ICC T20 WC: Netherlands and Ireland eye winning start in Group A opener

ICC T20 WC Netherlands and Ireland eye winning start in Group A opener

ABU DHABI: Group A’s fascinating balance offers plenty of qualification hope for Ireland and the Netherlands as they prepare for their opening ICC Men’s T20 World Cup fixture in Abu Dhabi.

Both teams are talking a good game, and their aspirations of making it into the second stage of the tournament are highly achievable, with each squad containing more than enough to trouble pool favourites Sri Lanka and fellow Group A hopefuls Namibia.

The Dutch arrive at the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup without much in the way of warm-up time for their strongest side, with the core of the likely starting XI spread across the world in various franchise competitions. But it’s a talented squad, as they showed back in 2019 by winning the qualifying tournament outright, beating Monday’s opponents Ireland in the semi-finals before dispatching Papua New Guinea in the final.

As for Ireland, the full potential of the squad that has travelled to the tournament is slightly uncertain. Many of the golden generation who established the Irish as a white-ball force, particularly in 50-over cricket, have now moved on to retirement and coaching. It is a period of both promise and transition, with old heads Paul Stirling and Kevin O’Brien adding experience to a young and talented but raw squad.

The Irish group has plenty of power hitting, while the pace attack offers variety and depth. But balance could be an issue, with wicketkeeper Neil Rock possibly featuring as high as six to accommodate more bowling options. Whether Ireland stick with that set-up or look to utilise their part-time bowling options to make up the fifth set of overs remains to be seen.

But, regardless of the balance of the attack, if opening batters Stirling and O’Brien can operate effectively in the powerplay then Ireland have a good chance of not just making it out of Group A but also having a good crack at the Super 12 later in the month.

Opportunity beckons then for both Ireland and the Netherlands. But, helpfully, it does so without the weight of outward expectation. As Dutch captain Pieter Seelaar put it: “Sri Lanka need to go through; we want to go through. That’s the difference.” (ANI)