NOW THE “REAL” T20 WORLD CUP BEGINS
By: Khanyisani Dlomo
It has been almost a week since the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh began, but the actual quest for championship begins today as the big guns take to the field for the first time.
The last week has seen minnows Hong Kong, Afghanistan, Nepal, the Netherlands, Zimbabwe and host nation Bangladesh square off in qualification matches. But now the real tournament begins.
South Africa starts their journey for the title against Sri Lanka on Saturday. The Proteas are going into the tournament wounded after two poor performances against Australia at home in the last two weeks. But victories in two training matches against Bangladesh and Pakistan may be a major confident boast for Russell Domingo’s boys.
Sri Lanka – who were the 2012 T20 World Cup runners-up – have been the most consistent team in the format and are ranked number one in the world. They have won eight of their past eleven matches.
Pakistan’s all-round spin strength will be instrumental in their hopes to get the better of the Indians when the two clash today. Pakistan – led by skipper Mohammad Hafeez, the world’s leading all-rounder in shorter formats of the game – have shown consistency and are third in the T20 rankings.
The second-ranked India has not had a great run this year so far. They have had a mixed bag of one draw, one loss and one win in their last three competitive matches. Like South Africa, they will be hoping a 20-run win over England in a warm-up match this week will give them a much needed morale boost.
After a 5-0 whitewash over England in the Ashes last year and a convincing victory over the Proteas in both the test and Test and T20 series, Australia go into the tournament with huge momentum. Should they beat Pakistan in their tournament opener – avenging the loss when the two last met – it would be suicide to write them off as potential winners.
In their quest to defend their title, the West Indies’ journey begins on Sunday when they face off with India. The nation – located on the fringe of Atlantic Ocean – has not been consistent, but after playing like masters of the format to record an impressive 33-run victory over Sri Lanka in a warm up match on Wednesday, they will be a team to beat this tournament. They also come into the tournament on the back of convincing T20 displays against England.
In other matches, England face off with New Zealand on Saturday, before a clash against the Proteas on Monday.