Sri Lanka's Kumar Sangakarra

The 2012 T20 Cricket World Cup is finally underway and it began with an appropriately explosive opening encounter, between hosts Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. The hosts were put into bat in the Group C match (the other team in the group is South Africa, meaning Zimbabwe's loss leaves them almost certainly out of the tournament) and responded with an onslaught of runs.

Tillkaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Jeevan Mendis led the charge, scoring 39, 44 and 43 respectively off only 84 balls. The trio set the struggling African nation a target of 183 from 20 overs before Ajantha Mendis reduced them to shambles with his offbreaks creating havoc in Zimbabwe's batting. He finished with otherworldly figures of 6/8 from four overs to send a stern warning to their championship rivals.

Tournament Preview

The format is simple. Twelve teams have been divided into four groups of three each, with the Test playing nations joined by two qualifiers.

Group A: England, India, Afghanistan

Group B: Australia, West Indies, Ireland

Group C: Sri Lanka, South Africa, Zimbabwe

Group D: Pakistan, New Zealand, Bangladesh

In the initial group stages each side will play the other once (full fixture list here) and the top two teams from each group will go into the Super Eight stage. The Super Eight Groups - two of them - will see winners from Groups A and C and runners-up from B and D in Group 1 and the other four nations in Group 2. Remember, no points are carried forward to this stage and the top two from each will go into the semi finals.

The preliminary group games will be played over the next week, rotating between one and two games a day, finishing on 25 September with Bangladesh playing Pakistan.

The two games scheduled for 19 September are both classic David v Goliath matches, with powerhouses Australia and India taking on Ireland and Afghanistan respectively.'


The highlight of the day's action will be the Australia v Ireland game and anybody who has followed cricket in recent years will know the Irish are professional giant slayers... and they are good at it.

Australia v Ireland

Australia v Pakistan in Dubai

The unheralded "other half" of English cricket have wins against Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bangaldesh and England but perhaps their most famous moments were the 2007 One Day International (ODI) World Cup in the West Indies. They were equally impressive in the 2011 ODI World Cup, once again beating England (and co-fledglings Netherlands for good measure). In the 20-20 format of the game the Irish have been no less successful, beating Bangladesh by a very comfortable six wickets to qualify for the Super Eights of the 2009 edition (eliminated after losing to Sri Lanka, Pakistan and New Zealand).

Australia, meanwhile, come into the tournament in a shockingly fragile state of mind. The once all-conquering Aussies are now, and this is a telling statement, ranked below their opponents in the ultra-short version of the game. Admittedly the rankings, particularly for a game of this nature, don't mean much - anything can happen in almost no time at all - the fact captain George Bailey's side has won only four of the last 13 games (the Irish have eight of 11) is worrying.

However, this is still Australia we're talking about... world champions and former world number ones in all formats of the game and finalists in the last T20I World Cup. This is a new Australia side - at least for this format of the game - and they will take to get their acts together. Having said that, never write the Aussies off... Ireland will certainly not be.

Who: Australia v Ireland

Where: Colombo

When: 11 am BST on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1 HD

Afghanistan v India

Sri Lanka v India

The second David v Goliath match of the day is between war-ravaged Afghanistan and reigning ODI World Cup champions India. The game is a repeat of the group stage game from the 2010 edition, when the two were joined by South Africa in the first group stages. That game proved to be a lesson in world-class cricket for the Afghans (they lost by seven wickets) and the south-central Asian country will be eager to tell their more illustrious neighbours they have learnt a thing or two.

India come into this game after a strong home series against New Zealand (which, they will hope, did enough to erase memories of an embarrassing tour of England) and feature a very strong side, with the likes of captain MS Dhoni and hard-hitters Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli leading the charge.

Who: Afghanistan v India

Where: Colombo

When: 3 pm BST on Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 1 HD