Friday, December 9, 2022

ICC: Group B – Established powers vie for Super 12 spots

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Two-time champions West Indies headline Group B of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, with Ireland, Scotland and Zimbabwe also vying for a Super 12 spot.

The teams will clash in a round-robin format from October 17-21, with the top two advancing to the next stage. The Bellerive Oval in Hobart will play host for all six First Round fixtures but only two will be able to return to the 20,000 capacity stadium in the knockout phase.

Windies find themselves in the first round by virtue of having finished ninth at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021, their lowest finish since the inaugural tournament in 2007.

Scotland are the only other side in the group who made the Super 12 stage last time out, having topped Group B 12 months ago in Oman.

Ireland, meanwhile, have not progressed to the knockout phase in any of their last five tournaments and Zimbabwe are making their first tournament appearance since 2016.  

West Indies (eighth appearance)

A new-look West Indies head to Australia hoping that a clean slate yields a change in fortune.

Gone are many of the usual protagonists – Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have retired, Andre Russell was left out and Shimron Hetmyer didn’t make the trip.

Nicholas Pooran is the man entrusted with leading the side and how he performs both with the bat, and as captain – in what is his first ICC tournament in charge – may determine how deep the Windies go at the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.

Yannic Cariah is a surprise inclusion in the squad, having not bowled in any T20 game since 2016. Whether he and left-arm option Akeal Hosein have enough to bamboozle the world’s best batters remains to be seen but there is no shortage of all-rounders who are well-placed to contribute to the wickets column.

Jason Holder is a man who needs no introduction, while the uncapped Raymon Reifer could also be one to keep an eye on as the Men in Maroon look to kickstart what they will hope will be a bright, new era.

Ireland (seventh appearance)

Not since 2009 have Ireland reached the knockout stage of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and they will hope that this is finally the year they lay their group stage hoodoo to rest.

They looked on course to end their barren run in the UAE after beating the Netherlands in their opening fixture but were overcome by Sri Lanka before losing to Namibia in a winner-takes-all encounter.

Their opening fixture, against Zimbabwe, could well determine their fate with the pair just a place apart in the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s T20I Team Rankings.

Kevin O’Brien may have called time on his career in August, but the likes of Paul Stirling and Andrew Balbirnie still offer a wealth of experience. The batting department looks well stocked with Gareth Delany and Harry Tector sure to be aggressive from the get-go, but the bowling unit has been weakened by the loss of the injured Craig Young.

Ireland have played a lot of cricket over the summer against the world’s best sides in both T20 and ODI formats and will now hope that their prolonged preparation pays off in the form of a place in the Super 12.

Scotland (fifth appearance)

Whereas Ireland have played more than 20 T20Is this year, Scotland have played just two since the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, prior to a warm-up fixture against the Netherlands.

Two T20Is against New Zealand in July ended in heavy defeats, though they have fared better in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2, with five wins in their last six in the 50-over competition.

This year’s squad has a similar feel to the one which claimed three group stage wins in 2021, including George Munsey, who looks set to impress with the bat once more – the opener strikes at 144 in T20I cricket.

He and Richie Berrington, who has not missed a T20 international since February 2010, will be key to their hopes of a second consecutive Super 12 spot.

They may be the lowest ranked side in the group but they have more than enough talent throughout the team to compete. Take spinner Mark Watt for example, who has a T20I five-for to his name and is often entrusted to bowl at the death due to his tight line and ability to bowl yorkers.

Zimbabwe (sixth appearance)

With a new head coach and an impressive recent run in T20Is, expectations are high for the Chevrons as they journey down under.

A legend of Zimbabwe cricket as a player and as a coach, Dave Houghton will lead his country at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup nearly 40 years after his international debut as a player.

His re-appointment in the summer is bound to have generated a feel-good factor around the camp, not that one was needed, with the side having won seven of their last nine T20Is.

Houghton even masterminded a shock 50-over victory over Australia in Queensland in September, with leg-spinner Ryan Burl finishing with figures of five-for-ten. But the man of the moment is undoubtedly 36-year-old all-rounder Sikandar Raza, whose strike rate currently hovers around 150 in the T20 format.

And with captain Craig Ervine back from a hamstring injury at the top of the order, Zimbabwe will fancy their chances of securing a Super 12 stage spot for the first time in their history.

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