From the game’s international heavyweights, to the challengers entering the first round, the upcoming ICC Men’s T20 World Cup is sure to excite.
The 2021 edition of the Men’s T20 World Cup will be hosted by the UAE and Oman, moving away from its original destination – India. The tournament will get underway on 17 October and will conclude the following month on 14 November.
With the groups for Round 1 and the Super 12 now confirmed, we take a closer look at every team, their history in the tournament, and their big match in the group stages.
The ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 groups
Group A: Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands, Namibia
SRI LANKA – Ninth on the T20I rankings
Outside the top eight of the men’s T20I Team Rankings at the cut-off date, Sri Lanka have a tricky tournament path. They enter in Round 1 and need a top-two finish in their group to enter the Super 12 phase.
Despite going down 3-0 in their recent away series to England, Sri Lanka have shown glimpses of quality and will have a chance to tune-up with a home series against India this month.
Match to look out for: Ireland – Sri Lanka will go into the T20 World Cup as the favourites in Group A but can’t afford to take anything for granted given their recent lean form. On paper, their sternest test will be against Ireland. Only four places split Sri Lanka (eighth) and Ireland (12th) on the ICC T20I team rankings.
Tournament history: Sri Lanka are one of four teams to have won the men’s T20 World Cup, taking out the tournament in 2014. They beat India in the Final that year thanks to a half-century from Kumar Sangakkara and expert spells from Lasith Malinga, Rangana Herath and Angelo Mathews.
The victory in 2014 was particularly sweet, having finished runners up in 2009 and 2014, as well as the 2007 and 2011 Cricket World Cups.
IRELAND – 12th
A mix of golden age mainstays and young talent, Ireland qualified for this year’s tournament by topping their group in the qualifier on net run rate, even after dropping matches to Canada and UAE.
Last playing a T20I back in March 2020 – a three-match series they lost 2-1 – Andy Balbirnie’s men will host South Africa and Zimbabwe for three T20Is each in the lead-in to the tournament.
Match to look out for: Sri Lanka – Ireland have made a penchant of beating teams higher on the standings than them at major tournaments, having registered Cricket World Cup victories over Pakistan (2007), England (2011), West Indies (2015) and Zimbabwe (2015), and Bangladesh at the 2009 T20 World Cup. Now firmly established as a force to be reckoned with, they can both make a statement and take a big step forward in the tournament if they knock over Sri Lanka.
Tournament history: Ireland surprised plenty by reaching the second round of T20 World Cup 2009 – their debut tournament in the showpiece event. They haven’t made it further than the first round in their four tournaments since, missing out on net-run rate in 2014.
This year, they will be chasing their first win in a T20 World Cup tournament since 2014.
NETHERLANDS – 17th
Netherlands made the showpiece event by reaching the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament, which they went on to win. Fighting on the ODI World Cup Super League front with two wins from three against Ireland and a tour to South Africa in September, Ryan Campbell’s men will be juggling both white-ball formats.
Expect them to leave no stone unturned in their preparation, continuing to experiment and build team depth with a large group of players.
Match to look out for: Ireland – The clash between the two teams will be vital to both their hopes of progressing to the Super 12 stage. Netherlands have reason to be confident, having won seven of their 12 T20Is against Ireland and come out on top in their recent ODI series.
Tournament history: Qualifiers for the showpiece event for a fourth time this year, Netherlands best tournament to date was in 2014, where they reached the second round. The Dutch topped Group B in the first stage that year, reaching the Super 10 where they notched a famous win over England but failed to reach the knockouts.
NAMIBIA – 19th
After achieving ODI status earlier in 2019, Namibia capped off a near-perfect year by beating Oman in the playoff stage of the Qualifier to book their ticket for the upcoming tournament. Captain Gerhard Erasmus is one of the classiest players in the Associate game, and leads one of the strongest outfits the nation has ever put together.
With individual talent throughout their playing 11, Namibia are certainly dark horses to progress into the main group stage.
Match to look out for: Their first match – Namibia will be making their T20 World Cup debut at this year’s tournament and playing their first match at an ICC World Cup in either limited overs format since 2003. What better way to mark the occasion than a victory to kickstart their push to reach the Super 12.
Tournament history: Tournament debut
Group B: Bangladesh, Scotland, Oman, Papua New Guinea
BANGLADESH – 10th
With two ODI Super League wins against Sri Lanka and the boost of a returning Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh will be quietly confident of a strong T20 World Cup display. The team struggled in a 0-3 T20I series defeat to New Zealand earlier in the year, though 21-year-old Mohammad Naim showed promise at the top of the order in a baptism of fire and their bowling attack should enjoy the friendlier conditions at the World Cup. Currently touring Zimbabwe, their three upcoming T20Is will be a good chance for players to put their hand up for the tournament.
Match to look out for: Scotland – Sitting 10th on the ICC T20I team rankings, Bangladesh are the favourites to top Group B but will have to be at their best to reach the Super 12. Scotland look likely to be their stiffest test, sitting just four spots lower on the rankings. The two teams have only met once previously in T20I cricket – a match Scotland won by 34 runs in 2012.
Tournament history: Bangladesh have reached the second stage of the T20 World Cup in three of their six campaigns so far, having featured in every one of the showpiece events. Having qualified for the Super 8s in the inaugural tournament in 2007, Bangladesh fell short in the next three editions before reaching the Super 10 in both 2014 and 2016.
At this year’s tournament, they will be looking to go one further than the Super 12 stage, having not yet tasted victory in the second stage of a T20 World Cup tournament.
SCOTLAND – 14th
Coming back from a fourth-place finish in Group A of the Qualifier, Scotland reached the T20 World Cup the hard way, winning a do-or-die playoff against UAE in Dubai. The Scots have stuck to a core group of ever-presents, with ICC Associate Player of the Decade Kyle Coetzer likely to lead out a side with the collective experience of over 400 T20Is. Fixtures have been few and far between for the team during the pandemic, though they ended a wait of over 500 days without a match, splitting a two-match ODI series with the Netherlands 1-1 back in May.
Match to look out for: Papua New Guinea – Scotland were the one team to defeat Papua New Guinea in the group stage of the Global Qualifier and can put themselves on track for qualification to the Super 12 stage by repeating the trick at the T20 World Cup.
Tournament history: Playing at the T20 World Cup for the fourth time, Scotland will be hoping to get past the first stage for the first time this year.
Their lone victory at a T20 World Cup came in 2016 when they beat Hong Kong by eight wickets at Nagpur.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA – 16th
The team affectionately known as the Barramundis leapt to the top of a strong Group A and were the first team to book their World Cup spot at 2019’s Qualifier. That was thanks largely to their opening pair of captain Assad Vala and Tony Ura, who averaged 46.66 for the first wicket at a run rate of 8.34. A versatile outfit with the ball, Vala has a plethora of options at his disposal and could utilise seven or eight bowlers in any given match.
Match to look out for: Their first match – Papua New Guinea will be making their World Cup debut at the tournament having never before qualified in either T20 or ODI cricket. After topping their group in qualification, they’ll be looking to start their maiden World Cup with a bang.
Tournament history: Tournament debut
OMAN – 18th
Oman had two bites of the cherry in the playoff stage of 2019’s qualifier, beating Hong Kong after falling to Namibia on their first attempt. Khawar Ali and Jatinder Singh will look to blaze at the top, while Aqib Ilyas’ more measured approach should carry the team through the middle overs. Khawar’s leg-spin will be utilised by captain Zeeshan Maqsood, who has pacemen Mohammad Nadeem, Fayyaz Butt and yorker specialist Bilal Khan at his disposal.
Match to look out for: Scotland – The last time the two teams met was at the 2019 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier. Oman lost that match, the fifth-placed play-off, but by that stage had already secured their spot in the World Cup. A similar defeat in the tournament proper would be a serious blow to their ambitions.
Tournament history: Oman qualified for the T20 World Cup for the first time in 2016 so have plenty to be proud of in reaching the tournament for the second time in a row.
They marked their tournament debut in 2016 with a first-up win over Ireland and will be aiming to reach the Super 12s this year.
Group 1: England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, Winner Group A, Runner-up Group B
ENGLAND – 1st
After their triumph in the 2019 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup, England will be looking to back that success up in the 2021 T20 World Cup with the same group of core players.
Eoin Morgan’s men were in ominous form in the recently concluded T20I series against Sri Lanka, completing a 3-0 clean sweep. England’s greatest moment in the tournament came in 2010 when they were crowned champions in the Caribbean.
Match to look out for: West Indies – Five years ago England came agonisingly close to winning the T20 World Cup, losing a last-over thriller to the West Indies in the Final. The two teams will meet in the Super 12 of this year’s tournament.
Tournament history: England’s most glorious moment in the format came in 2010 when they toppled rivals Australia in the Final to take home the trophy for the first time. That remains the lone time they have won the men’s T20 World Cup, having suffered heartbreak in 2016, where they fell short in the Final against the West Indies.
The two times England has reached the knockout stages, they have made the Final.
AUSTRALIA – 5th
The Australians will hope to end their drought in the men’s tournament, having failed to win a single edition so far. Aaron Finch’s men have had a lean time of it in T20 cricket of late, having lost each of their past four series.
This year they were defeated 3-2 by New Zealand and currently trail the West Indies 3-1 in a five-match series. With six games to go before the tournament, they still have time to fine-tune their game and certainly have the talent to worry every opposing outfit.
Match to look out for: England – Australia went down 2-1 when they last took on England in a T20I series but pushed the hosts all the way, losing the opening match by just two runs. A victory over the top-ranking men’s T20I team in the world would be a boost to both Australia’s confidence and their tournament hopes.
Tournament history: The T20 World Cup has continually been a case of so close yet so far for Australia. Defeated in the semi-finals by eventual champions India in 2007, the Australians lost the Final against England in 2010. In 2012 they reached the semi-finals again, and once again lost to the eventual champions as they were blown away by the West Indies. They will be looking to reach the knockout stages for the first time since 2012 this year.
SOUTH AFRICA – 6th
The Proteas have been undergoing a period of transition in all forms of the game but took a big step forward this month, beating defending champions the West Indies 3-2. With a few matches to go before the tournament starts, Temba Bavuma’s men still have time to work out their best combination. With an all-star attack, they are more than equipped for a title tilt.
Match to look out for: Australia – South Africa sit just one spot behind Australia on the ICC T20I team standings. They lost the last series they played against the Australians 2-1 but look a much-improved side since then. Both teams feature express bowling attacks, making their match a mouth-watering affair.
Tournament history: The T20 World Cup has not been a happy hunting ground for South Africa thus far, with a best finish of the semi-finals in 2009 and 2014. In 2009 they suffered their first loss of the tournament in their semi-final against Pakistan, while they went down to India and a Virat Kohli masterclass in 2014.
WEST INDIES – 8th
Boasting a fearsome batting line-up and a plethora of world-class all-rounders, the two-time defending champions will pose a major threat to any opposition. Champions in 2012 and 2016, the Caribbean outfit lost their most recently completed T20 series 3-2 against South Africa, but have impressed against Australia, leading Finch’s team 3-1. They will also host Pakistan ahead of the tournament.
Match to look out for: England – Five years ago the West Indies knocked England over in an incredible Final at Eden Gardens. Their clash at this year’s tournament promises to be just as exciting given the power in both batting orders.
Tournament history: The most decorated team in men’s T20 World Cup history, West Indies have taken the trophy home twice. In 2012 they knocked over Sri Lanka in the decider and in 2016 they won a thriller against England. Alongside those two trophy wins, they have also reached the semi-finals in 2009 and 2014.
Group 2: India, Pakistan New Zealand, Afghanistan, Winner Group B, Runner-up Group A
INDIA – 2nd
Originally slated to host the tournament, there will now have to be a change in strategy for Virat Kohli and his team ahead of the showpiece event in Oman and UAE. Currently number two in the rankings, India are well stacked in terms of depth in all their departments ahead of the game.
Their players will have some T20 match practice ahead of the tournament, with the IPL concluding days before the start of the World Cup in the UAE. In terms of form, they last beat England 3-2 in a five-match T20I series in their home conditions in Ahmedabad. Their best performance to date remains the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2007, where they were crowned Champions.
Match to look out for: Pakistan – Could there be any other? Clashes between these two sides at ICC events are must-watch viewing. The last time these two teams met at the 2016 T20 World Cup, Virat Kohli produced one of the format’s finest ever innings, while their clash in the 2007 T20 World Cup Final delivered the inaugural tournament the thrilling finish it deserved.
Tournament history: The first-ever T20 Word Cup champions, India took out the inaugural edition in 2007. The trophy has eluded them ever since. In 2014 they made the Final, only to be toppled by a Sri Lanka team that desperately deserved success after a lean run in ICC tournament finals. They were among the favourites in 2016 but went down in the semi-finals to the West Indies.
PAKISTAN – 4th
Babar Azam’s men will be heading into the tournament, quietly confident of tasting glory. The men in green have some dangerous campaigners in their ranks, including the skipper, who is one of the best in the business. They last played a series against Zimbabwe, winning it 2-1. They also have away assignments coming up against England and the West Indies. They won the tournament in 2009.
Match to look out for: India – Matches don’t get much bigger than Pakistan-India and Babar Azam’s team will be intent on taking down their rivals for the first time at a Men’s T20 World Cup. The match pits two of the classiest batting orders and exciting attacks against eachother.
Tournament history: Among the T20 World Cup’s most consistent performers through the first four rounds, Pakistan have fallen short of the knockout stages in the past two editions. The side were runners up in the first T20 World Cup in 2007, but bounced quickly to win the trophy in 2009 before semi-final finishes in 2010 and 2012.
NEW ZEALAND – 3rd
The Kiwis will have their confidence sky-high, have recently tasted glory as the inaugural champions of the ICC World Test Championship. Having sealed the victory, they will now aim to make it two ICC tournament victories in a row at the T20 World Cup. The Kane Williamson-led side last played a T20I series against Australia, winning it 3-2. They reached the semi-finals in 2007 and 2016, which remains their best performance at the tournament.
Match to look out for: India – New Zealand have had the wood over India in Men’s ICC tournaments, having not suffered a defeat against them since 2003. They’ll know India will be intent on changing that record as soon as possible.
Tournament history: The Black Caps are chasing their first Men’s T20 World Cup trophy having not made it further than the semi-finals so far. They were semi-finalists in the first edition in 2007, losing to Pakistan, and reached the semis in 2016, where they were defeated by England – their lone loss of the tournament.
AFGHANISTAN – 7th
Afghanistan will rely upon their battery of spinners and some dangerous hitters to make a serious impact in the tournament.
They recently whitewashed Zimbabwe 3-0 in a T20I series and will fancy their chances in the UAE, where the conditions will be helpful.
Match to look out for: New Zealand – The Black Caps are the lone opponents Afghanistan have not met in their Super 12 Group – that would change if Namibia join their group. Unknowns are getting rarer and rarer for Afghanistan, making their match against New Zealand one to look out for.
Tournament history: Having made their tournament debut in 2010, Afghanistan have made rapid progress since. They have qualified for every T20 World Cup since and reached the Super 10 stage of the 2016 tournament after winning all three of their First Round matches. They were the lone team to beat the West Indies at the 2016 tournament, defeating the eventual champions by six runs.