Sri Lanka may have had a tumultuous time in cricket of late due to on-pitch and off-pitch factors, but that doesn’t take them out of contention. In fact, there are reasons to believe that this team can very well give the big guns a run for their money in the Super 12.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, the task remains clear for Mickey Arthur’s men – finish in the top two of Group A and reach the main draw.
They are most likely to be joined by Ireland. Let’s see why.
More Cricket Time and Superior World Cup History
This is one team that I’ll surely be backing in my cricket betting tips during the World Cup group stages. Sri Lanka have played more T20I cricket this year than any other team in the group. What’s more important is their matches have been against other cricketing giants like South Africa, India, England, and West Indies. Irrespective of the results, the Lankans have had a lot of time to practice and play with the best of the best to improve their game.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands, Namibia, and Ireland had to make do with games against the lesser ranked teams – and that inexperience of competing with the greatest may just lead to their downfall.
Case in point – the Dutch side has played just five matches this year in a Tri-Nation series with Nepal and Malaysia. As for Namibia, they have so far played Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Scotland, and Papua New Guinea. Ireland may be better in this regard, having played the T20I series against Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Secondly, Sri Lanka’s pedigree in cricket cannot be undermined. In World Cup Twenty20 alone, they have reached the final thrice – going the distance in the 2014 edition. In the 50-Over World Cup, they were the champions in 1996 and two-time consecutive runner-ups in 2007 and 2011.
Granted that things have been shaky for them in the last few years but with Mickey Arthur as the head coach and Mahela Jayawardene – the current coach of Mumbai Indians responsible for leading the side to two consecutive IPL trophies – a part of their support staff, there is a strong possibility that they will top the Group A.
Lastly, Sri Lanka have also started their World Cup preparations on a solid note. At the time of writing this article, they defeated Bangladesh by 4 wickets in a warm-up match.
Luck of the Irish may Come in Handy
Now that we know the South Asian country is primed to win Group A, the question remains who will finish behind them? By the simple law of elimination, the clear favourites are Ireland.
To begin with, the Irish side is ranked 12th in the T20I Men’s Ranking – well above the likes of Scotland, the Netherlands, Namibia, and others. And as mentioned above, they have also seen their fair share of cricketing action in 2021, playing fifth-ranked South Africa and the 11th ranked Zimbabwe.
Moreover, they have also been in Dubai these last few days playing the UAE national team and will soon play in the World Cup warm-ups.
While it may be hard for Ireland to perform well in the Super 12 (unless they indeed have the luck of the Irish), they should do well to finish behind Sri Lanka at the very least.
In Group B, we have Bangladesh, Oman, Papua New Guinea, and Scotland.
For me, Bangladesh have to top this group and a result anything different than this would be unacceptable by their fans. With them, Scotland have a decent chance to finish second and reach the Super 12.
Bangladesh, Coming Off Excellent Run
The reasons for this are quite similar to why I’m backing Sri Lanka to win their group. In addition, Bangladesh have really played some fantastic cricket in 2021 and may even reach the latter stages of the World Cup. In fact, if you want to avoid the favourites and find some other team to put your money on, Bangladesh would be it.
Firstly, the Tigers are ranked 6th – above the likes of Australia, West Indies, and Sri Lanka. Their World Cup preparations included historic T20I series wins over Australia (4-1) and New Zealand (3-2) – all at home. It is worth noting that they bowled out the Kiwis for just 60 runs to hand them their lost T20I total.
Now, it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the conditions in Dhaka and UAE are exactly alike – but Bangladeshi cricketers will still prefer playing here than in England or Australia. Their bowling unit is also well-experienced and in-form with the likes of Shakib al Hasan (currently playing in the Indian Premier League), Mustafizur Rahman, and Mushfiqur Rahim part of the squad.
Scotland, Boasting Experience
Now that we know Bangladesh are more than likely to top Group B, the runner-up choice is clearly Scotland.
Not only have they played more T20I cricket matches than Oman and Papua New Guinea each in 2021, but they have also played more cricket than the other two nations combined. P.N.G and Oman started playing T20I cricket only in 2015 whereas the Scots have been at it since 2007. Even though they haven’t really impressed in their matches, the experience will amount to something when they take on the field.
Plus, Scotland trumped Papua New Guinea last week by 8 wickets in a one-off 20-20 match, reaching a target of 155 runs with 13 balls to spare. They also defeated the Netherlands in their opening warm-up game ahead of the tournament.