T20 World Cup 2021 Group A Preview: Sri Lanka top team in Group A but do not discount the others
Article © ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2020
Only the top two teams will progress from the group after all four have played against each other once in the round-robin format, kicking off with the first games on October 18.
Namibia will make history after qualifying for the tournament for the first time, having qualified through the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier with victory over Oman.
Ireland and Netherlands also secured their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup berths through the same route while 2014 champions Sri Lanka qualified through their world ranking.
The top seeds from Group A will enter Group 1 of the Super 12 stage along with Australia, England, South Africa, West Indies and the second seed from Group B.
Meanwhile, the second team from Group A go into Group 2 with Afghanistan, India, New Zealand, Pakistan and the top seeds from Group B after the first round of fixtures.
Sri Lanka (seventh appearance)
Favourites on paper to progress as top seeds from Group A, Sri Lanka have been inextricably intertwined with the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup ever since the first one in 2007.
They have contested every single tournament since then, finishing runners-up in 2009 and 2012 before finally lifting the trophy with victory over India in the 2014 final.
Outside the top eight of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s T20I Team Rankings at the cut-off date and currently ranked 10th, their form going into the 2021 edition has been up and down to say the least.
A landmark 2-1 series win over India in July this year was also bookended by 3-0 series whitewashes to England in their own back yard and the Proteas in South Africa.
But no team has won more T20 World Cup games than Sri Lanka and their experience – along with a talented squad – makes them prime candidates to reach the Super 12 stage.
Captained by Dasun Shanaka, Avishka Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dushmantha Chameera and Maheesh Theekshana are all potential match-winners for Sri Lanka on their day.
They will open their campaign against debutants Namibia on 18 October in Abu Dhabi before a potentially decisive meeting two days later with Ireland, ranked two places lower in 12th.
Sri Lanka conclude their Group A fixtures on 22 October with a clash in Sharjah against the Netherlands, who they defeated by nine wickets en route to claiming the 2014 title.
Courtesy of ICC
Ireland (sixth appearance)
Since missing out on the inaugural tournament in 2007, Ireland have been a regular feature of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and will contest their sixth in the UAE and Oman.
Their best ever performance to date came on their debut at the 2009 edition hosted by England, progressing from the first round to reach the Super 8s after beating Bangladesh.
Ireland have failed to progress beyond the first round in their last four appearances, missing out on net-run rate in 2014 following group stage wins over Zimbabwe and the UAE.
But as shown by their victory against Bangladesh in 2009, they have made a penchant of beating teams higher in the standings than them at major tournaments over the years.
Pakistan, England, West Indies and Zimbabwe have all fallen to Ireland in the 50-over Cricket World Cup and they will definitely fancy their chances of progressing from Group A.
They booked their place at this year’s tournament by topping their group in the 2019 qualifier on net run rate despite dropping matches to Canada and the UAE in the process.
A series victory over Zimbabwe earlier this year will certainly have encouraged captain Andrew Balbirnie ahead of his side’s opening fixture against the Netherlands on October 18.
And with the likes of Paul Stirling, Kevin O’Brien and rising star Josh Little among their ranks, the world No.12-ranked team possess the experience and talent to cause more upsets.
Netherlands (fourth appearance)
The Dutch showed their pedigree in the shortest format by winning the 2019 ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier, beating Papua New Guinea by seven wickets in the final in Dubai.
Netherlands had already secured their qualification by reaching the semi-final stage, where they defeated Ireland by 21 runs to lay down a marker to their Group A rivals.
In fact, Netherlands have won seven of their 12 T20Is against Ireland and came out on top in their recent ODI series, meaning they will also be targeting a place in the Super 12 stage.
Their squad is packed with experience, with Ryan ten Doeschate and Roelof van der Merwe two of the names who will be expected to play a prominent role during the middle overs.
Stephan Myburgh is another player who will be able to provide plenty of know-how, with the 37-year-old scoring 280 runs at an average of 31.11 in his previous T20 World Cups.
Another dangerous weapon comes in the form of tall fast bowler Paul van Meekeren, who can touch 140kph and possesses a slower ball that could cause plenty of problems.
This is the fourth time that the Dutch have qualified for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, making their debut in 2009 when they stunned England at Lord’s in a last-ball thriller.
But their best performance in the tournament came five years later, topping Group B to reach the Super 10 stage where they notched another famous win over England.
Namibia (debut appearance)
The lowest ranked team in the tournament at 19th, Namibia are making their ICC Men’s T20 World Cup debut this year and will be viewed as underdogs to progress from Group A.
Yet their road to the showpiece event showed that they do not give up without a fight, clinching their maiden appearance with five straight wins after defeats to Netherlands and PNG.
Namibia’s 54-run win over Oman in their semi-final play-off at the 2019 T20 World Cup Qualifier sealed their place and capped an impressive year for Pierre de Bruyn’s emerging side.
They also earned ODI status by winning the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 before securing their berth at this year’s T20 tournament with a string of impressive performances.
While this will be Namibia’s first taste of the T20 World Cup and their first match at an ICC World Cup in either limited overs format since 2003, their squad is not without experience.
Former South African international David Wiese has been included for his second T20 World Cup after the all-rounder qualified for the team through his Namibian-born father.
Meanwhile, potent bowler JJ Smit is another of the team’s stars along with their skipper Gerhard Erasmus, who is capable of anchoring an innings or accelerating when needed.
Namibia’s historic first match will be up against 2014 champions Sri Lanka, a tough examination that will be followed by meetings with Netherlands and Ireland in their bid for a Super 12 spot.