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In honour of Umar Gul’s remarkable 5-6 yesterday (youtube here), here are four more of the best-ever T20I bowling performances:

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Group E

  • The West Indies may have hammered Australia, but that victory owed a lot more to Chris Gayle’s power-hitting than it did to competent fielding from the team at large. Conceding as many runs as the side has recently probably won’t see them progress any further, but such is Gayle’s talent that few totals are unequivocally out of reach if the Windies bat second.

Group F

  • Ireland have exceeded many expectations by reaching this stage, and the lone Associate side remaining in the competition will need more than a little luck to progress any further. The match against Pakistan, though is bound to rekindle memories of 2007, and there’s still a chance of another upset or two being sprung.
  • New Zealand haven’t shown as much promise in their two group matches as I thought they might, but the quality of Vettori, McCullum, Oram and Taylor (if all are fit at the same time) will raise hopes of a Semi Final place.

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Ireland qualified for the Super Eight stage of the World Twenty20 with a victory over Bangladesh that came courtesy of brothers Niall and Kevin O’Brien.

Of the two teams, Bangladesh looked more like the side unused to the big occasion, with wickets being thrown away with gay abandon throughout their innings, with Tamim Iqbal’s run out being a comic highlight. Mohammad Ashraful also committed the cricketing equivalent of hari-kiri in the sort of display that had coach Jamie Siddons up in arms. Apparently, one of the main issues is “getting to the bus on time”.

For Ireland, such minor transportation issues are as insignificant as the absence of Eoin Morgan. Roll on the Super Eights…

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One of the criticisms that a sport like cricket,with such a limited number of established international sides, tends to face with regard to international tournaments is that some of the Associate nations are simply making up the numbers, contributing to an ICC-sponsored illusion about the relative popularity of the game outside of its traditional strongholds.

There is often a grain of truth in this criticism, and it’s true that the Associates are often treated shabbily, having their best players poached by Test-playing nations and rarely getting the chance to play against the top teams. But the performances of the Netherlands last night, and to some extent Scotland today, have shown that there are teams outside of the ‘Big 9’ who can compete with the best.

Ireland also have high hopes of causing a stir, and if they can beat Bangladesh on Monday, there could be two Associates in the last eight of the ICC World Twenty20 – perhaps proving that the supposed minnows aren’t just along for the ride after all.

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The ICC World Twenty20 gets underway from Friday. Here’s part one of my preview:

India, the defending champions, will face high expectations after emerging triumphant from the thrilling finale last time out.  The intervening years have of course seen the development of the Indian Premier League, a competition that means India’s players have a wealth of Twenty20 experience (although the national side has only played five T20 Internationals since the last competition, winning only one). Twenty20 superstars such as MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh will certainly strengthen the holders’ chances of retaining the title.

Bangladesh caused a minor shock last time out when they beat the West Indies to make the Super Eight, and hopes will be high that they can reach that stage again. The likes of Tamim Iqbal, Mohammad Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan are potential match-winners, but no Bangladeshi player has yet set the IPL alight, and any progression beyond the last eight seems unlikely for the Tigers.

Ireland qualified for the tournament mainly thanks to an impressive performance from Andre Botha. The side will, however, be missing a key player of recent years in Eoin Morgan, who has been called into England’s squad for the tournament.  A surprise result against Bangladesh could see the Irish sneak into the Super Eight (much as they did in the last 50-over World Cup), but on balance the current side (especially without Morgan) may be hard-pressed to repeat the heroics of 2007.

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Pakistan’s international matches against Australia in 2010 may be held in Ireland or Scotland, as hosting matches in England looks set to be ‘too expensive’ for the PCB.

This seems like it would be a shame for the many thousands of expatriate Pakistani cricket fans (or, perhaps more accurately, cricket fans of Pakistani extraction) in Yorkshire or Lancashire, but it would undoubtedly be a huge boost for the Irish and Scottish cricket authorities to have a Test nation based within their jurisdiction.

Personally, I’d love to see Pakistan play at Old Trafford, but it would also be great to see them playing in the British Isles, regardless of how close it is to where I live.

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Up until today, Ireland were the only unbeaten team in the ICC World Cup qualifiers, and Afghanistan’s fairytale looked like it was coming to an end at the Super Eight stage.

Ireland, however, were bowled out for a mere 196, mainly thanks to Hamid Hassan‘s 5-23, four wickets if which involved breaking the batsman’s stumps. The journey that has taken a group of players from Division 5 of the World Cricket League to victory over a side which not so long ago humbled Pakistan.

Although the Afghans still sit second-from-bottom of the Super Eight table, they are only one win behind Kenya in third place. The odds are still stacked against them (especially with difficult matches to come), but there is hope yet for a fairytale ending.

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