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USA's Ali Khan and teammates celebrate the dismissal of Rishabh Pant during their Group A match against India. The co-hosts were one of the biggest surprises in this World Cup Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: The first stage of the Twenty20 World Cup is about to conclude with an inconsequential fixture between the West Indies and Afghanistan on Monday (Tuesday morning UAE), with both teams already securing their spots in the Super Eight.

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The first round, featuring a significant number of Associate Teams, was anything but predictable. There was pessimism that the gulf in standards between the elite and the underdogs would result in one-sided games, but that was not the case. The bowler-friendly pitches and larger outfields narrowed the gap, making the first round compelling to watch.

Major upsets

Several surprises and close matches added to the excitement. The biggest upsets were the eliminations of Pakistan and New Zealand in the first round. Pakistan, runners-up in the 2022 edition in Australia, were shocked by co-hosts USA in a Super Over. Any chance of a fightback, for which Pakistan is famously known, was thwarted by rain when the USA secured a crucial point against Ireland. Pakistan’s absence in the Super Eight is a significant loss for fans, who will miss another contest between the Asian giants.

New Zealand, traditionally strong contenders, saw a steep decline in their performance. Their jerseys changed from black to aquamarine, and their game standards also dropped significantly. Inconsistent play and elementary errors allowed Afghanistan and the West Indies to advance at their expense.

Lucky escapes and final spots

South Africa had a couple of lucky escapes against Bangladesh and Nepal, topping Group D with eight points. Bangladesh won their last match against Nepal to secure the final spot in the Super Eight. The stage is set for the next round, beginning on Wednesday with a match between the USA and South Africa.

Nepal and the Netherlands can hold their heads high, having run their illustrious rivals close. The Dutch narrowly missed a hat-trick against South Africa, losing by four wickets with just seven balls to spare.

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Afghanistan players celebrate their win over PNG. The Asian minnows extended their impressive run in the World Cup, booking a place in the Super Eight. Image Credit: AFP

Transition to West Indies

The teams will now be relieved as all matches shift to the West Indies, where pitches are more traditional, unlike the USA’s drop-in pitches that troubled batters and favoured bowlers. Antigua, Barbados, St Lucia, and St Vincent will host the 12 games in this round.

India, Afghanistan, Australia and Bangladesh are in Group 1, while England, South Africa, USA, and West Indies are in Group 2. Each team plays three matches within their groups, with the top two advancing to the semi-finals.

ICC seedings and fan convenience

The International Cricket Council (ICC) assigned seedings before the tournament to facilitate fans’ travel plans. Since the USA, Bangladesh and Afghanistan replaced Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand in their respective groups, these teams retain the same seedings regardless of their group stage positions. For instance, if the West Indies top Group C, they will still take the C2 spot in the seedings.

Team overviews for the Super Eight

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Indian team is a happy bunch and that attitude has been reflecting on the field. Virat Kohli, who is not among the runs, is set to fire in the Super Eight stage. Image Credit: ANI

India: The Men in Blue are gradually hitting their stride but have not yet been at their best. Close wins are helping the team understand the situation better and iron out shortcomings. The team’s main concern is the lack of runs from ace batter Virat Kohli, who has yet to make a significant impact after moving to the opening slot. However, India’s batting and bowling depth gives them a strong chance to avenge their 50-over World Cup final loss to Australia when they meet on June 24 at Gros Islet.

Australia: As the current 50-over and Test champions, Australia aim to add the Twenty20 World Cup title to their collection. They maintained a perfect record in the Group games, with their biggest win against defending champions England. While they are strong contenders for the semi-finals, they need to be cautious of Afghanistan, who play spin well. Key players Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis lead the batting, and Adam Zampa has been their best bowler so far.

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Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis (right) has been the go-to man for skipper Mitchell Marsh (left). Image Credit: Reuters

Bangladesh: The Tigers must be heaving a sigh of relief after reaching the Super Eight. They have a mix of young talent and experience, but their close loss to South Africa by four runs must still sting. Captain Najmul Hossain Shanto’s team must avoid such pitfalls, especially against top-ranked teams and the batters need to put up a better performance. The return of Shakib Al Hassan and Mustafizur Rahman is a significant boost.

Afghanistan: The youngest Test-playing nation has improved significantly under coach Jonathan Trott. After defeating three former champions in the 2023 50-over World Cup, they narrowly lost to Australia despite having them on the ropes. Afghanistan have a potent bowling attack, but their batting relies heavily on Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran.

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Harry Brook lived up to his expectations with a timely knock against Namibia in the final group game for the defending champions. Image Credit: Reuters

England: The defending champions narrowly made it to the Super Eight despite the external factors working against them. After a washout against Scotland and a loss to Australia, England bounced back with strong wins over Namibia and Oman. They are now back in form and among the favorites for the semi-finals alongside India and Australia.

South Africa: Despite inconsistent batting and bowling, the Proteas won all four of their matches. They cannot afford such inconsistency against stronger Super Eight opponents. The form of their batters is a concern, with David Miller being the only one to score a half-century so far.

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South Africa pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat against Bangladesh. However, they need to up the ante in the Super Eight stage, Image Credit: AFP

West Indies: The Caribbean team is well-suited to T20 cricket and is hungry for success after disappointing performances in recent World Cups. With multiple match-winners in their batting lineup and a strong bowling attack, they are formidable at home and are expected to reach the semi-finals.

USA: The co-hosts surprised many with their performances in the first stage. They defeated Pakistan and gave India a tough fight. However, playing in the West Indies will be a different challenge. The wickets there will not offer the same assistance to bowlers as the drop-in pitches in the USA did. Despite this, the experience will benefit USA cricket, and a win in this stage would be a significant achievement.

Fixtures (all times UAE)

June 19: USA v South Africa, North Sound, Antigua, 6.30pm

June 20: England v West Indies, Gros Islet, St Lucia, 4.30am

June 20: Afghanistan v India, Bridgetown, Barbados, 6.30pm

June 21: Australia v Bangladesh, North Sound, Antigua, 4.30am

June 21: England v South Africa, Gros Islet, St Lucia, 6.30pm

June 22: USA v West Indies, Bridgetown, Barbados, 4.30pm

June 22: India v Bangladesh, North Sound, Antigua, 6.30pm

June 23: Afghanistan v Australia, Arnos Vale, St Vincent, 4.30am

June 23: USA v England, Bridgetown, Barbados, 6.30pm

June 24: West Indies v South Africa, North Sound, Antigua, 4.30am

June 24: Australia v India, Gros Islet, St Lucia, 6.30pm

June 25: Afghanistan v Bangladesh, Arnos Vale, St Vincent, 4.30am


June 27: 4.30am

June 27: 6.30pm


June 29: 6.30pm