Friday, June 5, 2009

Ready, Steady & Go

Hosts England are ready to get the second ICC World Twenty20 under way at Lord's on Friday.

Paul Collingwood's men open up against the Netherlands in the first of their two Group B matches, with Pakistan set to face England at The Oval on Sunday.

Holders and favourites India open their Group A campaign against Bangladesh while Australia play the West Indies on Saturday in Group C.

The final will be staged at Lord's on Sunday 21 June.

There are four groups of three, with the top two from each group going through to the Super Eights which will be made up of two groups of four.

The top two from each of those groups go into the semi-finals to be played at Trent Bridge and The Oval. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni led the tournament favourites to an impressive nine-wicket win over fellow 2007 finalists Pakistan in Wednesday's warm-up, but said the formbook should be thrown out of the window when it comes to the shortest format of the professional game.

"I don't think the win against Pakistan underlines our status as favourites," said Dhoni, who played in the final two years ago.

GROUP A: India, Bangladesh, Ireland
GROUP B: Pakistan, England, Netherlands
GROUP C: Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies
GROUP D: New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland

"It's not about being favourites, you have to perform like this throughout the tournament to win.

"You can be thrown out of the tournament easily, especially at the knockout stage.

"We are the side that has done well, but that's all on paper after all that you have to go and do it but we have potential and we will be a tough team to beat."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith is more bullish about his side's chances. The second favourites open their campaign against Group D opponents Scotland at The Oval on Monday, followed by New Zealand at Lord's on 9 June.

"We have an exciting squad with pace, swing and spin in the bowling department and plenty of depth to our batting," Smith said.

"In terms of talent, flair and confidence, this is the strongest Proteas team that I have captained."

He added: "We are very well balanced both in terms of youth and experience and in terms of having all our bases covered regardless of whether the conditions favour swing or spin.

"Most international cricketers have not played a lot of international Twenty20 cricket to date and the 14 matches in the recent Indian Premier League has given them the chance to formulate new ideas and plans for this format of the game."

Australia's challenge was dealt a huge blow on Friday when it was announced that all-rounder and big-hitter Andrew Symonds would be returning home because of an "alcohol-related incident".However, captain Ricky Ponting believes his side have enough strength in depth to cope with the loss."He will be difficult to replace but we have got what we've got now," said the Australian."It is no good worrying about that any more, he's ruled out of this squad and we have to find someone who can have the same kind of impact on a game as what Andrew Symonds can.

With all respect to the Dutch, Pakistan will provide England's toughest test in the group stages.Pakistan suffered heavy defeats to South Africa and India in their two warm-up matches, but the team's coach Intikhab Alam says the results should not serve as a guide to how his team will perform in the tournament."I'm not really concerned," he said. "It's early days and the first match we will come good at the right time."We have lost two games but we will perform when the real time comes."Friday's opening ceremony at Lord's is set to be a low-key affair.

It begins at 1630 BST with the 12 captains of the men's teams and the eight skippers from the women's competition introduced to the crowd during the half-hour ceremony. Pop star Alesha Dixon will also perform at the event.

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