United States' captain Aaron Jones plays a shot during the...

United States' captain Aaron Jones plays a shot during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between United States and India at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in Westbury, New York, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Credit: AP/Adam Hunger

NORTH SOUND, Antigua — The United States opens the Super Eight playoffs against South Africa at cricket's Twenty20 World Cup on Wednesday with American captain Aaron Jones sounding more confident than ever.

A win over 2022 runner-up Pakistan in the group stage, helping to raise the profile of cricket in the U.S., might do that to a team skipper.

"To be honest with you, a lot of people don’t really pay much attention to U.S. cricket,” said Jones.

“Probably the whole world don’t already know how much talent we have here . . . but definitely I think that on any given day, once we play proper cricket, we believe that we can beat any team in the world for sure.”

The U.S. qualified for the second round after its Group A wins over Canada and Pakistan, with favorite India also advancing from that group.

The eight teams are divided into two groups with defending champion England and co-host West Indies the other teams bracketed with the U.S and South Africa. The other group has unbeaten Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and India — those teams either topped their groups or finished as runner-up in the original 20-team tournament.

The U.S faces a tough opponent in South Africa, which won all four of its group games. But the Americans can take heart from the fact that South African batters struggled in their last two low-scoring matches against weaker opponents Bangladesh — when the Proteas won by four runs, and Nepal, who they beat by one run.

United States' Aaron Jones, centre, walks with team members before...

United States' Aaron Jones, centre, walks with team members before an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match against Ireland at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium in Lauderhill, Fla., Friday, June 14, 2024. Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

Despite all the mystery surrounding low-scoring drop-in pitches in New York and the wet weather in Florida, the U.S. sent shockwaves in the cricketing world with its back-to-back wins against Canada and Pakistan in Dallas before losing to India on a tricky wicket in New York.

The rain gods also helped the U.S. — the tournament co-hosts received a crucial one point from its rain-abandoned group game against Ireland that knocked Pakistan out of the tournament. It was the first time that Pakistan, the 2009 champions, had not qualified for the playoffs in eight versions of the tournament.

The other Super Eight match Wednesday has co-hosts West Indies playing England at Gros Islet, St. Lucia. On Thursday, Afghanistan plays India at Bridgetown, Barbados and Australia takes on Bangladesh at North Sound, Antigua to complete the first round of playoff matches.

All matches in the Super Eight round are being played in the West Indies, and later the semifinals and final. The championship match in the month-long tournament is set for June 29 at the century-old Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados.

Afghanistan's wicket keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz, right, celebrates the dismissal of...

Afghanistan's wicket keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz, right, celebrates the dismissal of West Indies' Nicholas Pooran, run out by Afghanistan's Azmatullah Omarzai, during an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match at Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, Monday, June 17, 2024. Credit: AP/Ramon Espinosa

The Americans are longshots to be there, but don't count them out.

Not many Americans knew they had a cricket team before Jones hit the headlines with his blistering score of 95 runs in the opening game against Canada that also featured 10 big sixes.

But admiration for the U.S. team grew more, not only in America but also around the cricketing world after it defeated Pakistan in a super over at Dallas.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve been speaking about playing in the World Cup, playing more games against the full-member nations and stuff like that,” Jones said.

“Obviously qualifying for the Super Eights is really good . . . not only for us but the fans around America as well. We really appreciate them, and for the younger generation in America.”

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