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Archive for March, 2009

Afghanistan’s remarkable story will attract most neutral supporters, but the talent of the likes of Hamid Hassan and Mohammad Nabi would command attention regardless of the surrounding circumstances. The step up to this level may cause problems for some of the less experienced members of the squad, but there is sufficient quality in the side to give some of the more established sides something to worry about.

Bermuda Dwayne Leverock, but the side also includes David Hemp (who has captained Glamorgan and toured with England A in the mid-nineties) and young Chris Douglas, who made two half-centuries in three days back in August (69 against Canada and an impressive 53 against the West Indies). Bermuda qualified for the finals last time around when there were five spots available, but they may struggle to claim one of the four places available for 2011.

Denmark will be missing the best-known Danish cricketer in Amjad Khan, now of Kent and England, but have a number of experienced players in their squad (eight of whom played in the last ICC Trophy). Captain Freddie Klokker, a former MCC Young Cricketer, has county experience with Derbyshire and Warwickshire, and carries extra responsibility as both wicketkeeper and opening batsman.

Kenya haven’t had to qualify for a World Cup since the 1999 competition, having made it as far as the World Cup Semi-Final in the period since. Whilst the current side is extremely unlikely to reach those dizzy heights again, Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo are both capable of matchwinning performances. Both are likely to have their fitness severely tested with a potential four games in a single week once the Super Eight stage gets underway.

The Netherlands are often considered to be heavily reliant on their star man Ryan ten Doeschate, so their fans would have been thrilled when Dirk Nannes was included in their squad for this competition, and correspondingly disappointed when he signed for the Dehli Daredevils in the IPL, thus missing the qualifiers. The experienced Edgar Schiferli was the joint-leading wicket-taker in the 2005 ICC Trophy, though, and he can still pose a threat with his medium-fast seam bowling, whilst the batting line-up looks strong.

The UAE were the unlucky team in 2005, just missing out on qualification for the 2007 finals, and fortune also seems to have been unkind to their preparation for this tournament – the side had to cancel a trip to Sri Lanka following events in Lahore. Perhaps more worryingly, captain Khurram Khan was apparently so annoyed at the choice of the squad he is leading that he went as far as writing a newspaper article criticising the selection process (a criticism he later retracted) . Despite this, it would be a surprise if the UAE didn’t make the Super Eight stage at least.

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The final stage of qualification for the 2011 World Cup gets underway on Wednesday in South Africa, as 12 teams begin the battle for four places at the finals. Some have played at the finals before, whilst others have fought their way up from the obscurity of World Cricket League Division 5.

Canada’s build up to the World Cup Qualifier was severely disrupted when they were forced to cancel their tour of Zimbabwe following an outbreak of cholera, and they have their work cut out to qualify for the finals with a relatively weak side. If they are to make it, much will depend on emerging star Rizwan Cheema, who has made half-centuries against the West Indies and Sri Lanka in the last year.

Ireland made a big splash at the last World Cup in 2007, when they eliminated Pakistan and made it to the Super Eight stage, and the majority of the players involved in that success are likely to be involved again. Eoin Morgan, who has played for the England Lions, may be called up to the full England side before too long, so will want to put in some good performances in what may prove to be his last major tournament for Ireland.

Namibia will sadly be without the player who would undoubtedly have had the best name in the tournament in Kola Burger, but they come into the qualifier off the back of their best-ever performance in South African domestic One Day cricket. The Namibians have traditionally been stronger in multi-day cricket (they narrowly lost out to Ireland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup final), but batting under pressure in a 50-over game still seems to be an issue for them.

Oman isn’t renowned as a cricketing hotbed, and the majority of the side in South Africa will be subcontinental expatriates. Back in 2005 they lost every match in the ICC Trophy group stage, but beat Uganda and the USA in the play-off stages, and whilst they will be definite outsiders, they do have some players who are capable of winning matches.

Scotland emerged victorious last time this competition was held (when it was known as the ICC Trophy), and will be banking of the experience of -amongst others – Gavin Hamilton and John Blain to see them through. A number of the squad have had injury problems in the past, but if key players remain fit over the three weeks, the Scots will be expected to qualify for 2011 with relative ease.

Uganda have long been talked about as a dark horses in associate cricket, but have shown the sort of inconsistency that has brought wins over Kenya and Zimbabwe but also losses to Papua New Guinea. Bowling all-rounder Kenneth Kamyuka has the potential to make an impact, and making the Super Eight stage is a realistic target.

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The Indian Cricket League, currently in limbo following the cancellation of its World Series in the wake of last year’s attacks in Mumbai, and apparently running seriously short of cash, has offered its Kiwi players the option of being released from their contracts.

Some of the New Zealanders involved, notably Shane Bond and Darryl Tuffey, have sacrified their international careers by getting involved with the ‘rebel’ ICL, and if they were to cut their ties with the competition, it could raise the possibility of them playing again for the Black Caps. Whilst Bond has talked down this possibility in the past, Tuffey is reportedly keen to represent his country once again.

Perhaps of greater interest for those outside of New Zealand are the implications of this news on the expected future of the ICL itself. With subcontinental cricket involving non-subcontinental players seemingly becoming an ever rarer sight for ‘security reasons’, and the global economy looking shakier than it has been in decades, can the world support two Indian Twenty20 leagues?

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Ahead of the Second Test in Napier, with India having been so convincing in the first you would have been offered stratospheric odds on New Zealand forcing them to follow on, Sehwag twice getting out for less than 35 and Jesse Ryder making a double century. Yet all of those things have come to pass.

Most worrying for India in their quest for a first series win in New Zealand is the way that Sehwag’s magic touch seems to have deserted him, resulting in scenes like this more often than scenes like this. If the bloggers’ deity is to return to the old ways of recklessness, perhaps he will be proved mortal after all, and those who have questioned his brains in the past may be making their case again.

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I know Kevin Pietersen‘s in a hurry to get home, but England are taking the One Day batting collapse to new depths over in the West Indies.

117 all out isn’t even a good score in Twenty20, and it’s one of England’s worst ever ODI scores. If England are to be taken seriously as a One-Day side, they will need to win the odd One Day match without the help of innumerate opposition. Since Pietersen’s dramatic departure as captain, the side has lurched from crisis to crisis to the extent that they are making the West Indies (a team who narrowly avoided the cancellation of the current match due to a strike) look well-organised.

Anyone who seriously expects at this point that England will give Australia a serious challenge in the summer is basing their assessment more on wishful thinking than on any hard evidence.

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Inzamam ul-Haq could be amongst a host of Lahore Badshahs players about to take a bite of the Big Apple (or rather the big APL) as Jay Mir of the American Sports & Entertainment Group (me neither) plans an ‘American Premier League‘ Twenty20 tournament based at a converted baseball field in New York.

The last man to try and sell cricket to the Americans, of course, was Allen Stanford. The less said about that, I think, the better.

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With the World Twenty20 fast approaching, two of the potential winners go head-to-head with a two-match Twenty20 series which starts tomorrow in Johannesburg.

South Africa are the world’s number one One-Day side, but don’t have a great Twenty20 record against Australia. JP Duminy and Albie Morkel (with a Twenty20 strike rate of 133.90) will be amongst the Test players expected to step up, but there could be some unfamiliar faces in South African colours as the home side look to test out various combinations ahead of the summer.

For the tourists, a number of slots for the summer may be open, and the likes of Shane Harwood and James Hopes will be hoping to ensure their places in the Aussie World Twenty20 squad with strong performances against South Africa. Meanwhile, Mitchell Johnson‘s recent batting form may mean he may be considered an all-rounder in the shorter format, lending Australia an extra edge.

In all, things look set for another close series between the two sides.

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