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T20 Cricket World Cup – Tournament Preview

The eighth edition of the ICC T20 World Cup – and the second in the space of 12 months – gets underway on October 22. WILL EVANS breaks down Australia’s chances of defending their title, who the best hopes are of knocking the hosts of their perch and the likely standout individual stars.

The Super 12 groupings for the Australia-hosted tournament, which will unfold from October 22-November 13 are as follows:

Group 1: Afghanistan, Australia, England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, TBC
Group 2: Bangladesh, India, Netherlands, Pakistan, South Africa, TBC

Australia’s noses in front for back-to-back titles

One-day World Cup overlords Australia finally snared their maiden T20 World Cup in 2021, courtesy of an epic, Matthew Wade-inspired semi-final defeat of Pakistan and an eight-wicket victory over New Zealand in the final, where Mitch Marsh blasted an unbeaten 77 off 50 balls.

The Aussies are $3.50 favourites to become the T20 World Cup’s first back-to-back winners. Thirteen of last year’s successful squad return for this tilt on home soil, with Aaron Finch again leading a side headlined by 2021 leading lights David Warner, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood, Glenn Maxwell, Wade and Marsh, as well as big guns Steve Smith, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Marcus Stoinis.

Australia have played eight completed Twenty20 internationals in the past month against India, West Indies and England, winning only three. They’ve lost three straight completed matches to England and India at home in the past 12 days – but they are nevertheless the team to beat in their own backyard.

Their semi-final aspirations will largely decided in the first week courtesy of blockbusters against New Zealand on October 22 and England on October 28. The host nation faces Sri Lanka in between on October 25.

England, India close the gap

Only a shade behind in World Cup futures are England ($3.75) and India ($4.50).

ODI world champs England topped their group at the 2021 T20 World Cup but lost a semi-final thriller to the Kiwis. Jos Buttler leads a team dripping with game-breakers and Twenty20 royalty, including Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Liam Livingstone, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Sam Curran, Adil Rashad and Alex Hales.

The 2010 winners head into the tournament on a wave of momentum, having won a seven-match T20I series in Pakistan, recording a Hales- and Malan-inspired 2-0 series win over Australia and thumping Pakistan in a warm-up match at The Gabba in the past month.

Inaugural T20 world champs in 2007, India have largely underachieved since. But they are the top-ranked nation in the format (narrowly ahead of England) and arrive Down Under with a mouth-watering squad.

Rohit Sharma captains a side including Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, Ravi Ashwin, Hardik Pandya, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav and Mohammad Shami.

India flunked out of the 2021 tournament in the UAE via heavy group losses to Pakistan and New Zealand, but they have flexed recently with 2-1 home series wins over Australia and South Africa and a six-run warm-up win over Australia in Brisbane earlier this week led by Rahul (57 off 33), Yadav (50 off 33) and Shama (3/4).

Their crunch matches are against Pakistan (October 22) and South Africa (October 30).

The dark horses

South Africa are on the fourth line of tournament betting at $8 – despite their tortured World Cup history. The Proteas have played stacks of T20I cricket in recent months, drawing a home series with India 2-all, beating England 2-1 and going down in India 2-1.

Opener Rilee Roussouw has been in blistering touch, as have bowlers Tabraiz Shamsi and Keshav Maharaj. A side boasting Quinton de Kock, David Miller and Aiden Markram certainly can’t be discounted.

Pakistan ($8.50) look to be arguably the best value in the field. Unbeaten in last year’s group stage before losing a semi-final heart-breaker to Australia, Pakistan won a recent tri-series against New Zealand and Bangladesh and had their moments in the recent seven-match T20I series against England, going down 4-3.

In Mohammad Rizwan and skipper Babar Azam, Pakistan boast two of the top three-ranked T20I batsman and two of the top three runscorers in the 2021 World Cup. The 2009 champions open their campaign with an MCG blockbuster against India on Sunday. Lose that, and a clash with South Africa on November 3 becomes the most pivotal match of Group 2.

New Zealand ($10) are perennial World Cup overachievers, reaching the finals of the 2015 and ’19 ODI World Cups and last year’s T20 version with clutch semi-final triumphs – although they went on to lose all three deciders. The Black Caps are also the reigning world Test champs.

But NZ’s form in the lead-up to this trophy tilt has been mixed, bested by Pakistan in a three-way T20 tournament last month (they had the better of Bangladesh) and slumping to a heavy warm-up loss to South Africa this week, bowled out for just 98. They were also swept 3-0 in a recent ODI series by Australia – featuring some decidedly non-clutch lapses with bat and ball.

The Kiwis will be relying on veterans Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson to produce their best (a rare occurrence of late) but they do have one of the best balanced squads in the competition and a quality pace attack.

Beyond the top six contenders, it’s hard to see Sri Lanka ($21), West Indies ($51), who still need to win a First Round match on Friday to qualify for the Super 12, Afghanistan ($81) or Bangladesh ($226) getting out of the group phase.

Top run scorer

England skipper Jos Buttler is the $11 favourite to be the World Cup’s top batsman, just ahead of the top three run-getters from the 2021 edition – Babar Azam, David Warner and Mohammad Rizwan – who are all listed at $11.50.

Others providing outstanding value include Rohit Sharma ($17), Dawid Malan ($34) and Rilee Roussow ($51), while in-form Kiwi Devon Conway ($26) shapes as a smoky. Mitch Marsh ($34) is second shortest to top the category among Australian batsmen.

Top wicket taker

Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga is a runaway favourite to be the World Cup’s top bowler at $2.90 after getting a seven-wicket head-start in the First Round matches. The potent spinner was the leading wicket-taker in 2021 with 16 after taking six scalps before his nation’s Super 12 campaign got underway.

Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood – who took 13 and 11 wickets, respectively, in Australia’s successful 2021 World Cup campaign – are $21 to top the standings, as is teammate Mitchell Starc.

Others to consider include New Zealand spearhead Trent Boult ($26), who was superb last year with 13 wickets, South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada ($23), England’s Mark Wood ($21) and India’s Mohammad Shami ($34).

T20 World Cup Winner

Australia $3.50England $3.75
India 4.50South Africa $8.00
Pakistan $8.50New Zealand $10.00
Sri Lanka $21.00West Indies $51.00
Afghanistan $81.00Bangladesh 226.00
Zimbabwe $226.00Ireland $426.00




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