Now, you can get all the USA Cricket updates via Facebook. Also follow us on Twitter via @dreamcricket
By Peter Della Penna (on Twitter)
USA has gained a very favorable draw for the 2013 ICC World Twenty20, scheduled to take place from November 15-30 in the UAE. The ICC officially unveiled the tournament schedule on Wednesday and USA has been placed in Group A, which appears to be the easier of the two eight-team groups.
Two changes have been made to the overall tournament format, one of which will greatly benefit USA. The first change is a slightly revised structure to the playoffs. In the 2012 qualifier, only the top three teams in each group advanced to the winners bracket for a chance at making the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. In 2013, the top five teams in each group will have a chance at advancing to the 2014 ICC World Twenty20 with the top team in each group automatically qualifying. It will allow mid-tier teams like the USA a greater margin of error to advance in spite of losses in group play. Based on the 2012 standings from group play, three teams with 3-4 losing records – Italy, Nepal and Papua New Guinea – would have still had a chance to qualify under the new structure.
The other welcome change for all tournament participants is that the qualifier has been lengthened by four days resulting in desperately needed off days during the group stage. At the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, teams were required to play seven group games in eight days with one off day after the first four matches. The total tournament only lasted 12 days and eventual champion Ireland wound up having to play a grueling 11-game schedule in that timespan.
Multiple teams had players go down injured during the tournament in 2012 mainly due to the cramped schedule but teams will now have three off days during the group stage. Teams that finish in places two through five in their group and qualify for the playoffs will also have two off days between the end of the group stage and start of the playoffs instead of just one off day like 2012. The two teams that win their respective groups will have four days off between the end of the group stage and the tournament semifinals. The extra rest days during this year’s event will hopefully result in fewer injuries.
The other teams joining USA in Group A at the qualifier are defending champion Ireland, Canada, Namibia, UAE, Hong Kong, Uganda, and Italy. Group B contains 2012 ICC World Twenty20 participant Afghanistan, the Netherlands, Scotland, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Nepal, Bermuda and Denmark.
Although USA lost heavily against Ireland at the 2012 qualifier, the chief tormentor for USA in the field in that match was pace bowler Boyd Rankin, who took 4 for 9 in four overs. Rankin has since left Ireland to play for England. While Ireland is still a formidable opponent, they will lack the intimidation factor that existed against other Associates when Rankin was part of the team.
The only other opponent in group play that USA does not match up favorably with is Hong Kong. Pace bowlers Aizaz Khan and Irfan Ahmed both bowl in excess of 135 kph, speeds not seen too often in the USA which makes them hard to handle. Khan took 5 for 25 in a 77-run win for Hong Kong at the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier when Hong Kong bowled out USA for 100 in the 11th place playoff.
The last time USA played the UAE, in a warmup match ahead of the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, USA won by 1 wicket after chasing down UAE’s total of 141 thanks to 57 not out from Timroy Allen. USA has never beaten Uganda in the three meetings they’ve had against them in ICC tourneys but will not be intimidated by them nor will they feel that way about Italy, Namibia or Canada.
USA lost to Italy by 8 runs last year at the Twenty20 Qualifier but has been very competitive against Italy in 50-over cricket, splitting the four meetings they’ve had with them since 2010. USA’s struggles against Canada during the recent Auty Cup tour were mainly to do with their batting. USA’s full strength lineup beat Canada in 2010 at the inaugural ICC Americas Division One Twenty20 tournament in Bermuda.
Image (left) - Sushil Nadkarni, seen here in action at the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, was USA's leading scorer at the tournament. [Courtesy: ICC/Thusith Wijedoru]
USA will have two official warm-up matches ahead of the tournament, against Scotland in Dubai on November 12 and Nepal in Abu Dhabi on November 13. They will then be based in Abu Dhabi for round-robin play in Group A. USA starts off the tournament against Canada on November 15. Like the 2012 qualifier, USA’s second and third matches will be against Italy on November 16 and Namibia on November 17.
They will then have two days off before getting back into action against Ireland on November 20. USA follows that with matches against Uganda on November 21 and Hong Kong on November 22. An off day is scheduled for USA on November 23 before their final group match takes place on November 24 against the host country, UAE. USA plays two matches, against Canada and Ireland, inside Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi while the other five group matches for USA will be at ovals outside the stadium.
Group B will play their games in Dubai and Sharjah. At the conclusion of round-robin play, Group A will travel back to Dubai and all matches for the playoffs will take place in Dubai and Sharjah. Three playoff matches will take place in Sharjah, all with teams who will have failed at possible qualification to the 2014 ICC World Twenty20. All of the winners bracket matches will take place in Dubai either at the ICC Global Cricket Academy or the Dubai Sports City Stadium from November 27-30.
USA has no more matches scheduled between now and the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. USACA has not yet announced any plans to hold a selection camp or trial prior to the tournament. All squads must be submitted to the ICC 30 days prior to the start of the qualifier.