Cricket: World T20 group stage preview
The ICC World T20 kicks off in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, and ANT SIMS runs the rule over the group stages. She makes some brave – or perhaps completely deluded – predictions in the process.
When it comes to the minnows pulling a fast one over the big teams of world cricket, there is no better format than Twenty20 cricket. And with the ICC World T20 kicking off on Tuesday, there’ll be heart-warming tales aplenty to get sucked into.
The 12 competing teams have been divided into four groups, out of which the top two teams of each group progress to the Super Eights. The Super Eights cluster consists of two groups, where the top two teams qualify for the semi-finals and eventually two teams make it to the final. The tournament is short and sweet – like all tournaments should be. There are bound to be some sterling performances from youngsters and seasoned veterans alike to keep cricket lovers thoroughly entertained over the course of the next few weeks.
Group A sees defending champions England facing off against India and outsiders Afghanistan. The English line-up is packed with some hard-hitting youngsters, but the bowling is a bit on the thin side. While Graeme Swann and Samit Patel are likely to be a handful on the turning pitches of the subcontinent, it’s unlikely that India – and to an extent Afghanistan – will struggle against the spin. It seems painfully obvious that England and India will progress to the next round, but Afghanistan might just spring a surprise on one of the big boys. They featured in the 2010 edition of the tournament and lost both their matches in the group stages, but they’ve gone ahead in leaps and bounds since then. Nobody should be too surprised if they manage to sneak a win during the first stages of the competition.
Prediction: England and India to progress, with Afghanistan beating England
In Group B, Australia, the West Indies and Ireland’s teams are battling it out to progress. The West Indies side is one of the most well-balanced of the tournament, with some fierce firepower in its batting and a number of spin options to help it exploit the conditions. Australia, meanwhile, finds itself in an odd transitional phase, still searching for a spinner to help fill the gaping hole left by Shane Warne. The powers that be have searched so far, in fact, that they’ve recalled the 41-year old Brad Hogg. Hogg had a stellar campaign in the Big Bash, which earned him a stint with the Cape Cobras and the Rajasthan Royals, but whether he can carry that form to Sri Lanka remains to be seen. Ireland might be the underdog, but the players are no strangers to beating bigger teams. They’ve got a couple of hard hitters lurking in their midst, and George Dockrell is not half bad when it comes to turning his arm over.
Prediction: West Indies and Ireland to progress
In Group C, the hosts, Sri Lanka, are grouped with South Africa and Zimbabwe, and what should be a straightforward progression for both Sri Lanka and the Saffas could very well become a slippery slope – Zimbabwe has been a force to be reckoned with in the shorter format of the game, especially on slow and turning pitches. South Africa has never played a T20 in Sri Lanka, and will be entering unchartered territory with a bunch of new faces in the team. The pressure of delivering and performing will rest very much on the big guns. South Africa has been a perennial underachiever in ICC events, and while captain AB de Villiers insists the past is now behind them, the black dog of choking past will be biting at their heels every step of the way.
Prediction: Sri Lanka and South Africa to progress – Zimbabwe to beat South Africa
In the last group, namely Group D, New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh are bundled together for what could be one of the more interesting groups of the tournament. While Pakistan has all the talent and experience to go on and win the whole thing, the players are incredibly erratic in their delivery and nobody ever knows exactly which Pakistan team will show up. New Zealand has slumped to a new kind of low, but has one or two individuals who can come through as match-winners. Bangladesh will rate itself and its chances against both sides and with nothing to lose, the players will certainly give it their all.
Prediction: Pakistan and Bangladesh to progress DM
Photo: Cricket captains from various countries pose with the trophy during an official World Twenty 20 captains photograph in Colombo, September 15, 2012. The tournament runs from September 18 to October 7 in Sri Lanka. The captains pictured are, (L-R) Zimbabwe's Brendan Taylor, South Africa's AB de Villiers, Pakistan's Mohammad Hafeez, India's Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Australia's George Bailey, England's Stuart Broad, Sri Lanka's Mahela Jayawardene, West Indies' Darren Sammy, Ireland's William Porterfield, Bangladesh's Mushfiqur, New Zealand's Ross Taylor, and Afghanistan's Nawroz Mangal. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte