On the face of it, Group B comprising Australia, West Indies and Ireland looks the toughest of the four at the ICC World Twenty20 starting September 18 in Sri Lanka.
Group A has Afghanistan, India, and England so can hardly expect a setback there as India and England are favorites to reach the Super Eights stage. Group C is made up of Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Sri Lanka, with no prizes for guessing the better two teams. New Zealand, Pakistan, and Bangladesh make up Group D which can also be considered as a tight one because Bangladesh are capable of upstaging big teams in major tournaments.
But Group B pits three teams together that are all capable of making it to the second round of the World Twenty20. Ireland have a several players with plenty of Twenty20 and county cricket experience and success, and the format suits them the best. They are good at chasing, so they would like to restrict the opposition to a low score and make a successful chase. They are also a good fielding side and presence of Craig McDermott as bowling coach augurs well for the Irish. Remember, they made it past the first round in the 2009 edition of the World Twenty20.
Australia, despite their poor ranking in the shortest format, are still a pretty strong side and you cannot write them off. David Warner and Shane Watson, who recently featured in a record 111-run opening stand against Pakistan, are the trump cards ahead of a shaky middle order. Add to that a strong bowling attack and Australia have it in them to beat West Indies and Ireland.
That leaves West Indies, who have a formidable Twenty20 side with Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine the main four. Narine is one of the best spinners in the world and Gayle and Pollard with their fearless batting can change the course of any match. Throw in the likes of skipper Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels and this is a very promising side.
On the basis of the team’s strengths, predicting which two will go through to the Super Eights isn’t so straightforward.
Match one – Australia v Ireland, Sept 19, Premadasa This could be an interesting match to watch as Australia and Ireland are fighting for the No. 9 spot in Twenty20 cricket. Australia are not in the best of form in the format, and Ireland defeated Zimbabwe quite comfortably in their warm-up match. If Australia don’t show the seriousness that captain George Bailey had earlier referred to, we could be for an early upset in the first match of Group B.
Match two – West Indies v Australia, Sept 22, Premadasa Unlike Australia, West Indies enter the tournament having won their most recent Twenty20 series, a 2-0 success over New Zealand in the USA. Many, in fact, are tipping Darren Sammy’s team as favorites. Earlier in 2012, Australia and West Indies drew a Twenty20 series 1-1.
With players like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Smith, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine West Indies are a formidable team and the outcome of this match could decide which the strongest team in the group is. Australia’s best chance of winning lies in removing Gayle, Smith and Pollard cheaply.
Match three – Ireland v West Indies, Sept 24, Premadasa The last match of the group will be a crucial one to decide which of the two teams will go in the Super Eights. If the key players of West Indies didn't perform, Ireland could surprise them.