T20 Ratings - WT20 Round One Edition
Russell Degnan

A show-piece tournament but crammed between the end of the English season and the start of an unloved domestic tournament, scheduled when the local climate might conceivably reduce every game into farce, and following so closely on from the previous edition that the champagne is barely dry on the trophy, so close to the next, that the qualifiers are already half completed. But still, by far, the most enjoyable of the ICC's many blundering tournaments, with a tight format and largely important games.

The rankings have been brought up to date and tweaked to provide a little more dynamism, making up for a lack of data points. I'll focus here on the probability of upsets in each group, because with the super-8 seeding, unless one of the unfancied teams wins, the early phase is at best a form guide. That said, the rankign difference from England to South Africa equates to 15 runs, in a format decided, on average, by 40 runs even when teams are evenly ranked. Any of the top teams can win through, not because the game is lucky, but because there is little to distinguish any of the teams.

Group AFormGamesQual. Prob.
GamesExp. MarginWin Prob.
 AfghanistanvsIndia-53 runs9.1%
 AfghanistanvsEngland-61 runs6.3%
 EnglandvsIndia-8 runs57.8%

Afghanistan are a better side than they were two years ago, but they still have the weakets team at the competition and the hardest of groups. Despite all and sundry pronouncing otherwise there is little evidence that T20 games are more prone to upsets - unlike the 2011 ODI world cup, the 2010 WT20 had no upsets. The skill required to score quickly against top attacks is more difficult than surviving long periods against the same attack. But that doesn't mean that Afghanistan can't provide an upset. They are a good side, on Sri Lankan wickets where they are less likely to be undone by pace and bounce, as in the West Indies. England would seem to be their best chance, given their struggles against spin and unsettled side. India have quietly put themselves at third in the rankings, and really ought to be favourites to win it all.

Group BFormGamesQual. Prob.
6.West Indies2482.6+35.714.981.6%
GamesExp. MarginWin Prob.
 AustraliavsIreland34 runs80.4%
 AustraliavsWest Indies6 runs56.3%
 IrelandvsWest Indies-28 runs24.2%

At first glance Ireland's ranking (and match probabilities seem a little generous. Certainly the bookies will give you better odds. But their team is well-rounded, professional and potentially explosive. Stirling is as good a young batsman as any in world cricket and can destroy any attack; in Dockrell they have a class spinner; in Rankin and Johnston he is well supported by pace; and finally, there are fast runs in the lower order, if a start is made. If spin comes to the fore, Australia may suffer badly, as they did in 2011. Their batting is powerful, but perhaps flaky, especially from 3 to 5; much mirth was made of the farce that is the ICC rankings, I have them much higher, mostly because their wins, when they occured, were huge. It oughtn't be forgotten that they were finalists in 2010, and much of that side remains. The West Indies are likewise, a little uneven; their star players are more dangerous than anyone's, but their scrubs might be a liability. Any team that gets through Gayle, Samuels and Pollard and deals with Narine is more than halfway to winning, though that can be easier said than done.

Group CFormGamesQual. Prob.
4.Sri Lanka2494.3-4.614.786.0%
7.South Africa2456.0-11.222.677.0%
GamesExp. MarginWin Prob.
 Sri LankavsZimbabwe28 runs75.9%
 Sri LankavsSouth Africa7 runs57.2%
 South AfricavsZimbabwe21 runs69.8%

Zimbabwe will hope the second innings of this edition's games last longer than 13.1 overs, rather than being pitted against the obscurities of Duckworth-Lewis. They are a much improved team in the last couple of years, having rolled South Africa in unofficial T20 matches earlier in the year. Price will hope to lead the attack, although the 4-over limit will stymie them and may require some big chases; Taylor has repeatedly demonstrated a sound head and explosive batting style. While their recent form is weak, they are capable. Sri Lanka, at home, ought to be considered one of the favourites; Malinga remains one of the short formats best bowlers, and their batting is deep. South Africa are, on paper, the best side in the tournament, but their ranking isn't so strong, and their most recent series have been split, except against a weak New Zealand side.

Group DFormGamesQual. Prob.
8.New Zealand2385.9-43.419.872.0%
GamesExp. MarginWin Prob.
 BangladeshvsNew Zealand-15 runs64.8%
 New ZealandvsPakistan-13 runs37.3%
 BangladeshvsPakistan-28 runs24.0%

The closest group, with the weakest team of the seeds in New Zealand, and the strongest of the underdogs in Bangladesh. New Zealand's record in tournaments and against small nations are in their favour, but Bangladesh have beaten them not so long ago, and have improved since. Shakib remains their only genuinely classy player, but he has potential support from enigmatic match-winners in Ashraful or Tamin Iqbal. As ever, it only takes one good day, and both their competitors are vulnerable. New Zealand's batting talent hasn't translated into decent scores, and their bowling is not suited to Sri Lankan pitches. They were verging on a rabble in the games in the United States and will need to improve if they are to escape the group. Pakistan are, as ever, the dark horses. They effectively split a series against Australia, demonstrating a capacity for fast scoring and hopeless collapses that we've come to expect. Their trump cards of Saeed Ajmal, Sohail Tanvir and Shahid Afridi should take them deep into a tournament where they have always done well.

Cricket - Ratings - T20 18th September, 2012 18:39:31   [#]