Challenges for all teams in the 2024 Asia Premier Cup

Nepal, winners of the 2023 Asia Premier Cup in ODI format, has had an intensive preparation for the 2024 T20 edition. (www.asiancricket.org)
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Updated 11 April 2024
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Challenges for all teams in the 2024 Asia Premier Cup

  • On April 12, the men’s Asia Premier Cup will open at the Al-Amerat Ovals in Muscat, Oman

On April 12, the men’s Asia Premier Cup will open at the Al-Amerat Ovals in Muscat, Oman. It consists of 10 teams. Only the one finishing top will progress to join the five major Asian teams in the 2025 Asia Cup, scheduled to be hosted by Pakistan. The prospect of this prize will make for a highly competitive and pressured competition.

The 10 teams are divided into two groups of five. Group A comprises Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nepal, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Group B pitches Bahrain, Cambodia, Kuwait, Oman and the UAE against each other. Cambodia and Saudi Arabia qualified for the cup by claiming the top spots in the Asia Cricket Council Challenger Cup in February this year in Thailand. The other eight teams are the highest ranked ACC associate members.

As of March 23, the International Cricket Council’s T20I rankings showed a 26-place range between the 10 teams. Leading the way is the UAE in 16th place, immediately followed by Nepal, only one ranking point separating them. Oman is in 18th place, needing to take any glimmer of home advantage to challenge the UAE and Nepal. It is probable that the team which progresses to the Asia Cup will be one of these three.

Oman recently concluded a five-match T20I series vs. Namibia, against whom they will compete in the group stages of the ICC T20I World Cup in June. Namibia won the series 3-2. The last decade has been a successful one for Oman, with peaks in 2016, 2021 and 2024 through T20I World Cup qualification. In the latter case, Oman beat Bahrain in the semifinals of the Asia Qualifier, while Nepal defeated the UAE. Oman’s squad for the Asia Premier Cup is very similar to that for the 2021 World Cup when it was already considered to be aging. This may prove to be critical in the field, but the team has defied being written off before.

Nepal, winners of the 2023 Asia Premier Cup in ODI format, has had an intensive preparation for the 2024 T20 edition. Most recently it has played two matches in a Friendship Cup in India against the state teams of Gujarat and Baroda, winning both matches. Before that, it played two matches against Ireland A, winning both. This followed on from a tri-series against Hong Kong and Papua New Guinea, Nepal winning two out of three completed matches. In a preceding tri-series against Namibia and the Netherlands, two of the five matches were won by Nepal. It is a patchy recent record that the squad, under regular captain Rohit Patel, brings to the Premier Cup.

Outside of these three teams, Hong Kong is the next highest ranked in 21st position. Hong Kong qualified for the 2022 Asia Cup by virtue of beating the UAE in the final qualifying match, so its pedigree may suggest that it is well placed to reach the Premier Cup semifinals. Victory in the East Asia Men’s Cup in February kick-started its preparations, followed by three close matches against Qatar, a heavy defeat by PNG and a convincing win over Nepal. The team is led by Nizakat Khan and has a balance between experience and younger players. However, other teams in the group are lined up to provide a strong challenge.

Qatar, ranked 28th, has shown its capability to challenge, whilst Malaysia, 25th, and Saudi Arabia, 31st, are keen to show that they belong at this level. The latter has been working on fitness levels at a training camp, enjoying the opportunity, as part-timers, to train together. Confidence is high after the Challenger Cup successes in 2023 and 2024. The approach will be to play with a positive mindset, aiming to create at least one upset.

In Group B, Kuwait is ranked 26th, Bahrain is 27th, while Cambodia is 42nd. Cricket Kuwait has been an ICC associate member since 2005, having been an affiliate member since 1988. The team has produced upsets in the past, notably in 2004. Since 2019, it has won just over half of its T20Is. Bahrain became an ICC affiliate member in 2001 and an associate in 2017. Its first ever T20I was in 2019 when Saudi Arabia was defeated. In its most recent T20I matches in early March, Bahrain beat Kuwait, Malaysia, Tanzania and Vanuatu. The team has shown in the last year that it is capable of beating the UAE, emphasizing that the highest ranked teams will have to be performing at their peak.

Cambodia appears to be something of a special case, compared with the other teams, especially in terms of longevity. The Cricket Association of Cambodia was established in 2021, with ICC associate membership awarded in 2022. Then, in May 2023, Cambodia hosted the Southeast Asian Games, which included cricket across four different formats involving seven countries. The Cambodian squad received an influx of players of varying pedigree and experience from the Indian subcontinent.

This caused some disquiet, especially from Malaysia, relating to a failure to take account of ICC rankings in group selection and the eligibility of players. Cambodia claimed that they were naturalized citizens. Allegedly, passports were issued on April 23, six days before the first match and past the deadline for shortlisting players. It is noticeable that various cricket websites do not display place of birth for most of the players. Cambodia won gold in the men’s T10, T20 and ODI events, while Malaysia were runners-up in all three.

Cambodia’s rise has continued via qualification in the Asia Challenger Cup to secure a place in the Asia Premier Cup. Their leading light and captain is Luqman Butt, born in Gujranwala, Punjab. It seems clear that the sudden emergence of Cambodia is ruffling a few feathers. This tournament will test how far the team can rise in its current guise and how acceptable its strategy will be to more established teams. Most of them, of course, are also comprised of a significant proportion of players originating from the Indian subcontinent.


Bumrah leads India to 47-run win over Afghanistan in Super Eight at T20 World Cup

Updated 20 June 2024
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Bumrah leads India to 47-run win over Afghanistan in Super Eight at T20 World Cup

  • Bumrah’s four-over spell was aided by Arshdeep Singh, who finished with 3-36
  • Spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2-32) and Axar Patel (1-15) shared three wickets as Afghanistan were bowled out for 134 runs

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados: Fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah picked three wickets for just seven runs as India beat Afghanistan by 47 runs in their Super Eight clash at the Twenty20 World Cup on Thursday.
Bumrah’s four-over spell was aided by Arshdeep Singh, who finished with 3-36. Spinners Kuldeep Yadav (2-32) and Axar Patel (1-15) shared three wickets as Afghanistan were bowled out for 134 runs.
Earlier, Suryakumar Yadav scored 53 off 28 balls — his fifth T20 World Cup half-century — as India reached 181-8 in 20 overs after opting to bat.
Yadav hit three sixes and five fours, while Hardik Pandya scored 32 off 24 balls, including two sixes.
India’s next Super Eight game is on Saturday, against Bangladesh in Antigua. Afghanistan will play Australia in St. Vincent, also on Saturday.
Yadav was named player of the match.
“I am clear in my mind how I want to bat,” he said. “There’s a lot of hard work, process and routine involved in it. You just need to know your game plan and just play accordingly. When Hardik (Pandya) came in to bat, we discussed about batting with (aggressive) intent. In the end, we were happy with 180.”
On a slow-paced Barbados wicket, India had made a sluggish start. Skipper Rohit Sharma was out caught for eight, while star batter Virat Kohli only managed run-a-ball 24.
Rishabh Pant, batting at three, provided some acceleration — he scored 20 off 11 balls with four fours.
Afghanistan skipper and wrist spinner Rashid Khan did damage to India’s top order, dismissing both Kohli and Pant, the latter out lbw. It was the first time Khan picked up wickets against India in T20s.
India were down to 62-3 in 8.3 overs, when Yadav played a rescuing hand. He added 28 of 14 balls with Shivam Dube (10) and then the match-turning 60 runs with Pandya.
Yadav’s stand with Pandya came off only 37 balls as India scored 102 runs off the final 10 overs.
Rashid Khan finished with 3-26 in four overs.
Afghanistan’s chase got off to a poor start against Bumrah — he sent back both openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz (11) and Haratullah Zazai (2) cheaply.
In between, Axar Patel struck in the fourth over as Ibrahim Zadran was out for eight, and Afghanistan slipped to 23-3 in 4.1 overs.
Gulbadin Naib and Azatullah Omarzai added 44 off 38 balls for the fourth wicket. Thereafter, India’s spinners struck at regular intervals to restrict their opponents.
Ravindra Jadeja picked 1-20 in three overs. Afghanistan lost their last five wickets for 32 runs across 28 deliveries as India crossed the finish line with ease.


Ambitious expansion of T20 World Cup throws up playing and logistical challenges

Updated 20 June 2024
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Ambitious expansion of T20 World Cup throws up playing and logistical challenges

  • In modern cricket, an established statistical mechanism recalculates scores in rain-affected matches, with pitch and ground covering materials and more powerful equipment to disperse rainwater

Last week’s consideration of the pressures in professional cricket was followed by some real-time examples in the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup.

In Kingstown, St Vincent, South Africa scored only 115 against Nepal, who responded positively, cruising to 85 for two midway through the 14th over. Then four wickets fell quickly, leaving eight runs required from the final over, whittled down to two from the final two balls.

Those runs proved to be unattainable, a last ball run out sealing Nepal’s heartbreaking defeat by one run. Both batters, bowler and several fielders were under pressure to make crucial decisions in split seconds.

In St Lucia, Scotland scored a highly creditable 180 for five against Australia, aided by six dropped catches. This target challenged Australia’s batters as they slipped to sixty for three. A victory for Scotland would have elevated the team to the Super 8s stage; as it was, the pressure proved to be too great, as Australia’s extra experience took them to 186 for five with two deliveries remaining. The result meant that England, instead of Scotland, progressed. 

In Antigua, a few hours earlier, this had been very much in doubt. There it seemed the rain would not stop in sufficient time prior to the cut-off of 4.46 p.m. local time to allow mopping-up operations to be completed. One may wonder why the cut-off time should be so early in the day.

This relates to the ICC’s playing conditions for T20I men’s cricket, which stipulate that there should be two sessions of 1 hour 25 minutes, separated by a 20-minute interval between innings. Allowances also need to be made for one drink break per innings, umpire and player reviews, and any treatment of injuries. All of this equates to around 3.5 hours. There seems to be no flexibility on this and it would not be practical with matches that start at, say, 8 p.m. 

It is also pertinent to ask why a team — any team, let alone defending champions — should be at risk of being knocked out at the group stage by virtue of playing only two of its four group matches, courtesy of adverse weather conditions. England’s captain was pictured looking very mournful in the team area as rain continued to fall. Later, he admitted to it being a stressful day with real fears no play would be possible.

In the event, the match was only 46 minutes from abandonment. Ground staff worked incessantly to clear the outfield of water and the umpires were finally satisfied that play could start in a shortened match of 11 overs per team. This was reduced to 10 overs following a shower during England’s innings, which totaled 122 for five. Namibia fell 41 runs short to soothe England’s anxieties and relieve the pressure on its leadership. 

Although only four of the 40 group stage matches were washed out, three of them were in Florida. June is the start of the rainy season in the Caribbean and the Florida peninsula, so it is hardly a surprise the weather has affected matches. The ICC has been criticized for its decision to stage the 2024 T20 World Cup at this time of year in the knowledge of climatic conditions. In its defense, it would no doubt argue that the crowded cricket schedule allows no alternative.

The most favorable conditions for cricket in the Caribbean are between December and April. These months are when five T20 franchise leagues are played. The decision to include the USA as joint hosts in 2024 limits the options. Although Florida is sub-tropical, New York is not. The next T20 World Cups will be hosted by India and Sri Lanka in February 2026, followed by Australia and New Zealand in 2028. In all cases, except for northern India, weather issues should not be of concern. Given the capricious nature of the world’s climate patterns, it seems we are asked to accept that rain will interfere randomly with cricket, as it always has done.

In modern cricket, an established statistical mechanism is now deployed to recalculate scores in rain affected matches, while enhanced pitch and ground covering materials are used and more powerful equipment is available to disperse rainwater. What is needed to make best use of these is sufficient staff on hand. There have been several occasions at this World Cup when that did not appear to be the case.

Another area of discussion has surrounded the absence of reserve days in the group and Super 8 stages, apparently for logistical reasons. Reserve days are available for the semi-finals and final if the team batting second is unable to face ten overs. If the reserve day is invoked in the second semi-final, then the final is scheduled for the next day. This is high risk planning. 

What appears to be lower risk planning is the timing of matches. These are weighted heavily in favor of Indian audiences. All matches involving India in the group and Super 8 stages start at 8 p.m. IST. Additionally, this is the scheduled start time for all but seven of the other 47 matches, ensuring that Indians can watch most matches in the evening. In contrast, the local time for viewing Australia’s matches is either 3 a.m. or 10.30 a.m. Furthermore, India’s semi-final venue is pre-planned. 

This T20 World Cup is the first to comprise 20 teams. It was bound to create logistical challenges for the ICC. On top of these, the performances of the expanded number of associate members will be scrutinized by those who disagree with their inclusion. In that sense the biggest disappointment for many about the tournament — the sub-standard quality of pitches — may have helped the associate teams.

Many batters in the Full member teams have struggled to adapt to the pitches, creating unexpected opportunities for associates to achieve shock results. Under pressure, they failed to do so on most occasions. Only by playing more regularly against Full members can associates learn to maximize these chances.


South Africa works hard to beat United States in Super Eight at T20 World Cup

Updated 20 June 2024
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South Africa works hard to beat United States in Super Eight at T20 World Cup

  • Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada claimed 3-18 and spinner Keshav Maharaj got the prized wicket of US captain Aaron Jones for a duck — no runs — to finish with 1-24

NORTH SOUND, Antigua: South Africa had to work hard to earn an 18-run win over the fast-improving United States in the opening game of the Super Eight at the Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday.
Andries Gous made an unbeaten 80 off 47 balls for the US — against country of his birth — to move atop the batting chart at the World Cup before South Africa restricted the Americans at 176-6.
Fast bowler Kagiso Rabada claimed 3-18 and spinner Keshav Maharaj got the prized wicket of US captain Aaron Jones for a duck — no runs — to finish with 1-24.
Quinton de Kock had earlier made a rampant 74 off 40 balls and Heinrich Klaasen provided the perfect finish with 36 not out in the South African total of 194-4 after Jones won the toss and elected to field.
“Pretty happy with the performance as a whole,” South Africa captain Aiden Markram said. “A couple of overs here and there we need to tidy up … but the wicket definitely changes and gets a bit slower, and they were a lot less sloppy.”
Despite four straight wins during the group stage, South Africa had been struggling in the power play throughout the tournament with its top score of 38 in the first six overs against Nepal.
But de Kock opened in friendlier conditions for batters in the West Indies than in the US as he smacked fast bowler Jaspeep Singh for three straight sixes in a 28-run over during the power play that provided South Africa momentum for a big total.
De Kock and Markram (46 off 32 balls) dominated both spinners and the pacers as they raised a solid 110-run stand after Saurabh Netravalkar (2-21) had provided the early breakthrough by getting the wicket of Reeza Hendricks in his second over.
Left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh (2-24) got plenty of grip off the slow wicket and squeezed the runs when he had de Kock caught in the deep and then David Miller offered a tame return catch to the spinner off the first ball he faced.
De Kock’s first half-century in the tournament featured five sixes and seven boundaries as he utilized the short boundaries on one side of the wicket with his perfect pull shots before he missed out on Singh’s full toss.
“We’ve had some tricky wickets so it was nice to spend sometime in the middle today,” de Kock said. “The USA put us under pressure toward the end. It was a great game.”
Netravalkar, who bowled a sensational Super Over in the United States’ historic win over heavyweights Pakistan in the group stage, struck immediately in his return spell when Markram was brilliantly caught by diving Ali Khan at deep backward point off a full pitched ball.
But Klaasen used all his T20 experience in the last five overs and struck three sixes while Tristan Stubbs also hit two fours in his 16-ball unbeaten 20 which lifted South Africa total.
Steven Taylor provided the US a confident start with four boundaries and a six in his quickfire knock of 24 off 14 balls before he ballooned a catch at mid-on as Rabada struck twice off his first two overs in the power play.
South Africa pulled back nicely through Maharaj, who had Jones caught behind for a five-ball zero, and when Corey Anderson’s stumps were knocked back by Anrich Nortje in the 10th over, the US still needed 124 for victory.
But Gous and Singh (38) revived US hopes as they came down hard on wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi (1-50) and added 91 runs for the sixth-wicket stand. Gous completed his half-century with two successive big sixes against Nortje as the batting pair brought down the target to 28 off the final two overs.
However, Rabada bowled a brilliant penultimate over for just two runs and also had Singh caught at mid-wicket that fizzled out the US hopes of another upset.
“Hard to take a defeat after coming so close,” Jones said. “We did lack discipline in the bowling at times, (but) once we play good cricket we can beat any team in the world. We need to be a lot more disciplined.”
Co-host West Indies and England are the other teams in Super Eights Group 2 and will meet in St. Lucia later Wednesday.


Confident Americans open Super Eight playoffs against South Africa in T20 World Cup

Updated 19 June 2024
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Confident Americans open Super Eight playoffs against South Africa in T20 World Cup

  • The US qualified for the second round after its Group A wins over Canada and Pakistan
  • The US face a tough opponent in South Africa, who have won all four of their group games

NORTH SOUND: The United States opens the Super Eight playoffs against South Africa at cricket’s Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday with American captain Aaron Jones sounding more confident than ever.
A win over 2022 runner-up Pakistan in the group stage, helping to raise the profile of cricket in the US, might do that to a team skipper.
“To be honest with you, a lot of people don’t really pay much attention to US cricket,” said Jones.
“Probably the whole world don’t already know how much talent we have here . . . but definitely I think that on any given day, once we play proper cricket, we believe that we can beat any team in the world for sure.”
The US qualified for the second round after its Group A wins over Canada and Pakistan, with favorite India also advancing from that group.
The eight teams are divided into two groups with defending champion England and co-host West Indies the other teams bracketed with the USand South Africa. The other group has unbeaten Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India — those teams either topped their groups or finished as runner-up in the original 20-team tournament.
The USfaces a tough opponent in South Africa, which won all four of its group games. But the Americans can take heart from the fact that South African batters struggled in their last two low-scoring matches against weaker opponents Bangladesh — when the Proteas won by four runs, and Nepal, who they beat by one run.
Despite all the mystery surrounding low-scoring drop-in pitches in New York and the wet weather in Florida, the US sent shockwaves in the cricketing world with its back-to-back wins against Canada and Pakistan in Dallas before losing to India on a tricky wicket in New York.
The rain gods also helped the US — the tournament co-hosts received a crucial one point from its rain-abandoned group game against Ireland that knocked Pakistan out of the tournament. It was the first time that Pakistan, the 2009 champions, had not qualified for the playoffs in eight versions of the tournament.
The other Super Eight match Wednesday has co-hosts West Indies playing England at Gros Islet, St. Lucia. On Thursday, Afghanistan plays India at Bridgetown, Barbados and Australia takes on Bangladesh at North Sound, Antigua to complete the first round of playoff matches.
All matches in the Super Eight round are being played in the West Indies, and later the semifinals and final. The championship match in the month-long tournament is set for June 29 at the century-old Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The Americans are longshots to be there, but don’t count them out.
Not many Americans knew they had a cricket team before Jones hit the headlines with his blistering score of 95 runs in the opening game against Canada that also featured 10 big sixes.
But admiration for the US team grew more, not only in America but also around the cricketing world after it defeated Pakistan in a super over at Dallas.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been speaking about playing in the World Cup, playing more games against the full-member nations and stuff like that,” Jones said.
“Obviously qualifying for the Super Eights is really good . . . not only for us but the fans around America as well. We really appreciate them, and for the younger generation in America.”


MLC stars Netravalkar, Khan, Patel aim to continue USA’s historic run at T20 World Cup Super8s

Updated 18 June 2024
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MLC stars Netravalkar, Khan, Patel aim to continue USA’s historic run at T20 World Cup Super8s

  • As many as 47 MLC stars have featured in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024

DALLAS: Team USA have made history by advancing to the Super 8 stage of the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 for the first time, decided by a wash-out in Broward County.

The US’s advancement ahead of cricketing powerhouse Pakistan has sent shockwaves around the globe and is rallying Americans to get behind their national team.

Team USA, as the host nation making its World Cup debut, has captured the world’s attention. After defeating Canada convincingly in the opening game, the team also emerged victorious against Pakistan in a thrilling super-over, putting them in a position to finish second in Group A.

Cognizant Major League Cricket players in Team USA are: Ali Khan, Nitish Kumar and Shadley Van Schalkwyk (Los Angeles Knight Riders); Steven Taylor, Nosthush Kenjige, Monank Patel and Shayan Jahangir (MI New York); Corey Anderson (San Francisco Unicorns); Harmeet Singh, (Seattle Orcas); Milind Kumar (Texas Super Kings); and Andries Gous, Saurabh Netravalkar and Yasir Mohammad (Washington Freedom).

With the USA set to face South Africa, the West Indies and England in Group 2 of the Super 8 round, MLC Chief Executive Vijay Srinivasan said the advancement of the team to the next stage of the home world cup was an incredible achievement.

“Congratulations to Team USA who, in their first-ever World Cup appearance, gave us three thrilling matches of cricket against the world’s best teams and earned their position in the Super 8.

“This is a historic moment for the sport, especially for our players from Major League Cricket who are representing the USA. We hope that this inspires boys and girls around the country to pick up a bat and ball this summer and encourages sports fans to attend an MLC game or tune into the broadcast. 

“The USA’s advancement to the Super 8 means they’ll automatically qualify for the 2026 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, providing Major League Cricket with a strong platform for continued growth.”

 

MLC’s six teams — Los Angeles Knight Riders, MI New York, San Francisco Unicorns, Seattle Orcas, Texas Super Kings and Washington Freedom — boast some of the world’s best international and domestic talent who are preparing to represent their respective countries in the World Cup.

All 47 MLC players who have featured in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup, listed by team, are:

Los Angeles Knight Riders

Ali Khan — USA

Nitish Kumar — USA

Shadley Van Schalkwyk — USA

Andre Russell — WI

Shakib Al Hasan — Bangladesh

David Miller — South Africa

Josh Little — Ireland

 

MI New York

Steven Taylor — USA

Nosthush Kenjige — USA

Monank Patel — USA

Shayan Jahangir — USA

Tim David — Australia

Nicholas Pooran — West Indies

Rashid Khan — Afghanistan

Kagiso Rabada — South Africa

Trent Boult — New Zealand

Anrich Nortje — South Africa

Romario Shepherd — West Indies

 

San Francisco Unicorns

Corey Anderson — USA

Matt Henry — New Zealand

Josh Inglis — Australia

Sherfane Rutherford — West Indies

Haris Rauf — Pakistan

Pat Cummins — Australia

 

Seattle Orcas

Harmeet Singh — USA

Quinton de Kock — South Africa

Heinrich Klaasen — South Africa

Michael Bracewell — New Zealand

Ryan Rickelton — South Africa

Obed McCoy — West Indies

Imad Wasim — Pakistan

 

Texas Super Kings

Milind Kumar — USA

Mitchell Santner — New Zealand

Devon Conway — New Zealand

Aiden Markram — South Africa

Daryl Mitchell — New Zealand

Naveen-ul-Haq — Afghanistan

Marcus Stoinis — Australia

 

Washington Freedom

Andries Gous — USA

Saurabh Netralvakar — USA

Yasir Mohammad — USA

Marco Jansen — South Africa

Akeal Hosein — West Indies

Glenn Maxwell — Australia

Travis Head — Australia

Lockie Ferguson — New Zealand

Rachin Ravindra — New Zealand

 

The second MLC season kicks off on July 5.