The 2016 World Cricket Twenty20 finally gets underway today after weeks of build-up and anticipation. Hosted in India, the tournament has been predicted to be one of the most entertaining of all time, as the difference in the balance of power between bat and ball could be minimal.
It was Sri Lanka who won the competition last time out in 2014, under the command of Paul Farbrace of course, who is now an assistant to Trevor Bayliss in the England camp. This year however, you would be bold to predict that the Sri Lankans will be winning it again, in fact, there as many as six teams backed ahead of them, with Australia favourites with the bookies, followed by South Africa, and then the hosts India. As for England, they find themselves fourth favourites, having been largely consistent and successful with their new, fearless, brand of one-day cricket that they’ve adopted since the summer.
As we had last time around, the first week of the WT20 is fought out between the eight lesser nations, a bracket in which both Ireland and Scotland find themselves. There are two groups of four teams, with the team finishing top from each going through to the main tournament, and it’s fair to say that the Scots have had the better of the draw. They will face Afghanistan, Hong Kong, and Zimbabwe in Group B, with the latter being their closest rivals for that top spot.
As for the Irish, they have a very winnable game against Oman, but they will also have to face Bangladesh and Netherlands too in Group A, both of whom are placed higher than themselves in the world rankings. It’s a harsh draw on an exciting side that are widely regarded as the world’s best non-test playing nation, but you can be sure that they’ll give it everything they have to try and make it to the main event.
Qualifying Stage Prediction:
Group A: Winners: Bangladesh / Runners-Up: Ireland
Group B: Winners: Scotland / Runners-Up: Zimbabwe
As has been mentioned, it’s going to be a tough tournament to call from the start. There are teams full of match winners in the both groups, and as it always does in T20 cricket, this year’s tournament will be decided by that one player that performs out of his skin on the day of the final to take the game away from his opposition. From AB de Villiers, to David Warner, to Jos Buttler, to Virat Kohli, they’re everywhere.
In Group 1, South Africa will be backing themselves to at least make it through in second place, up against England, who they’ve just beaten in an ODI and T20 series, the holders Sri Lanka, and the West Indies, who could be anything from brilliant to dismal, only time will tell.
Group 1 Prediction:
Winners: South Africa / Runners-Up: England
Group 2 is sure to be a much closer affair with Pakistan essentially making up the numbers in the company of Australia, India, and New Zealand. The hosts are officially ranked best in the world when it comes to this format, and they’ll be desperate to perform in front of their home fans, but those Australasian opponents will have something to say about that I’m sure.
Group 2 Prediction:
Winners: India / Runners-Up: Australia
Now for the important big one, how are England going to do? If you asked me two games into the ODI series with South Africa when we had a 2-0 lead, our name was already on the trophy for my money. However, having lost the last three games of that series, and then both of the T20 Internationals, suddenly all of that confidence that we built up in white ball cricket over the summer against Australia and New Zealand, has suffered a significant knockback.
What is for sure though, if a couple of our batsmen get it right, we’ll be a tough match for anyone, even with only a slightly better than average bowling line-up. The opening partnership of Jason Roy and Alex Hales always have the potential to win us any game in the first 10 overs, and behind them, the finishers of Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes have proven just how destructive they can be on their day.
The bowlers do certainly have the potential to let us down however which could be frustrating. Chris Jordan didn’t cover himself in glory in South Africa, so a lot will be down to Reece Topley, and especially Adil Rashid on the spinning surfaces that India will certainly be offering. We won it three tournaments ago in 2010 playing with brilliant confidence with both bat and ball and that will have to be the bare minimum this time around if we are to have any chance of winning it again. It’ll be tough, but far from impossible.
Semi Finals (… but feel free to do better!)
Tournament Overall Prediction:
Winners: South Africa / Runners-Up: Australia