Rain threatens to derail the Twenty20 World Cup this weekend, with Australia’s opener against New Zealand and an India-Pakistan blockbuster both at risk of being rained out.
Parts of Australia are bracing for a third straight La Nina weather event, with a wetter-than-average summer forecast, and rain is expected in Sydney and Melbourne from Friday to next week.
Australia begin their title defence against New Zealand on Saturday evening at a sold-out Sydney Cricket Ground, a rematch of the 2021 final in Dubai, where Mitchell Marsh’s unbeaten 77 powered them to an eight-wicket win and their first title.
The Bureau of Meteorology, on the other hand, predicts a “very high (90 percent) chance of showers and possibly thunderstorms,” with no reserve days for group games. They are only used in the semi-finals and finals.
It looks equally bleak for Sunday’s match between India and Pakistan in Melbourne, where up to 100,000 fans are expected to fill the cavernous MCG, with tens of millions more tuning in to watch.
A match must consist of at least five overs per side.
The weather may also cause problems in Hobart, where games are scheduled for Friday and Sunday, though England’s opener against Afghanistan in Perth on Saturday is expected to be beautiful.
Australia has a golden opportunity to become the first team to win back-to-back T20 world titles, as they are the only winners of cricket’s shortest format to be able to defend their title at home.
However, they begin their campaign after a 2-0 series loss to England earlier this month, with Finch admitting they were “tired” after a gruelling build-up.
Despite the difficult lead-up, pace spearhead Pat Cummins insisted they were in a better position after defying the odds to win the title last year.
‘Be more prepared.’
“I think we’re even better prepared in some ways,” he said this week. “We’ve played a lot more, and we’ve learned a lot from last year.”
“Having said that, T20 is a very volatile format.” If you look around, there are probably four or five teams that could win it.”
New Zealand enters the competition in mixed form, having lost to South Africa and Pakistan but recently winning against Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Australia will be a tough opponent, according to fast bowler Tim Southee, if their game is played.
“You can’t even sniff them. “They’re a class act,” he said.
England, which has dominated white-ball cricket in recent years, is in the same six-team group as Australia and New Zealand and could be their biggest challenger.
On Wednesday, pace bowler Reece Topley was ruled out of the tournament due to an ankle injury, and fellow left-armer Tymal Mills was promoted from his previous status as travelling reserve.
With only two teams from each of the two groups making the semi-finals, they were already missing injured star batsman Johnny Bairstow.
India enters their match against Pakistan as the world’s number one, but they haven’t won a major trophy since winning the Champions Trophy in 2013.
They are missing injured pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah and key all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja, but skipper Rohit Sharma believes the squad is capable of coping.
“The bowlers who came with us to the World Cup have played enough matches,” he said, replacing Bumrah with Mohammed Shami.
Pakistan are coming off a T20 tri-series victory in New Zealand, and they welcome back pace bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi, who has recovered from a knee injury.