When the ICC recently announced the groups for the upcoming edition of the T20 World Cup to be held in October-November in UAE and Oman, much of the attention and anticipation mainly hovered on the multiple marquee clashes which were locked in.
With the groups getting rejigged because of the tweak in the cut-off date amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian giants India, Pakistan and Ashes rivals Australia, England are now part of the same groups. The confirmation of the India-Pakistan and Australia-England battles and other popular fixtures raised the fans’ excitement.
England, Australia, West Indies and South Africa are part of Group 1 of the Super 12 round at the T20 World Cup 2021, with India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Afghanistan included in Group 2.
🚨 #T20WorldCup Super 12 groups announced with India and Pakistan slotted together in Group 2.
— CricXtasy (@CricXtasy) July 16, 2021
These respective six-team groups will be joined by the four qualifying teams from the preliminary round. Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia are part of Group A and Bangladesh, Scotland, Papua New Guinea and Oman feature in Group B of the preliminary round at the next T20 World Cup. Two teams from each of these groups will be making the Super 12 groups where the semi-finalists will be decided.
🚨 The #T20WorldCup Round 1 Groups are announced
— CricXtasy (@CricXtasy) July 16, 2021
The spotlight today is on these preliminary groups and the battle of attrition we can expect to witness during the tournament’s initial stage to earn the four Super 12 spots at the T20 World Cup. Also, how then would the Super 12 groups eventually shape up?
Will Sri Lanka make the Super 12s of the T20 World Cup?
It shows their decline that 2014 champions Sri Lanka were not one of the top 8 teams to enter the Super 12 stage directly, with even Afghanistan jumping ahead of them on the rankings table and getting one of the places. Since the end of the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, Sri Lanka have lost as many as 34 of their 50 T20Is, winning just 12, and will be approaching the tournament in the Middle East quite vulnerably placed.
Multiple on and off-field issues have held back Sri Lanka, who could face elimination in the cut-throat first round if they don’t get their house in order quickly. The Asian rivals are part of Group A alongside three of the best lower-ranked T20I sides in Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia, who won’t make their life any easy. All three of those oppositions have a better win-loss percentage than Sri Lanka’s (0.41) since the previous T20 World Cup.
Sri Lanka, however, will still have an edge because of their spinners, including an incisive Wanindu Hasaranga, capable of exploiting their rivals’ weakness against spin on slow-paced tracks in Oman and UAE. If the Lankans can get going with the bat, their spin prospects may just seal one of the top 2 spots for them from Group A, leaving it between Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia to fight for the other.
The ability to handle spin being the decisive factor in the Middle East, Netherlands and Namibia and Ireland will have to perform out of their comfort zone to nail down the other qualifying spot. Ireland, though, looks more settled in this regard with their lengthy batting unit, including Paul Stirling, Andy Balbirnie, and a bowling attack featuring the likes of George Dockrell and Ben White, who topped the bowling charts in their domestic T20 competition.
Potential qualifiers from Group A: Sri Lanka and Ireland
Can Bangladesh avoid the slip-ups in Group B and aim for the T20 World Cup trophy?
As with Sri Lanka in Group A, Bangladesh also walk a very tight rope in Group B of the preliminary round at the T20 World Cup. The Asian giants, who have never really come to grips with the T20 format, could ill-afford slip-ups facing Scotland, PNG and co-hosts Oman for one of the two Super 12 spots.
Bangladesh have won just 12 and lost 25 of their 37 T20Is since the end of the previous T20 World Cup back in 2016. Their win-loss percentage of 0.48 is worse than all three of their group rivals, which, despite the difference in the quality of opposition faced, should be a cause of worry for them.
But, just like Sri Lanka, spin strength may just prove to be the saviour for Bangladesh, who are traditionally better at it – with the ball and the bat – than all three of their oppositions in Group B.
With that in mind, Oman could well be another strong candidate, given their familiarity with the conditions. However, their entry to the Super 12s is far from secured considering Scotland’s all-round depth and the volatile nature of PNG.
Scotland have a better average to strike-rate ratio among the three non-Test member nations part of Group B since the 2016 T20 World Cup, with a scoring rate of 8.60 runs per over and wickets lost at an impressive 29.07 runs per piece. Their strong batting may also allow them to cover for some of the bowling issues, as their economy rate of 8.21 is worse than Oman’s 6.84 and PNG’s 5.95 in this period.
Potential qualifiers from Group B: Bangladesh and Scotland
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How will an Asian/Non-Asian split of teams at the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup pan out?
While the ability to face and deliver high-quality fast-bowling would be key in Group 1 where England, Australia, South Africa and West Indies are placed together, the spin-handling abilities could play a decisive role in Group 2 in which India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and New Zealand are involved.
A lot will depend on the surfaces, of course, as a pace-heavy Group 1 might just mean more favourable match-ups for England, Australia and South Africa. The Calypso Kings are an oddity here, as they’ve tended to struggle at times against hard-length fast-bowling, with the well-documented issues of a few of their regular players facing pace.
They’ve also had issues against quality spin through the middle-overs, something Tabraiz Shamsi exploited during the recent series in the Caribbean. But everyone’s favourites West Indies have shown in the past that they can excel even in spin-friendly conditions, winning the 2012 T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka and its 2016 edition in India.
In Group 2, a spin-dominated tournament would mean trouble for New Zealand, who will take on India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and could face one other, if not two, Asian teams during their campaign. If, however, the surfaces offer a hint of help to the pacers, the Kiwis might inch past Pakistan, Afghanistan and seal the semi-final berth alongside India, who look capable of tackling all kinds of challenges.
Potential semi-finalists from Group A & Group B: England, West Indies, India and New Zealand
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