Tournament hosts and defending champions Australia will get their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup campaign underway on Saturday as the competition steps up a gear with the start of the Super 12 stage.
Following a fantastic First Round, Sri Lanka and Ireland have joined Australia, Afghanistan, England and New Zealand in Group 1.
The teams will clash in a round-robin format from October 22 to November 5, with the top two in each group advancing to the semi-finals.
The crucial contests will take place at grounds across Australia, from Perth Stadium to The Gabba in Brisbane.
Australia, Afghanistan, England and New Zealand progressed to this stage automatically by virtue of being among the top eight teams in last year’s tournament.
However, Sri Lanka and Ireland have had to do it the hard way, finishing first in Group A and second in Group B respectively during the First Round.
It is sure to be a mouth-watering two weeks of cricket, with three of last year’s four semi-finalists involved in Group 1.
New Zealand beat England by five wickets in last year’s semi-final before falling to defeat against Australia. Afghanistan were fourth in Group 2 in 2021, their best finish ever in an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
Australia (eighth appearance)
Australia are undoubtedly the team to beat, but tournament openers do not get much tougher than a repeat of last year’s final against New Zealand.
A total of 13 of the 15 players who lifted the World Cup trophy at Dubai International Cricket Stadium last year will return to compete on home soil.
Mitchell Swepson and the injured Josh Inglis are the only World Cup winners to miss out on this occasion, with Tim David and Cameron Green with the squad in their place.
But Aaron Finch will hope to be the first captain to win back-to-back tournaments.
Finch returned to form as he hit a masterful 76 in a losing effort against India, Australia’s final World Cup warm-up.
But the defeat will not worry the Aussies, who have three members of the Most Valuable Team of the Tournament included in their squad.
Opening batter and 2021 Player of the Tournament David Warner will give Australia plenty of firepower, and they are not bad with the ball in hand either.
Warner is joined by two world-class bowlers in Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood after both starred last time out.
England (eighth appearance)
England proved they will be a match for any team at the World Cup with several impressive results in the run-up to this year’s tournament.
Last year’s semi-finalists are undefeated in October, having beaten defending champions Australia and 2021 semi-finalists Pakistan.
England missed out on last year’s final after a Daryl Mitchell masterclass helped New Zealand to a five-wicket win in the semis.
Their tournament will get underway when they take on Afghanistan for the first time since 2015, and Jos Buttler’s side will be hoping to maintain England’s perfect record against them.
However, Reece Topley’s unfortunate ankle injury has given England’s selectors a headache ahead of their tournament opener at the Perth Stadium on Saturday.
The dependable bowler will miss the entire tournament, as will Jonny Bairstow, but England still have an abundance of top-quality talent to call upon.
Two players from last year’s Team of the Tournament will take part in the form of all-rounder Moeen Ali and captain Buttler.
The talismanic Ben Stokes was also named in the World Cup squad despite not playing a T20 international for more than 18 months.
However, after impressing in the World Cup warm-ups against Australia, he is sure to be a key cog in the England machine.
New Zealand (eighth appearance)
After falling at the final hurdle in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, New Zealand will be hoping to go one step further this year.
They are currently fifth in the ICC Men’s T20I Team Rankings, but they have had a mixed run of form ahead of their opener against Australia on Saturday.
They lost two of their three matches against Pakistan in October, before falling to a nine-wicket defeat against South Africa. But they have plenty of quality throughout their squad.
Kane Williamson will captain the side, and he will have one of the stars of last year’s tournament at his disposal in the form of Trent Boult.
The fast bowler’s 13 wickets in seven matches was enough to earn him a spot in the Team of the Tournament.
Mitchell will also return after firing his side to the final with a stunning performance against England.
And the Black Caps will need both of their stars to be at their best if they are to shrug off the label of dark horses and win the whole thing.
Afghanistan (sixth appearance)
Afghanistan may not have the tournament pedigree of an Australia or an England, but do not let that fool you, they could upset the apple cart this year.
Two wins in the Super 12 last term was enough to secure fourth in Group 2, and they have gone from strength to strength ever since.
They reached the Super Four at the Asia Cup, and they pushed Pakistan and Sri Lanka to the limit once they got there.
Mohammad Nabi will captain the side, and he will be joined by fellow spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
All three players will be crucial for Afghanistan, and if their batters can perform on the grandest stage, then there is no telling what they could achieve.
Sri Lanka (eighth appearance)
Forced to go through the First Round, Sri Lanka bounced back from a heavy defeat in their opening match against Namibia to top Group A.
A 79-run success against the UAE, followed by a hard-fought 16-run win against the Netherlands, was enough to clinch their spot in the Super 12.
In Wanindu Hasaranga, they have the pick of the bowlers from the First Round, his seven wickets coming at an average of just nine, while also maintaining an economy rate of better than a run a ball.
With openers Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis both having half-centuries to their names already, the 2014 champions have the foundation for a dangerous side.
Ireland (seventh appearance)
Like Sri Lanka, Ireland did not do it the easy way, losing their first match to Zimbabwe and spending much of their second match against Scotland looking like they would be beaten once more.
When they found themselves at 65 for four after ten overs, chasing 177 to beat the Scots, their chances seemed slim, but Curtis Campher and George Dockrell combined for a brilliant 119-run partnership to turn the match on its head.
Ireland then carried that momentum into a comprehensive nine-wicket win over the West Indies, knocking out the two-time champions in the process.
A spot in the Super 12 is Ireland’s best result since they reached the Super 8, as it was, all the way back in their maiden appearance in 2009.
And with the threat of Paul Stirling at the top of the order, and Campher in the form of his life, Ireland will fancy their chances of adding a few more scalps to their collection, starting with Sri Lanka in Hobart.
Content courtesy: ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020 via Online Media Zone.