Game between India and Pakistan expected to attract most interest
Ten of the 12 teams participating at ICC World Twenty20 2012 hit five different grounds across Colombo on Monday (September 17) to put finishing touches to their preparations ahead of the big tournament. Away from the action will be Sri Lanka, the hosts, and Zimbabwe, who play the tournament opener on Tuesday (September 18) in Hambantota. One more warm-up tie, featuring England and Pakistan, will take place on Wednesday (September 19).
Matches slotted for Monday are Australia vs England at the Nondescripts Cricket Club ground, Bangladesh vs Ireland at the Moors Sports Club ground, New Zealand vs South Africa at the Colts Cricket Club ground, Afghanistan vs West Indies at the P Sara Oval, and the big one, featuring India and Pakistan, at the R Premadasa Stadium.
England reached Sri Lanka only on Friday (September 14) after playing the last of its Twenty20 Internationals against South Africa on Wednesday (September 12). Though England will need to get used to the conditions in Sri Lanka, the result in the last match – a victory by 28 runs in an 11-overs-a-side contest – would make the players confident. Australia, on the other hand, has played one warm-up game in Sri Lanka already, beating New Zealand by a big 56-run margin. David Warner, Shane Watson, Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell all got runs, though none of them went on to get a biggie, while Watson, Clint McKay, Pat Cummins and Brad Hogg were among the wickets, bowling New Zealand out for a paltry 83.
When Bangladesh takes on Ireland, it will pit two teams that are expected to make a splash in the tournament. Both Bangladesh and Ireland have, in the past, upset the plans of bigger teams, and can be counted on to do the same again. Interestingly, both the teams, in their only warm-up fixtures so far, played Zimbabwe. Ireland won the match by 54 runs while Bangladesh won its game by five wickets. Not much to choose between the two teams then, except that Bangladesh, with its big mix of spinners and better knowledge of the conditions in Sri Lanka, could start the game as favourites.
New Zealand has had a poor international season, but beat India by one run in a T20I just before arriving in Sri Lanka. The warm-up tie against Australia, of course, went badly for New Zealand. And against South Africa, one of the most complete teams in the game, New Zealand will have to lift its game by quite a few notches if it wants to make a mark. South Africa, like England, also reached Sri Lanka on Friday, and the game against New Zealand is its first, and only warm-up game. That could help New Zealand, and from South Africa’s point of view, all combinations and plans need to be tested in this one T20 game.
Afghanistan gave out very positive signals when it played its first warm-up game against Sri Lanka A. The Sri Lankan team had a number of players with international experience, and beating them by 51 runs, as Afghanistan did, was a laudable performance. However, against West Indies, one of the favourites for the tournament, Afghanistan will have its task cut out. West Indies left out Chris Gayle and lost its opening warm-up fixture to Sri Lanka, but with a plethora of gamechangers in its line-up, West Indies can be counted upon to put up a good show.
While the India-Pakistan game, albeit a warm-up tie, is bound to be exciting. Pakistan has a brilliant record at the ICC World T20 over the years, and is another of the pre-tournament favourites. Match-winners all around, superb impact players, and a strong combination of spinners make Pakistan a very strong unit. India, on the other hand, is a team in a period of transition. But with Yuvraj Singh making his well-documented return to the team following treatment for cancer, a number of big players in the line-up, and a triumphant campaign in Sri Lanka in July-August 2012, India is a strong looking side. Also, in the first warm-up game it played, against Sri Lanka, India won fairly comfortably, though the batting wobbled quite a bit before a rescue act by MS Dhoni, the team captain.