World champs West Indies block Australia’s path to cup semis

Australia will almost certainly have to find a way to beat the same West Indies team that has bullied them in Twenty20 matches over most of the past decade if they are to progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup in the UAE.

The draw for the cup was released on Tuesday by the ICC, revealing that the Australians’ campaign will start against South Africa on October 23, before they face a qualifier five days later. Eoin Morgan’s England are next, on October 30, followed by another qualifier on November 4.

The West Indies celebrate their World T20 triumph in 2016.Credit:AP

Given Australia’s recent poor record in T20, the opener against the Proteas will be vital for establishing a winning combination and building confidence: the Australians defeated South Africa in a T20 series away from home in early 2020, weeks before the onset of COVID-19.

But the meeting with the West Indies in the final pool game on November 6 looms as something of an elimination final, given that only two of Australia, England, West Indies and South Africa can progress to the semis out of their group.

While the Australians are expected to be bolstered by the returns of David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith and Pat Cummins to their squad, after all took breaks for “bubble fatigue” this year, this is far from a guarantee of the victories required.

A full-strength Australian side lost a T20 series to England in Southampton late last year and then at home to India, before weaker combinations were beaten in New Zealand, the West Indies and Bangladesh this year.

The Caribbean side, coached by Phil Simmons, is highly specialised in T20, and has won seven of its eight most recent meetings with Australia in the format. These games included the 2012 World Cup semi-final in Colombo, and a group match at the 2014 World Cup in Dhaka.

West Indies lifted the T20 World Cup in 2012 and also in the most recent edition of the tournament in 2016 in India, leaving them as reigning world champions in the format.

Though the Australian set-up has spoken of “taking T20 more seriously” for years, the national team has never won a World Cup in the format and made its one and only appearance in the tournament final as far back as 2010 in the Caribbean, when Mike Hussey played one of the innings of his career to perform a heist against Pakistan in the semis.

Alex Carey, who led Australia in an ODI series on the West Indies tour but is a more peripheral member of the T20 side, said the short form had been a source of problems for the national team for quite some time, culminating in a 4-1 series trouncing by Bangladesh.

“We knew the conditions would be different, and that it would be a challenging T20 series no doubt, but once we were put on the back foot after that first game, it was really hard to find that rhythm and get some momentum to peg the series back,” Carey told SEN Radio.

“We’ve been close, but we haven’t been able just to get winning momentum in that format. Obviously there were a few key names sitting back in Australia. But for the group that went away there were some really good opportunities, and unfortunately, we didn’t grab them. Disappointing on all fronts.”

Selectors George Bailey and Justin Langer are discussing their tournament squad combinations, with overall season plans for individual players still being finalised. It is possible that some multi-format players will be held back from the cup in order to give them more time at home ahead of a home Ashes series that is scheduled to be followed by Australia’s first tour to Pakistan since 1998.

Australia’s Twenty20 World Cup draw (all start times UAE local)

October 23, Australia v South Africa, 2pm

October 28, Australia v 1st-placed qualifier, 6pm

October 30, Australia v England, 6pm

November 4, Australia v 2nd-placed qualifier, 2pm

November 6, Australia v West Indies, 2pm

Semi-finals November 10 and 11, 6pm

Final November 14, 6pm

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