Photo Credit: ICC
Group A is sure to make intriguing viewing in the first round of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 as Namibia, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, and United Arab Emirates (UAE) battle it out for the right to qualify for the Super 12.
The teams will play each other once in a round-robin format from October 16-20, with the top two advancing into the next stage.
By virtue of their world ranking, Sri Lanka are favourites to progress but face a tricky first test in the form of Namibia, who progressed to the Super 12 stage in their first ever ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 12 months ago.
UAE’s return to the competition comes against Netherlands, who are desperate to make up for a disappointing campaign last time out.
All six fixtures will take place at Kardinia Park in Geelong, with the winners joining reigning champions and hosts Australia, as well as Afghanistan, England, New Zealand and the Group B runners-up in Group 1 of the Super 12 stage.
The team who finishes second will enter Group 2 and face Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, South Africa and the Group A runners-up.
Namibia (second appearance)
Namibia are fast establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
They were firm underdogs in their Round 1 group at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 but comfortable victories over Netherlands and Ireland ensured their progression to the latter stages.
Since then, they have claimed their first-ever series win over a Full-Member nation, beating Zimbabwe (3-2) in a five-match T20I series in May. Captain Gerhard Erasmus was the star of the show in the win that secured qualification over Ireland, notching an unbeaten half-century before David Wiese hit the winning runs.
Wicketkeeper-batter Lohan Louwrens is one new addition to keep an eye on this time around. He has captained his country at the under-19s level previously and has already made a mark for the Eagles at the senior level, scoring 111 runs in a seven-wicket win against Hong Kong in June.
Another new face already has a World Cup qualifying hat-trick to his name – Tangeni Lungameni was the scourge of the Mozambique top order during a qualifier for the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and now gets his chance at the marquee tournament.
Though Sri Lanka will be a daunting first test, Namibia will hope that they get the better of the Netherlands in their second fixture, as they did last year, which could well set up a second consecutive Super 12 appearance.
Sri Lanka (eighth appearance)
Ever-presents at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, Sri Lanka are going to have to do it the hard way if they want to become champions for the second time.
The Lions reached the final on three occasions between 2009 and 2014 and struck gold at the third time of asking thanks to a typically assured innings from Kumar Sangakkara. But two consecutive eighth-place finishes – their lowest in the history of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup – means expectations have been tempered ahead of their next campaign.
The Asia Cup win in September suggests the side have turned a corner, however. Wanindu Hasaranga impressed with the ball there as only India’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar took more wickets than the wily leg-spinner, who will want to retain his place in the ICC Men’s T20I Team of the Year.
Topping the group is the expectation for Sri Lanka, who will then be targeting a deep run in the knockout stages, which they hope will culminate in a second piece of silverware in as many months.
Netherlands (fifth appearance)
One of the final two teams to book a spot at the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, the Netherlands are out to right a few wrongs in Australia. Slow starts in each of the previous two tournaments have cost them a place in the Super 12 stage.
A defeat to Bangladesh and a washout against Oman saw them eliminated before their final first round fixture at the 2016 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. Then, in 2021, they were soundly beaten in each of their three fixtures and were skittled out for less than 110 on two occasions.
That means a fast start is a must this year for the lowest-ranked side in the group and they will want to be in a strong position prior to their clash with Sri Lanka on October 20.
One of those who struggled to get going in the UAE was Bas de Leede, who failed to make double figures in either of his group stage innings.
The summer was a much brighter time for the 22-year-old, though, who struck two T20I half-centuries against New Zealand and 89 against Pakistan in an ODI.
If he and opener Max O’Dowd can find their best form, the Netherlands could well spring a surprise.
United Arab Emirates (second appearance)
After an eight-year hiatus, the UAE are back on the T20I world stage and looking to make history.
Their only previous ICC Men’s T20 World Cup appearance, in 2014, yielded three defeats, and so a win this time around would be their first in this event and only their second ever in a global ICC tournament, with their sole success to date coming against the Netherlands in the 1996 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
The Netherlands will be keen to avoid a repeat of that outcome when the pair meet in their opening fixture on October 16th, though the UAE do have the recent form on their side, having won four of their five previous meetings.
Bar a change in captain, preparations for the tournament have been smooth, and they gave two-time world champions West Indies a stern test in their penultimate warm-up fixture, with spinner Junaid Siddique impressing with figures of five for 13.
They ultimately came up 17 runs short chasing 152 despite the best efforts of Muhammad Waseem (69 from 52) and Zawar Farid (29 from 14).
It was a promising and morale-boosting team performance and one that suggests they have what it takes to ruffle a few feathers in Group 1.