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So it's been five years but we're back again. Another world cup and yet another preliminary round/qualifier.

As I've done in the past I figured I'd do a quick write-up for any fans here looking to watch some of the early games. I won't be looking at Sri Lanka and Bangladesh as I think everyone here knows plenty about those sides and I won't really be able to add anything worth reading on that.

That said, the general standards of the Associates has risen sharply in this form of the game over recent years, to the point the gap between the top Associates and low/mid tier Full Member's has never been lower. I'm confident we'll see some Associate shocks in this event, for a variety of reasons, not least the accelerated and continued rise in standards in this format in recent times.

So, I highly recommend everyone interested tunes in over the next week. The standard is good, there are guaranteed to be some absolutely cracking games and more importantly, every run, every game, every ball, has huge importance! A guaranteed recipe for drama worth viewing.

 

 

 

By Donnal Cozzie (17th October, 2021) 

 

Group A

An absolutely brutal group to predict, any of the four sides could qualify. I'm predicting every side to win at least one game, with qualifying margins to be quite tight.

The Netherlands

Qualifying Rank - 1st.

Overview

Easily the most successful Associate in the history of this competition, with two memorable victories over the English in 2009 and 2014 arguably being the high points of Dutch cricket full stop, plus the memorable chase against Ireland in 2014, the Dutch enter this tournament full of experience and ability in the format.

They won the Qualifier in quite convincing fashion, and boast serious depth in the pace bowling department, with genuine pace in Van Meekeren , and plenty of List A experience in England and NZ respectively from from Van der Gugten and van Beek.

On the batting front, there does exist a weakness against high quality spin, but with only SL in this group having that at their disposal, the Dutch should overcome this to qualify. Max O'Dowd has a very unique batting stance and is an excellent striker of the ball, and while Myburgh hasn't had the best form of late, he has immense destructive potential as evidenced in 2014 when he scored several fifties against quality opposition.

Players to Watch

Van der Merwe's all round abilities will be crucial if the Dutch are to progress


Averaging 29 at a SR of 125, Max O'Dowd as mentioned is a key cog in the Dutch batting department. They can also call on the immensely experienced duo of Colin Ackermann, Roelof van Der Merwe and Ryan TenDoeschate.

On the bowling front, Van Meekeren is coming fresh off a spell in the CPL and possesses considerable pace and bounce. In addition, Timm van der Gugten has plenty of county experience to his name

Weakness

If one was to pick a weakness with the Dutch, it would be their preparation. Although they've cobbled together three warm-up games this week, they have spent the least time in conditions of any of the qualifying sides I'm aware, and while Ireland, Soctland and others organised a quick tournament, the Dutch spent time in the nets.

In addition, they lack a potent spinner. Van Der Merwe and Seelaar are both canny operators but in a format where legspinners come at such a premium the Dutch are lacking, with the exception of young Boisevaan, although it is questionable if the management will risk playing him in this event.

Prediction - The Dutch have considerable ability in this format of the game, have several seasoned franchise players at their disposal and possess considerable batting depth. If conditions are as expected somewhat slow after the pitches have been used in the IPL for several weeks, I feel this will play to the bowling of the Dutch pacers in particular. They expect to qualify and should do so. 2nd place.


Namibia

Qualifying Rank - 4th

Overview

18 years after their WC bow in 2003, the Namibians are back and have never looked stronger. A seriously powerful batting line up on paper, they have been bolstered by outstanding preparation including extended tours of Zimbabwe and South Africa, and the acquisition of t20 franchise regular David Wiese, formerly of South Africa, who qualifies through a parent.

Boasting a batting line up stacked with massive hitting potential, they are not to be underestimated by any side in this tournament. They enter the event as massive underdogs based on their nations status alone, which will suit them perfectly, they are a major dark horse for this event.

Players to Watch

Averaging over 30 at a SR above 150, Smit will play a key role in propelling Namibia's batting.


JJ Smit possesses incredible hitting power, and this could be a breakout tournament. While hardly penetrating with the ball, the 25 year old medium pacer possesses a variety of bowling variations that can provide success in this format of the game, and his batting prowess has been shown time and again with some major innings in recent times. His T20I SR of above 150 is testamant to that, while averaging 33.

Gerhard Erasmus was player of the tournament in the qualifying tournament with 268 runs. Captain of the side, he plays a pivotal role in holding the top order together, as does Craig Williams. Both are more than capable of accelerating if given the chance.

On the all rounder front, Wiese and Smit is as dangerous as they come in terms of punishing the opposition. Bernard Scholz is an experienced left arm spinner who could also find purchase in these conditions.

Weakness

Namibia are certainly a batting heavy side, so there does exist a risk that the bowling is undercooked and slightly one dimensional, with little out and out pace on offer, they will be hoping for pitches that provide some assistance to their slower bowling outfit

Similar to the Dutch, while they can have spectacular success, the Namibians are inexperience in playing against quality legspin (Wiese aside), which could be their undoing.

It is pivotal for every side they come up against to make early inroads, as if they are allowed consolidate and save wickets for a late onslaught this team is capable of causing serious damage.

Prediction - I think they may struggle against the Lankans in particular with their spin resources, but I fully back the Namibians to cause at least one major shock in this tournament, with an outside chance of qualification. There are zero expectations as the cricket media by and large ignore these teams. I think this time they'll leave a mark, but fall just short. 3rd.


Ireland

Qualifying rank - 3rd

Overview

Easily the least consistent team in this event. It's entirely possible Ireland top this group or finish winless. Away victories over the Windies and Afghanistan in 2020 are squashed between an inconsistent qualifying campaign including three defeats, and chastening whitewash to the South Africans and a recent 2-1 series defeat to the UAE. The Irish did claim a series win vs Zimbabwe in August however.

The strength of the side comes in the form of its best two players. Paul Stirling is arguably the best player in this stage of the tournament and potentially one of the best LO openers on the scene worldwide. Left arm pacer Joshua Little has enjoyed a breakout 18 months and looks every bit the t20 bowler, with pace, attitude and plenty of variations.

The key weakness however lies in the inexperienced and ill equpped lower middle order. Captain Balbirnie occupies the stabiliser role however Dockrell at #5 is yet to find his feet in this format and Gareth Delany has only recently come into some batting form. The lower order possess a chronic inability to hit sixes, which has and may well undo the side's chances particularly in even straightforward chases in which the team has a tendency to lose wickets in clumps trying to up the ante.

Ireland will rely heavily on Joshua Little to provide aggression to the bowling unit


Players to watch

Stirling and Little require no introduction as their escapades are well documented at this level. Curtis Campher will play a huge role in the Irish sides chances. He is likely to be called on to bowl and bat in the top 5. His ODI batting exploits have been nothing sort of outstanding and the Irish will be praying he can bring that success across to this format of the game.

Gareth Delany possesses tremendous striking power, with a career SR above 150, unlike most of the side, but is still quite young. If he can play an innings Ireland tend to win, and his legspin has proven very useful in the past. His very unorthodox batting stance can lend itself to some seriously ugly dismissals however.

Weakness

As stated earlier, this is a team carrying five or six passengers. Ireland will be hoping some of these players rise to the occasion and release the burden placed on the opening partnership of Stirling and KOB in particular. Ireland have been badly undone from positions of great strength numerous times due to a lack of power and this is absolutely an area the opposition will seek to exploit. On its day this side can and has beaten many established sides, but in a three game shootout that level of inconsistency is unlikely to be sufficient.

Prediction - 4th.



Final Prediction

1. Sri Lanka - 4 (will not have all their own way, but they've prepared well and have the players and spinners to progress)
2. Netherlands - 4
3. Namibia - 2
4. Ireland - 2

 

Group B

This group is considerably more straightforward than its counterpart. Bangladesh are a bit of an unknown quantity in my opinion as recent series they've had at home have been played on pitches more suited to growing crops than playing t20 cricket. That said, they're stronger than SL imo and the imbalance in the group seedings caused by the ICC's ridiculous pre-tournament changes has handed them an easier qualifying group than their Sri Lankan neighbours.

That said, the final qualifying slot is wide open.

Scotland

Qualifying Rank - 5th

Overview

The Scots endured a pretty torrid qualification campaign dogged by serious underperformance. In the end they faced a do or die match against the hosts the UAE to secure their place in this event. They enter this tournament in good spirits however, following several good warm up displays.

The Scots boast some outstanding strikers of the ball at the top, and have plenty of experience to call on from their last showing at the 2016 tournament. However, they have historically failed to perform on the world stage dating all the way back to their debut event in 1999. That said, the format of this event provides sufficient room for one defeat and that could allow the Scots to overcome the past and make their mark on this tournament.

Players to Watch

Munsey is the prize wicket of the Scottish batting line up



George Munsey is an incredibly destructive batsman, The 28 year old averages 29 at a SR of 153, and will look to blow the opposition away before giving them a chance to settler. He's an excellent sweeper of the cricket ball, which should hold him in good stead going into this event.

Michael Leask provides the meat of the Scottish lower order and as a handy offspinner will likely find himself involved in the game often. He will provide a huge boost to the Scots if he can perform to his ability in this tournament. Richie Berrington will occupy a similar role, however bowling medium pace rather than spin. Mark Watt is the premiere spinner in the Scottish arsenal, with extremely accurate left arm spin always being useful in this format.

Lastly, the Scots have unearthed a fairly unknown Saffer origin leggie of the name Chris Greaves. He had several promising warm up displays, and bowls his leggies with excellent pace. He may not be able to rise to this occasion but if he can he will provide the Scots with a serious aggressive bowling option they've sorely lacked for years.

Weakness

The glaring weakness in the Scottish line up is the pace department. All have plenty of county experience, but with all being right arm medium pace the issue is a lack of variety. Bradley Wheal is the best of the bunch and may provide early inroads, but the Scots definitely opt for a batting heavy approach and I can see the pacers going for plenty at the death provided the opposition can get to that point. It is condition dependent of course, but the Scots may find themselves struggling in this department.

Additionally, it's hard to look past the history of underperformance. In 22 years of frequent WC appearances, the Scots have only won once, vs Hong Kong in 2016, with numerous near misses. They will need to overcome this stigma to progress. For me, the bowling attack and fact that their direct competitor are hosts will be their undoing.

Prediction - 3rd.



Papua New Guinea

Qualifying Rank - 2nd

Overview

After several near misses the Barramundis have finally made it to the world stage. Sporting a lovely jersey and a fantastic attitude to the game, they're certainly a welcome addition to this tournament.

A simply abysmal run of form in ODI cricket however should not hide the fact that PNG are a useful T20 outfit, as shown by them reaching the qualifier final over many more fancied sides.

Written off by many as no-hopers, they enter this tournament with a sense of freedome others can't benefit from, and have a good reputation particularly for their fielding at this level.

Players to Watch

Norman Vanua profile and biography, stats, records, averages, photos and  videos
Vanua can add much needed runs to a brittle batting order



In a weak batting line up, Asad Vala holds a crucial role.at the top as a player PNG rely on to stick around and build an innings around. Tony Ura is the prize scalp however, with an average nearly 40 and a healthy SR. These two bear a lot of the responsibility in ensuring they get to a decent total.

Noman Vanua is a big hitting allrounder (spotting a trend?) who tends to bowl a full quote and bat around #8. An inventive batsman, his contributions have often proven the difference for this side.

Weakness

In a sport where the term "bits and pieces player" is quite common, PNG can be described as a bits and pieces side in that they do a bit of everything well, get regular small contributions but they don't necessarily excel in any. A lack of experience at this level will be a difficult challenge to overcome, with PNG to my knowledge having never faced a Full Member nation in this form of the game before (could be wrong here).

It would be amiss to write them off, they reached the final of the qualifier and topped their group, but the lack of cricket over the pandemic, which has impacted all the Associates mentioned, hurt them.

The batting could well collapse if the vital two at the top are dismissed early.

I think PNG have a performance or two in them this tournament. Bangladesh with Shakib may be a step too far but they have no fear, play with a tremendous sense of joy and will , in my opinion, cause a scare or two. However, I think they'll fall short in the end. That said, they fear noone, and noone expects anything. Crazier things have happened.

Prediction - 4th



Oman

Qualifier Rank - 6th

Overview

Last but not least, the co-hosts, Oman. Currently well clear at the top of the WCL2 ODI championship, they enter this tournament with the full expectation of progressing to the next stage. With home turf and knowledge of conditions key, they have one major advantage over their rivals.

Oman are in many ways a perfect t20 side. Plenty of options with bat and ball, sedate starts can quickly lead to imposing totals, opening bowlers can quickly take wickets. There's no frills with this side, they enter the event confident and with good reason to be, despite a mixed qualifier campaign.

Players to Watch

Bilal Khan can generate big swing and will be key as Oman's leading strike bowler.


Jatinder Singh at the top of the order is a lynchpin of the Omanis batting exploits. His career SR may only be 115, but in a side who prioritise saving wickets to the end his role can be vital in laying a platform to build from.

Bilal Khan on song is one of the most destructive pacers in the Associate circuit. Capable of getting the ball to swing significantly early doors, he will be vital in any defences the Omanis undertake. His spell to clinch the final berth in the qualifier vs Hong Kong was sensational, and Oman will hope for more of the same

Khawar Ali has 35 wickets from 32 matches and his legbreaks will be called upon at regular intervals. Lastly, Zeeshan Maqsood (you may know from his super catch in the 2016 event to dismiss Stirling) will be called on to bowl as well as batting up top.

Weakness

The key weakness in the side is possibly linked to their semi professional status - a struggle at times to put a complete performance together. In recent games Oman have consistently made early inroads into opposition batsmen only to completely run out of gas in the final five overs. They will need to rectify this to overcome their group rivals in this tournament, as in this form of the game 1-2 overs are often the losing margin.

They enter the tournament with quite a bit of expectation given their decent t20 record and home knowledge. They may not have much experience of such circumstances, so it will prove a significant mental challenge for the side to overcome.

The batting line up is hit or miss. Expect either excellent totals or subpar.

Prediction - With home conditions and some decent spin options, I can see Oman pipping Scotland to the final qualifying slot.

Final Prediction

Bangladesh - 6
Oman - 4
Scotland - 2
PNG - 0