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Banana skins and momentum builders: Key match ups from the T20 World Cup Group Stage

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Expert
16th October, 2021
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The Group Stage of the ICC T20 World Cup is just about to begin and if you thought that this meant just a few inconsequential games between the minnows of the sport then think again. There are some wonderful stories involved in these games and four of the eight sides will make their way through to the Super 12s, eager to cause an upset. These are the top four games you should be watching during this Group Stage.

Oman v Papua New Guinea
Sun 17 October 9pm (AEDT), Oman Cricket Academy Ground, Al Amerat

This should be a thrilling match. Not only does it open the tournament but both sides will know that a victory here could start them on an improbable path to qualifying for the Super 12s.

Oman might be ranked lower than PNG in the world rankings, but recent form favours the home side. They’ve at least won one of their warm up games with a comfortable victory over Namibia.

In this game you’ll get to see one of the most devastating bowlers from the Associate level when Bilal Khan takes the ball. He’s one of the rare bowlers who can get the white ball to swing consistently and he does this while delivering at over 140 kph. PNG will know that he’s a serious threat of derailing their batting efforts.

PNG have lost their warm up games going into the World Cup including a 39 run loss to previous champions Sri Lanka, an eight wicket loss to struggling Ireland, a 14 run loss to fellow debutants Namibia and an eight wicket loss to Scotland. They also lost two recent ODIs to Oman a couple of weeks ago.

The story of PNG, how they’ve developed their cricket program and their journey to the World Cup is one that can’t help but capture the heart.

This match is a great opportunity to enjoy the fielding and athleticism of the PNG Barramundi – they’ve been able to defeat many sides with their ability to build pressure with their fielding prowess and they will know that this match against Oman is their best opportunity to pick up a win in the World Cup, so expect plenty of fireworks.

Assad Vala.

Assad Vala leads PNG to the T20 World Cup. (Photo by Sportsfile/Corbis/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Bangladesh v Scotland
Mon 18 October 1:00am (AEDT), Oman Cricket Academy Ground, Al Amerat

As sixth in the world rankings, Bangladesh will not want a single slip up in the Group Stages but this could be their banana skin.

They have plenty of talent including two of the top 10 T20 bowlers in the world in Mustafizur Rahman and the national hero Shakib Al Hasan.

Despite this talent, Bangladesh lost to Ireland in a World Cup warm match and conceded 177 runs while only taking three wickets.

Scotland meanwhile have found some good form with the bat going into the tournament and have match winners dotted throughout their line up. Against Namibia in a warm up game they posted a stunning score of 7-203 and then defended it well to pick up a morale boosting win.

Bangladesh should cruise through this game but maybe, just maybe we’re in for a match that will go down as one of the great upsets.

Namibia v Ireland
Fri 22 October 9pm (AEDT), Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

With Ireland struggling to find form in recent times as they wave goodbye to heroes of the past, they could be ripe for the taking by debutants Namibia.

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Ireland will know that they really should win this match and win it easily. But they are under plenty of pressure at the moment and their international ranking as the 12th best side in the world hides a number of cracks in all aspects of their game.

Namibia fought their way to qualification by overcoming a poor start to the qualifying tournament and earning five straight victories. With captain Gerhard Erasmus playing a bit of a superhero role with bat, ball and in the field, most of the teams’ hopes rest with him.

With Erasmus’s powerful batting, you’re sure to see plenty of boundaries in this match and maybe, just maybe a first win for Namibia in a World Cup.

Sri Lanka v Netherlands
Sat 23 October, 1am (AEDT), Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah

Both sides should have their places in the Super 12s safely wrapped up by this point. If they do then this game is all about bragging rights and momentum.

Sri Lanka might feel slightly frustrated that they’ve had to go through this Group Stage – as former winners of the World Cup and two time finalists, they are a key name in the history of the tournament. Even with the Super 12s secure, they will want to destroy the Netherlands and take some fine form into the next phase.

Meanwhile the Netherlands are the masters of the big name upset.They’ve beaten England twice in the T20 World Cup in 2009 and 2014 and while they might be the underdogs again here, that’s where they thrive.

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Sri Lanka are the better side but their past couple of years has seen them worryingly inconsistent. This could be another great scalp for the Dutch and a great game to wrap up the Group Stage of the World Cup.

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