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.