Old rivalries renewed at T20 World Cup in the USA and Caribbean Loop Jamaica

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Cricket’s oldest international rivalry will get the Twenty20 World Cup started when the co-host U.S. team takes on Canada in Dallas on Saturday.

Well before the two fiercest rivalries in the sport were established — Australia vs. England and India vs. Pakistan — teams from the U.S. and Canada met in the first international cricket match in 1844.

While the popularity of cricket faded in North America, it certainly flourished elsewhere.

And now there’s no clear favourite at the biggest-ever T20 World Cup, with 20 countries split into four groups to compete for the title in international cricket’s fastest format.

Two-time champion West Indies will host the bulk of the games at traditional cricket venues in the Caribbean, including the semifinals and the June 29 final, but the pitches in Dallas, New York and Lauderhill will play a role in determining which teams reach the knockout stage.

Here’s a breakdown of the groups:

GROUP A

The U.S. team is confident going into the tournament opener after its upset 2-1 series win over test-ranked Bangladesh in a warmup series.

“We’re hungry, and are going to eat whoever comes in our way,” said fast bowler Ali Khan, who was among the four key U.S. players rested for the third game which Bangladesh won by 10 wickets. “I am sure the U.S. will (cause) some upsets.”

India and Pakistan are favourites to make it to the Super 8 stage from Group A, which also includes Ireland.

Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s Virat Kohli bats during the Indian Premier League eliminator cricket match against Rajasthan Royals in Ahmedabad, India, Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki).

India have banked on experienced players such as captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, perhaps playing for the last time in a T20 World Cup, to win back the title they won at the inaugural tournament in South Africa in 2007.

There’s always an added flavour in any ICC event when Pakistan and India meet, attracting a billion-plus TV audience. This first-round contest between the subcontinental neighbours is scheduled for June 9 at the newly built 34,000-capacity stadium in New York.

Rain in England hampered Pakistan’s build-up for the World Cup after two of their four T20s were wiped out, but the 2009 champion hopes they will go all the way to win the title after reaching the semifinals or better at the last two tournaments.

Like the U.S., Ireland sprung an upset over a major team when they won the opening game of the three-match series against a Babar Azam -led full strength Pakistan lineup in Dublin before losing the remaining two games of the warmup series.

England celebrate with their trophy after defeating Pakistan in the final of the T20 World Cup cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022.

GROUP B

Defending champion England and 2021 winner Australia have a relatively comfortable group that includes Namibia, Oman and Scotland.

England will enter the World Cup with only handful of games in the format since winning the title in Australia in 2022, but their players have competed in prominent domestic T20 leagues to stay tuned up for the mega event.

Captain Jos Buttler has been in scintillating form in the Indian Premier League with two centuries, while Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Phil Salt and Sam Curran also had long outings in the lucrative franchise tournament.

Australia have left out their rising T20 star Jake Fraser-McGurk, but has one of the most potent bowling attacks in the world led by the likes of pacemen Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.

Namibia made it to the World Cup after staying undefeated in the six matches during the Africa regional qualifier, where they beat Uganda and Zimbabwe. An upset win over Sri Lanka in 2022 has been the highlight so far for the Namibians.

Oman carry a mix of tournament experience in their ranks heading into a third appearance in the T20 World Cup. Oman have twice beaten Namibia and will be led by Aqib Ilyas, who as a top-order batter has an average of 42.50 and a strike rate of 158.38 in the last seven games.

Australian cricketers celebrate after winning the Cricket Twenty20 World Cup final match in Dubai, UAE, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi, File).

GROUP C

It could be the toughest of the groups with one of either West Indies, New Zealand or Afghanistan set to make an early exit from the tournament because only the top two can advance to the Super 8.

Afghanistan have batting and bowling flare to challenge both West Indies and New Zealand, especially their spinners Rashid Khan and Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman.

West Indies, led by Rovman Powell, will have home advantage in their bid for a third title with the likes of former captain Nicholas Pooran and pace bowler Shamar Joseph among their ranks.

Kane Williamson’s New Zealand squad has made reaching the semifinals of major ICC tournaments a habit. The Black Caps have a team combination that suits the demands of fast-pace T20, with Rachin Ravindra growing into the role of opening the batting and dominating the power play.

Uganda could spring a surprise as they go into their first World Cup with a record record of 41 wins in their last 49 T20 internationals. Papua New Guinea are also on a roll of 14 wins in 18 games ahead of their second World Cup appearance.

GROUP D

South Africa will be hoping to shrug off their ‘chokers’ tag in ICC tournaments and are one of the favourites to advance from a group that contains two other test nations in Sri Lanka with Bangladesh. Netherlands and Nepal are also in the group.

South Africa have no dearth of power-hitters in their ranks, with Heinrich Klaasen’s dominance against spin bowling likely to come in handy. Quinton de Kock, Aiden Markram, David Miller and Reeza Hendricks have the ability to give the innings momentum against any sort of bowling attack. Keshav Maharaj and wrist spinner Tabrazi Shamsi are their two standout spinners while Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje will lead the pace attack.

Sri Lanka’s compact spin attack features captain Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana, two of the best spinners on the T20 circuit. The batting depth isn’t as strong but still contains Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka and former captains Dasun Shanaka and Angelo Mathews.

Bangladesh’s chances of advancing will depend heavily on star allrounder Shakib Al Hasan, and a return to form of Liton Das.