DUBAI: Hosts India were placed in the same group as arch-rivals Pakistan on Friday in the Super 12 stage of the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in the United Arab Emirates and Oman later this year.

The bitter South Asian neighbours, who currently play each other only in International Cricket Council (ICC) events, are joined in Group 2 by reigning world Test champions New Zealand, Afghanistan and two qualifiers.

Defending champions West Indies and reigning 50-over winners England share Group 1 with Australia, South Africa and two qualifiers.

Established Test nations Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are among eight teams divided into two qualifying groups, with the top two from each group progressing to Super 12 stage of the tournament to be played between Oct 17 and Nov 14 Ireland, Netherlands, Namibia, Oman, Papua New Guinea and Scotland also competing.

“There are some great match ups offered by the groups and it starts to bring the event to life for our fans as our first multi-team event since the onset of the global pandemic draws closer,” ICC acting chief executive Geoff Allardice said in a statement.

The two groups are based on team rankings as of March 20, 2021.

“Given the disruption caused by Covid-19, we selected the cutoff date as close as possible to the event to ensure we were able to include the maximum amount of cricket in the rankings which determine the groups,” Allardice said.

The tournament was originally meant to take place in Australia at the end of 2020 but it was called off as the pandemic swept across the globe causing widescale lockdowns.

It was switched to India for 2021 but the country is emerging from a Covid-19 surge in April and May and experts fear a new wave of cases later this year.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) remains the ‘host’ but the competition, which runs from Oct 17 to Nov 14, will now be held across four venues — the Dubai International Stadium, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the Sharjah Stadium, and the Oman Cricket Academy Ground.

“There is nothing that separates the two groups as both are packed with sides that are highly competitive in the shortest format of the game,” said BCCI secretary Jay Shah. “Having said that, the exciting T20 format is known for its surprises, and we must be prepared for the same. I am sure we will witness some exciting and nail-biting games.”

BCCI president and former India captain Sourav Ganguly added: “It is good to get Oman in the frame of world cricket with the hosting of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. It will help a lot of young players take an interest in the game. We know it will be a world class event in this part of the world.”

First round:

Group ‘A’: Sri Lanka, Ireland, the Netherlands, Namibia.

Group ‘B’: Bangladesh, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Oman.

Super 12s:

Group 1: England, Australia, South Africa, West Indies, A1, B2.

Group 2: India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Afghanistan, A2, B1.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2021

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