthusiastic South African fans – who could ask for more?”