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    Competition for England places is massive - Willey

    Bowler says the players are driving each other on as they fight for Champions Trophy selection.

    David Willey believes the “massive” competition for places in the England team can bring the best out of the squad as they head into a crucial summer of ODI cricket.

    The Three Lions will play a three-match Royal London ODI series against South Africa starting on 24 May before the ICC Champions Trophy takes place on home soil in June.

    Willey, 27, played in both of England’s victories against Ireland earlier this month and says the players are all pushing each other hard as they look to earn their spots in the first-choice starting team.

    “There is massive competition for places at the moment, in every position. It improves the quality of the team, it keeps you honest,” Willey told ecb.co.uk.

    “If you stand still, someone is going to go past you and take your place, so we are all trying to better ourselves and produce performances to make the position our own and keep it that way.

    “I think it’s a great group to be involved in. Everyone is bouncing off each other, guys have played in different competitions around the world and gained great experiences.

    “We are all back together now and everyone will be battling for one of those 11 places for the South Africa games and then the Champions Trophy.

    “For me, I’m feeling really good physically. My bowling isn’t quite where I want it to be, but that will come with matches and overs.

    "I put pressure on myself and I’m working hard, I want to get myself in a good place for the South Africa games and then hopefully get the nod for the Champions Trophy."

    You can’t read too much into the favourites tag. I don’t think we were even in the top four for the World T20

    England are among the favourites to win the Champions Trophy given their position as tournament hosts and the fact they have won five of their last six ODI series.

    But Willey is not reading anything into the expectations surrounding the team, particularly having been part of the side that unexpectedly reached the World T20 final in India last year.

    Willey said: “You can’t read too much into the favourites tag. I don’t think we were even in the top four for the World T20 but we went into the tournament quietly confident that we had a really good chance.

    “It’s nice to be considered favourites and I think it’s recognition of the quality of players we have and the way we’ve played recently. But it doesn’t mean anything – we have to go out there and play at a very high level to have any chance of winning it.”

    England start their Champions Trophy campaign against Bangladesh at the Oval on 1 June before completing the group stage with matches against New Zealand in Cardiff and then Australia in Edgbaston.

    Before the Champions Trophy, England will take on South Africa in a series that Willey believes will provide the best possible preparation as they look to take advantage of home conditions.

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    “The series against South Africa is perfect for us, in our own conditions as well,” Willey added.

    “It will stand us in good stead and I don’t think we could play against better team to make sure we hit the ground running in the Champions Trophy.

    “We are in a tough group. Every game is a must-win game but that’s what the competition is all about. It will be difficult to qualify from but I think we’ve got the players who are more than capable of doing that.

    “I would like to think home advantage will help us. I’m not sure what the pitches are going to be like, but we know the grounds quite well and that knowledge and experience can come into it a little bit.

    “I’m used to pitches that flatten out, so as long as it’s warm and it swings, I’m happy with that as a bowler.

    “You know as a bowler that it’s going to be a tough challenge in one-day cricket, so you have to take it on the chin when you go around the park a bit.

    “On the flipside of that, when you can take a few poles, particularly for me up front, then it’s a good day." 

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