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Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Shahid Afridi in action
It will be intriguing to see how Pakistan fare under the leadership of one of the most brilliant but volatile batsmen in Twenty20 cricket, Shahid Afridi

England are still the only major Test-playing country never to have won a top-flight global event and it is therefore no surprise that they will not begin the ICC World Twenty20 as favourites.

Their ratio of victories to matches played leaves them placed above only Bangladesh and they appear likely to unveil their 16th top-order partnership in just 26 games when they play the first of their first-round group matches against West Indies on Monday.

Those supporters tiring of the rapidly growing South African influence in the England team will note that both openers, Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb, have strong South African connections and accents, despite Lumb having represented Yorkshire and Hampshire for 10 years.

But they are both hard-hitting batsmen who should get the innings away to the type of start that quickly blows bowlers' confidence away in this form of the game. It is a crucial aspect of Twenty20 that England have not got right.

Five of England's squad, Lumb, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan and captain Paul Collingwood, have just returned from stints in the Indian Premier League, so their eyes should be in and the team will hope to hit the ground running.

These tournaments are all about building momentum - Pakistan showed last year that you can recover from a sluggish start to win the final, and after their disastrous tour of Australia, which ended with an enquiry and a raft of punishments, it will be intriguing to see how they fare under the leadership of one of the most brilliant but volatile batsmen in Twenty20 cricket, Shahid Afridi.

Sanath Jayasuriya continues to prove that Twenty20 is not necessarily a young man's game

They will also be missing one of the leading bowlers of last year's tournament, Umar Gul.

For India, there will be no fireworks from Virender Sehwag and his absence deals the event, and his team, a tremendous blow. But no other country in the world plays as much Twenty20 as the Indians and, despite Sehwag's absence, they look a strong candidate to win the Trophy.

Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni will be backed up by the canny bowling of Ashish Nehra while the spinners, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla will be difficult to hit on the sluggish pitches in the Caribbean.

Australia, led by Michael Clarke, will be strong despite disastrous outings in the two previous World Twenty20s. Their strategy differs from virtually everyone else in favouring pace bowling over spinners.

They have plenty of speed from Mitchell Johnson, Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait but, as Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara has noted, it is the spinners who are the hardest to get after in Twenty20.

Sri Lanka have any number of them including Sanath Jayasuriya who, now comfortably in his 41st year, continues to prove that Twenty20 is not necessarily a young man's game.

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South Africa also have an abundance of talent, as usual, including the exciting Loots Bosman who destroyed England on their last tour, but questions remain about their ability to handle the pressure of the big occasion.

West Indies will have the benefit of home support and have big hitters in their ranks while the smaller teams, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan know that this shortened form of the game massively increases the chances of some serious giant killing.

The unpredictability of this tournament is best summed up by England's famous defeat by the Netherlands at Lord's last year and it would be wise, once again, to expect the unexpected.



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see also
ICC World Twenty20 teams guide
28 Apr 10 |  Cricket
Australia's Lee out of Twenty20
28 Apr 10 |  Cricket
Bopara leads England to victory
28 Apr 10 |  England
Anderson backs 'fearless' openers
25 Apr 10 |  England
England confirm T20 travel plans
21 Apr 10 |  England
Miller defends Lumb selection
31 Mar 10 |  Cricket
Uncapped Lumb makes England squad
20 Apr 10 |  England
Pietersen queries England bowlers
13 Apr 10 |  England
England face S Africa T20 warm-up
15 Apr 10 |  Cricket
Lumb inspires England Lions win
24 Feb 10 |  England
ICC World Twenty20 2010
17 May 10 |  Cricket
Live cricket on the BBC
26 Oct 11 |  Cricket


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