Big guns set to boom in T20 semi-final race

The World Twenty20 shifts to a higher gear in Sri Lanka on Thursday when the hot favourites begin an intriguing race for the semi-finals in the Super Eights round.

The preliminary league, which ended on Tuesday, separated the men from the boys as lesser teams like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and Ireland exited the competition.

All eight seeded teams will contest the second round, divided into two groups with the top two from each half advancing to the semi-finals.

The road to the Super Eights was bumpy for some and a smooth ride for others, and with monsoon rains set to add to the uncertainty, the next round promises another roller coaster ride.

Australia, South Africa, India and Pakistan, clubbed together for the Super Eights in the 'group of death', all came through unscathed by winning both their preliminary matches.

But in the other half, defending champions England, New Zealand and hosts Sri Lanka moved up with just one win each, with the West Indies going through without even winning a game.

Darren Sammy's Caribbean stars lost to Australia and then had their match against Ireland abandoned due to rain, allowing them to scrape through with a superior run-rate over the Irish.

England won the last edition in 2010 after a similar winless start in the preliminary round, but Sammy refused to derive any consolation from that.

"I am aware of what happened back in 2010, but the most important thing is that we have got to do well in the Super Eights," the West Indies captain said.

"We have to keep improving our game and hopefully we can go out there and express what we have with us."

The West Indies take on England in the second match of Thursday's double-header in Pallekele, following the opener between Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

Stuart Broad's England will look to put their campaign back on track after suffering an embarrassing 90-run loss to India in Colombo on Sunday when they were bowled out for their lowest T20 total of 80.

The action will hot up with the group two double-header in Colombo on Friday when power-packed South Africa meet Pakistan, before India take on Australia later at night.

"The pressure and tension are only going to rise as we get closer to that India match because it's a huge game," veteran Australian batsman Mike Hussey said on Wednesday.

"If we can win that first one in the Super Eights, it does give you that confidence and that little buffer that you just need one (win) out of the last two to get through.

"It's pretty much an early grand final really in the context of the tournament."

The marquee fixture in the Super Eights will be Sunday's clash between India and Pakistan in Colombo, the first T20 international between the arch-rivals since the inaugural World Twenty20 final in 2007.

A well-balanced Pakistan, boosted by the presence of prolific spinner Saeed Ajmal in a versatile bowling unit, will look to break the jinx of never having beaten India in the 50-over World Cup or the World Twenty20.

Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whose young side defeated Pakistan in the 2007 final in Johannesburg, played down the hype over Sunday's game.

"It's never about one team," said Dhoni. "One has to play consistently well through a tournament to win. We will take it one game at a time."

The competition will be intense as even two wins out of three in a Super Eights group may not guarantee a semi-final berth if one team loses every match and the other three beat each other.

If teams are equal on points, run-rates will determine which one loses out.

With bad weather forecast for the rest of the tournament, several twists and turns could be on the cards before the winner is crowned on October 7.

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