Sunday will see the first over of the seventh Twenty20 World Cup bowled in Oman. The Middle Eastern state, co-hosting the competition with the United Arab Emirates, feature in a preliminary round-robin set of fixtures in which four sides will earn spots against the bigger nations in the next stage, the Super12.
The preliminary round includes eight teams split into two groups and features former winners Sri Lanka, regular competitors such as Ireland and two debutants, Namibia and Papua New Guinea. Group A consists of Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands and Namibia while Group B will see Bangladesh compete with Scotland, Oman and Papua New Guinea next week.
No team has ever defended the World Cup so there could be a new name on the trophy after the final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on 14 November.
Of every nation to compete in at least 10 T20 World Cup matches, Sri Lanka has the highest win percentage at 64, just ahead of India.
The Lions won the tournament in 2014 in Bangladesh with a six-wicket victory over India and, given their pedigree, are understandable favourites to qualify in first place from their group.
The Dutch are becoming more prominent on the cricketing circuit and have experience of beating big sides in the World Cup, having toppled England twice, including at Lord’s in 2009. They do, however, hold an unwanted World Cup record for the lowest ever total made at the competition when they were bowled out for 39 by Sri Lanka in 2014.
One of two debutants to the competition, Namibia are hoping to upset more established rivals in the preliminary stage. In all-rounder JJ Smit they have their country’s first international playing franchise cricket, for the Vancouver Knights. Namibia’s current crop draw their inspiration from the country’s trailblazing one-day international side who made it to the World Cup in 2003.
Ireland have been consistent qualifiers in the World Cup, having only missed out on the inaugural competition in 2007. They have a win percentage of exactly 25, which is the second lowest of any side who have played at least 10 matches. Taking on the Netherlands in their opening game, the winner will likely be fancied to qualify second in their group.
In their three previous appearances at the World Cup – 2007, 2009 and 2016 – Scotland have finished in the bottom third of the T20 World Cup group stage table. Their only win came in 2016, when they beat Hong Kong in the preliminary round. Facing Bangladesh, hosts Oman and Papua New Guinea, there is a chance that the Scots could make it to the Super12 stages.
Once, the only cricket played on the dirt grounds of Oman was by visiting navy crews. Now, however, they’re co-hosting the World Cup. The side have come a long way in a short amount of time, even managing to beat Ireland on their tournament debut in the last T20 World Cup. They’re not to be discounted and will hope the home advantage can propel them to more tournament landmarks.
The Tigers have the worst record of any side to have played 10 or more World Cup matches, having won just five out of their 25 games – a win percentage of just 20. However, the fortunes of the Bangladeshis are on the rise. Coach Russell Domingo has clawed the side into the top six of the world rankings and completed a 4-1 T20 series victory over Australia in the summer – their first ever.
Papua New Guinea
This is the first World Cup tournament Papua New Guinea will feature in, having finished as runners-up in the qualifying tournament. Papua New Guinea toppled the Netherlands during their qualifying run to the tournament, although they would go on to lose to them later in the round. They’ll need captain and star all-rounder Assad Vala on form to make it to the T20 World Cup Super12.