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T20 World Cup: breaking down the teams set for the Super 12s

·7-min read

The men’s T20 World Cup – Covid-postponed and moved from India to the United Arab Emirates and Oman – kicked off on Sunday afternoon when Scotland tickled big minnows Bangladesh into submission and Oman thrashed Papua New Guinea.

England’s involvement will start at the Super 12 stage of the tournament, when they take on the defending champions West Indies on Saturday. The other Super 12 teams are Australia, South Africa, Afghanistan, India, New Zealand and Pakistan, plus the top two qualifiers in each group of the preliminary round, which takes place this week.

At the end of the Super 12s (each country will play five games, against the other teams in their group), the winners and runners-up in Groups One and Two will progress to the semi-finals. The final will take place on 14 November in Dubai, with the champions taking home a hefty $1.6m.

Group One

Australia

Coach Justin Langer Captain Aaron Finch

World T20 best Runners-up 2010

Desperate for a first men’s T20 World Cup trophy, Australia aren’t exactly bouncing into the competition. The team’s last Twenty20 series win was in South Africa in 2019-20 – they have lost five in a row since then, while the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic has made travel and consequently competitive cricket problematic, even domestically. Steve Smith, who has been suffering from an elbow injury, has not played a T20 international this year, while David Warner pulls on the canary yellow on the back of a miserable IPL experience in which he scored 0 and 2 in his two innings before being dropped. Keep an eye on Glenn Maxwell, for pyrotechnics with the bat, brilliant fielding and handy off-spin.

England

Coach Chris Silverwood Captain Eoin Morgan

WT20 best Winners 2010

With 12 squad members in their 30s and only Tom Curran younger than 28, England aren’t messing about: this is their time (except possibly next year in Australia, when this competition bizarrely pops up again). The world’s No 1-ranked team are not quite at full strength due to the absences of Jofra Archer and Ben Stokes, heroes of the 2019 50-over World Cup final, but there is plenty of competition for places with Liam Livingstone and Tymal Mills hoping to make an impact. Eoin Morgan has just warmed up for the competition by leading Kolkata Knight Riders to the Indian Premier League final, even if he didn’t ignite the competition with the bat. The lack of spin options to back up Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali could be a problem.

South Africa

Coach Mark Boucher Captain Temba Bavuma

WT20 best Semi-final 2009 and 2014

South Africa sit in mid-table in the ICC T20 rankings, and haven’t helped their cause by leaving out Faf du Plessis – who proceeded to demonstrate his continued excellence at the IPL. Depending on your viewpoint they either come into the tournament in good form (nine wins in 10) or completely undercooked, with six of those games against Ireland and Sri Lanka. Their bowling lacks international T20 experience, but an on-song Kagiso Rabada should never be underestimated; and Quinton du Kock remains one of the world’s most destructive batsmen. South African cricket has recently been rocked by racism allegations from Paul Adams, Ashwell Prince and others. Social Justice and Nation Building hearings were set up by Cricket South Africa, which led to the coach, Mark Boucher, admitting to historically singing racist songs with his teammates. He kept his job.

West Indies

Coach Phil Simmons Captain Kieron Pollard

WT20 best Winners 2012 and 2016

Only a fool would bet against the ninth-ranked West Indies winning their third T20 World Cup – they are already the only team to have won more than one. England’s memories of the 2016 contest are forever tainted by Carlos Brathwaite hitting Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes in the final over to clinch the title – and it feels as if they can always pull this sort of crazy stunt out of the bag when it matters. Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell plunder attacks for fun, while also contributing with the ball, while Nicholas Pooran has another chance to shine on the world stage with his more elegant rapier. It was for good reason that Rashid Khan said that the Afghan people’s favourite white-ball team was West Indies.

Group Two

Afghanistan

Coach Lance Klusener Captain Mohammad Nabi

WT20 best Super 10s 2016

It goes without saying that Afghanistan’s preparations for the tournament have been difficult, but to add to the general sense of chaos and confusion they appointed Rashid Khan as T20 captain in July and he resigned in September, minutes after the announcement of a World Cup squad he had not been consulted on. The old-timer Mohammad Nabi has replaced him, with Andy Flower, who coached England to victory in 2010, brought in as consultant. Their world-class spin attack – leggies Rashid Khan and Qais Ahmad plus the mystery spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman – may have to do a lot of work to make up for deficiencies in other areas.

India

Coach Ravi Shastri Captain Virat Kohli

WT20 best Winners 2007

This will be Virat Kohli’s final tournament as India’s T20 captain before he steps down to prioritise Test and one-day international cricket, and if opponents were to fear just one thing it would be Kohli’s will to win – just ask England about their experience at the Lord’s Test earlier this year. There is, of course, plenty more for opposition teams to fear in the No 2 ranked team: including the power of Rohit Sharma, the youthful fizz of the irrepressible Rishabh Pant, the incision of Jasprit Bumrah and Kohli himself, although he is without an international century for nearly two years. Ravichandra Jadeja heads up the spin attack, bolstered by the young guns Rahul Chahar and Varun Chakravarthy.

Virat Kohli is looking to bow out as India’s Twenty20 captain on a high
Virat Kohli is looking to bow out as India’s Twenty20 captain on a high. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

New Zealand

Coach Gary Stead Captain Kane Williamson

WT20 best Semi-final 2006 and 2016

Underestimate them at your peril. Glenn Phillips is the top six-hitter in Twenty20 cricket this year – the result, he says, of an intensive fitness programme that includes at least 500 press-ups a day. Trent Boult and Tim Southee, backed up by Kyle Jamieson and Lockie Ferguson, make a fizzing seam attack, add in decent spinners, the experience of Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson’s cat-like calm and ability to squeeze runs out of a stone, and you’ve got yourself a party. The opening fixture against Pakistan will carry a bit of extra spice following the cancellation of the Black Caps’ pre-tournament tour.

Pakistan

Coach Saqlain Mushtaq (unconfirmed) Captain Babar Azam

WT20 best Winners 2009

Before leaving home the squad had a meeting with Imran Khan, who advised them to “become a strong team and work on taking wickets”. Pakistan know what a strong team looks like – between the start of November 2017 and the end of May 2020 they were ranked No 1 in the world for all but 28 days – but the crown has slipped to such an extent that they recently lost a series to England’s second XI. Misbah-ul-Haq has since stepped down as head coach – Matthew Hayden and Vernon Philander, unexpectedly, will be assisting Saqlain Mushtaq in the UAE – and there are hopes of a momentum shift. Expect Shaheen Shah Afridi to be one of the tournament’s stars.

The qualifiers

Eight teams are battling it out this week for the four remaining spots in the Super 12. These include Test nations – Bangladesh and Sri Lanka (the 2014 champions) – and Papua New Guinea and Namibia, who are playing in their first T20 World Cup. Scotland and Ireland both have a pretty good chance of qualifying from their respective groups: Ireland face Group A’s Namibia, the Netherlands (who they defeated in their opener on Monday) and Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah; while Scotland join Bangladesh (who they beat on Sunday), Oman and Papua New Guinea in Group B, whose matches are being played in Muscat.

• This is an extract from the Guardian’s weekly cricket email, The Spin. To subscribe and get the full edition, just visit this page and follow the instructions.

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