The T-20 World Cup is considered the blockbuster event in cricket. The 2021 staging of the event is finally here after being delayed due to the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020. The event is slated to attract a vast audience right around the world.
For the next month or so, fans will be glued to their media outlets hoping to see their batsmen smash the ball into stands or a bowler dislodging batsmen’s wicket. The purist will complain that 20 overs is not enough time to prove your talent is better than your opponent. However, T-20 brings intrigue, excitement, and unpredictability, making previewing the outcome difficult.
Below, I will preview Group 1 and opine on the likely winners to emerge to the semifinal round.
The Aussies are ranked 7th in the world in the T-20 format. The men down under will be hoping to break their ducks in winning their first T-20 World Cup title. The team has slid down the rankings due to poor results in 2021. They have lost respective series to New Zealand 3-2, West Indies 4-1, and Bangladesh 4-1 in series.
However, do not be fooled, this team is still dangerous with the likes of Steve Smith, David Warner, and Glenn Maxwell are back in the fold to add depth to the batting lineup. Mitchell Starc is an ever-present wicket-taker with the ball, and he will get the support of Pat Cummins. I think a lot of people are sleeping on the Aussies, but I think they will have the right balance between bat and ball. I think they will make the semifinals from this group because they are flying under the radar.
The Men in Maroon are ranked number 9 in the T-20 team rankings, and they have lifted this title in 2012 and 2016. The West Indies have produced an indifferent form in 2021, having lost to South Africa 3-2, beating Australia 4-1, and losing 1-0 to Pakistan with 3 washouts. The team is flanked with tremendous stroke players, boundary hitters, and great athleticism.
Chris Gayle will be seeking to silence the critics and end his international career on a high. I think the all-around ability of Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, and captain Pollard will be the key for this team to emerge from this group into the semifinals. However, Fabian Allen is now injured, and the bowling looks very weak. Also, they got battered in the two warm-ups, including to minnows Afghanistan. Therefore, my prediction is that they will not make it out of the group.
The Proteas are ranked fifth in the world in T-20 cricket. They have never won this tournament, and their closest finish was in the 2009 and 2014 tournaments when they were semifinalists. The team has been rebuilding its squad over the past few years after losing the likes of Faf du Plessis. AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dale Steyn, and Imran Tahir. Their form has improved from their 3-1 loss to Pakistan in April. They have beaten the West Indies 3-2 as well as Ireland and Sri Lanka by the same margin of 3-0.
The bowling looks impressive with the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi, and Keshav Mahara. However, I don’t think they will emerge from the group because of their batting. The pressure will be on Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram to carry the lineup, and T-20 cricket requires a deep batting lineup.
The Three Lions are ranked as the number one team currently in the world. Despite their propensity in the past to prefer the Test match format, this English team has become a powerhouse in the shortest format.
They have won the 2010 tournament over the rival Aussies. In 2016, they were able to make a final appearance. Then at home in 2019, they scalped their first 50-over World Cup tournament victory. They will be looking to repeat the trick using the same group of core players.
Eoin Morgan’s troops are also in good form as a unit in 2021. In their last two T-20 series, they beat Sri Lanka and Pakistan by a margin of 3-0 and 2-1, respectively. The only slight blemish is a 3-2 loss to India in the subcontinent in March.
England’s strength lies in their batting, with Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, and Dawid Malan 1-2-3 in the lineup. The team will miss two key players in Ben Stokes and Jeffrey Archer. Archer is battling an elbow issue that required surgery, and Stokes is out indefinitely due to his mental health issues. Despite their absence, I think this team has too much talent not to win the group.
Projected Preliminary Round Qualifiers into Group 1-Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Group 1 will feature two qualifiers, the winner of Group A and the runner-up in Group B. As it stands, it appears that Sri Lanka and Bangladesh might emerge in those slots, which will make Group 1 a group of death. Sri Lanka had previously won the tournament in 2014.
However, they are struggling to rebuild after losing Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Matthews, and Lasith Malinga. Bangladesh usually provides a scare to at least one big team every tournament, and their spinners will do well on these pitches. However, both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh lack the skill and firepower to win the first two places in this group.
Therefore, the teams I have emerging from Group 1 are England as winners and the Australians as runners-up.
Edited by Jesus Chan
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