Heavyweights Australia begin their T20 World Cup 2012 campaign against giant killers Ireland at R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo on 19th September. The T20 World Cup title has been the most elusive one for the Aussies and this George Bailey-led side will be aware of that. As for the Irish, it’s yet another major tournament where they come to prove their worth and reinstate the fact that they deserve to be a part of many such tournaments in the future.
Australia’s form has been a bit of a concern in the shortest format of the game. They beat New Zealand in their first warm-up game but fell short by 10 runs in their game against England. They come into the tournament after a couple of disappointing performances. Losing the three-match T20I series against Pakistan at Sharjah, they have been a shadow of themselves when compared to their showing in ODIs and Tests. This World Cup will be a good platform for them to regain their form and silence the detractors.
Meanwhile, William Porterfield’s Ireland are enjoying their stay in the Sub-Continent. The team had a great run in the Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers where they won 6 out of their 7 games in the group stages. The team kept their winning streak and went on to win the finals against Afghanistan. Their recent showing in the ICC World Cup 2011 was also exceptional as they upset England in a big run chase. They have also registered two wins out of two in their warm-up games, defeating both Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
If ICC rankings are anything to go by, they have a lot to cheer for before this game as they spent a day or two above Australia in the rankings when the Aussies lost two consecutive matches to Pakistan. Currently, they are only one place below Australia and this could be motivation enough for them to come out all guns blazing against the Aussies.
Players to watch…
Brad Hogg: A successful stint in the domestic circuit has brought Brad Hogg back into the scheme of things. The 41-year old had a good stint in the fifth edition of the IPL earlier this year. Given that the Sri Lankan conditions are going to be similar and maybe even a touch slower, this man will be crucial against a team like Ireland who aren’t well equipped against spin bowling.
Glenn Maxwell: Glenn Maxwell has made it to the side in place of Australia’s most successful T20 player, David Hussey. Coach Mickey Arthur has instilled his confidence in the Victorian to perform well with both bat and ball and fit in perfectly in the spot vacated by Hussey. Maxwell will be in charge of finishing games and chipping in with crucial wickets in the middle overs.
David Warner: David Warner is being looked at as one of the players who will top score in this tournament. His devastating nature of play from the beginning could destroy a relatively weaker side like Ireland.
Trent Johnston: The most experienced campaigner in the Irish side, Trent Johnston will be key for Ireland, if they are to trouble the Aussies. The memories of the man running over the Pakistani batting order in the 2007 World Cup or defending six runs in the super over against Netherlands in warm-up game in the 2009 T20 World Cup are still fresh in a lot of people’s mind. In crunch situations, the onus of performance will be on the experienced shoulders of Trent Johnston.
Paul Stirling: The 22-year old opener has been in immaculate form. He top scored in the T20 World Cup qualifiers with 188 runs in 5 games at an average of more than 60. He scored a stunning 71 off 41 deliveries, an innings that included 5 fours and 5 sixes in the warm-up match against Bangladesh on 17th September. He will constantly remind himself of the century he scored against Netherlands in Kolkata in last year’s World Cup and look to utilize the batsmen friendly conditions in Sri Lanka to the hilt. Opening with his captain William Porterfield will give him a lot of confidence to go out and play his natural game.
Kevin O’Brien: Who would not want to watch out for this big hitting monster from Ireland? Kevin O’Brien seems tailor-made for upsets. In a big run chase in the World Cup against England last year, he came out to bat and played like he had nothing to lose. He toyed around with England’s bowling line-up and caused one of the biggest upsets in the history of World Cup. Captain Porterfield will also look at him as an extra bowling option too, as he picked up 3 wickets in the warm-up match against Bangladesh. In a game against the likes of Australia and West Indies, this man could make a big difference.
Prediction: Although most would back Australia to record an easy win, it would be foolish to rule out a side that is known for its ability to cause upsets. On current form, Ireland have what it takes to begin their World Cup campaign with a massive upset. Australia have not been the best in any of the T20 World Cups but they will mean business even before the first delivery is bowled. Expect Ireland to come hard at them but eventually, Australia might just hold up together in a better fashion and capitalize on the loose ends in the Irish game and earn their first points.
Date: 19th September, 2012
Venue: R. Premadasa Stadium, Colombo
Starting Time: 10:00 (GMT), 3:30 PM (IST)