Group D should, in theory be a straightforward group. It features South Africa, New Zealand and Scotland, and the latter will not be expecting a victory out of either of their games. South Africa and New Zealand are two of the more interesting teams whenever these tournaments come around; South Africa usually carry a lot of expectation and flatter to deceive, and New Zealand generally do something different to what is expected, reagrdless of whether that means outdoing themselves or underperforming.
South Africa may have unofficially replaced Australia as the ODI champions of the world, but they will want to get rid of their 'chokers' tag that has been attached to them in global events. They failed miserably in the last two world events they hosted and came a cropper against the Australians in the semi-finals of the 2007 world cup. However this South African team under Graeme Smith seems to have evolved in to a tight fighting side. T20 is something they are really fond of and they have the results to back that up. South Africa started off brilliantly in the last T20 world cup when they overhauled a massive West Indies total of 200 plus to win the opening match. However, they succumbed to the swing of the Indians in a do-or-die clash in the super eights and exited the tournament. However they have gone from strength to strength ever since. They registered their first Test series and ODI series victory in Australia and defeated the Australians in both the T20 games in the return series in South Africa. South Africa are perennial favourites in any tournament and this tournament provides them an ideal opportunity to obtain some valuable silverware. They have not won any since they were victorious in the 1998 ICC Knockout Trophy.
South Africa' batting looks very imposing with the presence of their captain Graeme Smith and the veteran Herschelle Gibbs at the top. Smith and Gibbs are batsmen in their own league and can provide the Proteas with some blistering starts. Gibbs has been in terrific form of late, as an integral part of the Deccan chargers he helped them win the IPL 2009 with some scintillating match-winning performances. With the trio of A.B. De Villiers, J.P. Duminy and Jacques Kallis shoring up the middle order the South Africans can go for all out attack from start to finish. These three were key performers for their Sides in the IPL and are expected to provide some fire works. A.B. Devillers's 105* from 54 balls for Delhi against the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL was one of the best T20 knocks and if he can perform like that in South African colours we are in for something special. Kallis is an experienced campaigner and his penchant for big-hitting should make him a handy customer on small grounds in England. Duminy waged a lone battle for the Mumbai Indians which was in vain. The late middle order of South Africa consists of Roelof Van der Merve, Mark Boucher and Albie Morkel, Who turned some matches on their head with some late order blitz in the IPL.
The South African bowling resembles a well oiled-machine with Dale Steyn leading the attack. Makhya Ntini is out of the squad but Yusuf Abdulla's performances in the IPL has given the South Africans a much needed boost. Ably supported by the Morkel Brothers, Morne and Albie and the exciting young left arm bowler Wayne Parnell. It?s hard to find a chink in their bowling armory. The South African Spin attack is probably the best of the tournament with Johan Botha, Van der Merwe and Robin Peterson. In addition to these specialist bowlers Kallis can turn his arm over to provide some vital breakthroughs. With this attack it is hard to see teams scoring many runs against them.
With some explosive batsmen in their ranks, and an attack that has abundant variety and a top-class fielding unit South Africa look like they could fulfill the dream of winning an international trophy that is long over due. All things considered South Africa should have little trouble qualifying from this group, they should thrash Scotland and will fancy their chances against the Kiwis. Come the super eights the Proteas should give most of the teams a run for their money. If they can hold their nerve and not repeat their mistakes of the past it is hard to see many teams getting past them. Anything less then a semi-final spot will be a failed campaign for the Proteas and they are probably aware of that. This itself should be a great incentive for them to go on and lift the trophy.
Players to Watch: AB De Villiers, Herschelle Gibbs and Roleof Van der Merwe
New Zealand come into the tournament without excessive hopes or expectations, but a more than decent side. New Zealand always seem to excel in the shorter formats of the game when compared to their Test exploits, and Twenty20 seems tailor-made for some of their players.
The batting will be opened by Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder, you can expect these two to get New Zealand off to plenty of flyers if they get their eyes in quickly. They are two of the more dangerous opening batsmen in the tournament, and there are plenty of sides who would surely be happy to have them in their team. Of course, the danger with these two is that you might find yourself 0-2 pretty quickly (in fact New Zealand were 2-2 against the Aussies in the warm-up match) but it is a risk worth taking when you know that you might find yourself 40-0 after a handful of overs.
The batting is certainly decent beneath them, as well. Martin Guptil probably won't score masses of runs but you can certainly expect the runs that the youngster does score to come very quickly. Beneath him will probably be the more recognised names of Ross Taylor, Scott Styris and Jacob Oram. They are a fine middle order in the shortest format; Oram in particular has a fine record in Twenty20, expect him to thump the ball all around England. If they get it right, New Zealand certainly could set some large totals for teams to chase down - the lower order is packed with decent bats as well, although if you are mainly familiar with Test cricket, don't expect too much from Daniel Vettori, whose batting in the shorter formats of the game comes nowhere close to his Test form. Peter McGlashan will keep wicket for the Kiwis, allowing Brendon McCullum to focus on opening the batting. McGlashan is an interesting batsman to watch and is highly unorthodox, but is certainly a threat with the bat.
New Zealand's bowling unit is also decent. Ian Butler should open the bowling, he may have not set the world alight in his Twenty20 internationals so far but he has bowled well for his domestic team, Otago. The cherry will probably be shared with Iain O'Brien, a hero to many New Zealand supporters. O'Brien has not played a whole lot of Twenty20, but the games he has played suggest that he won't be especially economical but will take wickets at a decent rate, these will be vital if New Zealand are to progress beyond the Super Eight stage. Left-arm seamer James Franklin should join them in the attack, and can be expected to be reliable and difficult to score too heavily off.
The spin-bowling will be provided by skipper Daniel Vettori. Vettori should enjoy playing in this tournament, in a format where the team rely on him less than they do in Tests. He should be able to concentrate on his bowling and captaincy and enjoy his cricket a little more, in the knowledge that he is surrounded by a more than capable side. That being said, Vettori is probably New Zealand's best bowler, he will leave many batsmen with strike rates that they would be disappointed with in a fifty over game and tends to strike more than once every three overs. The bowling will also be aided by key all-rounders Styris and Oram, neither of whom are particularly easy to score from.
All in all New Zealand have a side that is clearly capable of giving any other side in the tournament a game. Whether they are quite good enough to do so game after game is debatable, but in Twenty20 it is a lot easier to pull of an upset. Don't be too surprised if New Zealand are still standing come the final.
Players to watch: Brendan McCullum, Jacob Oram, Daniel Vettori
Scotland will be glad that it is a short journey home for them as that is surely what they will be taking after two games in this tournament. They come into the competition in disarray and are clearly the weakest team in the tournament. They may well find themselves ripped to shreds by their opponents in Group D.
Scotland come into the tournament rocked by the loss of John Blain. It was Blain's bowling that got them into the tournament, and they will suffer without it. It is unclear exactly why Blain has left the squad, with captain Gavin Hamilton claiming that everything is fine. Hamilton himself is believed to be the main reason for Blain's walkout, in that he wasn't happy with the way Hamilton wanted things done. Regardless of the reasons, Blain leaves a massive hole in Scotland's side.
Hamilton himself is one of the biggest names in Scotland's side, having once played a Test for the auld enemy England, although a big name does not equate to a valuable player, and Hamilton will not have the bowlers of New Zealand or South Africa quaking. He does not score anywhere near quickly enough to be a threat in this format (his strike rate in ODIs is below 70) and it would be a surprise if he got many runs. He does bowl a little as well, though aged 34 he cannot reach the medium-fast pace that he used to be capable of.
Other names to take note of are their key batsman Neil McCallum, and their slogger Jan Stander, who also bowls some gentle spin. Majid Haq is their key spinner but was taken apart by much lesser batsmen in his only internationals in the format to date.
Craig Wright will open the bowling, his bowling is no quicker than medium-pace but he has doing a job for Scotland for a long time. Wright is a fine bowler at associate level although it remains to be seen how he will cope with the big-hitters and top-class batsmen that he will come up against in this tournament. Expect him to open the bowling with Gordon Drummond. Drummond has proven difficult to get away in the List A game and will be hoping to continue that in this competition.
It is a shame that Blain walked out of Scotland's squad and this will surely upset their preparations. It truly would be a remarkable tale were Scotland able to get anything out of this tournament, it would outstrip Ireland's progression to the Super Eights in the 2007 ODI World Cup. It is hard to see it happening, but then that is why the word shock exists. Scotland have nothing to lose.
Players to watch: Craig Wright, Gordon Drummond, Neil McCallum