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Posts Tagged ‘uae’

Afghanistan, everyone’s favourite heartwarming warzone-based cricket team of the last year, have won the ACC Twenty20 Cup, beating the UAE in the final by 84 runs. Mohammad Nabi starred with both bat (73 from 38 balls) and ball (4-7 from just nine deliveries) as the Afghans won the trophy which they had to share with Oman two years ago.

Afghanistan will shortly play their first ‘official’ Twenty20 International matches in the next World Twenty20 Qualifier, where they have been drawn in a group alongside Ireland, Scotland and the USA.

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Australia’s well-documented injury problems in India have allowed one or two players the chance to break into the side. The man with possibly the most masculine name ever, Burt Cockley, may not have made it into the side, but Doug Bollinger did, and took 3-38 on Monday and 5-35 today to move his way up the pecking order of Aussie quicks (Mitchell Johnson also had a good match, so he probably still pecks first).

Bollinger has been on the fringes of the Australian side for some time, having often been a non-playing tourist with the Test side, and having played only 3 ODIs before the current series (in the relatively low-profile series against Pakistan over in the UAE). Given Australia’s problems with bowlers this year, perhaps the Champagne puns that have been (ahem) ‘on ice’ since Dominic Cork’s international retirement will get more regular outings in future.

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After five matches each, the wheat have been separated from the marginally more chaff-like wheat, and 12 teams have been reduced down to eight for the Super Eights stage, which it is to be hoped will be more than half well named. The teams eliminated, and therefore definitely not going to the finals (and also missing out on full ODI status for the next 4 years) are Bermuda, Denmark, Oman and Uganda.

  • Afghanistan only just edged through to this stage after losing three matches in a row, but their potential fairytale continues. Even if they don’t qualify, their success against the odds has been a rare good news story from their troubled country.
  • Canada look likely to qualify given their form in the group stages (including an impressive 131 off 99 balls from John Davison against Namibia), and their win over Scotland in the first stage puts them in a good position going into the Super Eights.
  • Ireland will also be well placed heading into this stage, with 6 points carried over from the group stage. Eoin Morgan’s England call-up, whilst unsurprising, will be a blow, but the as yet unbeaten Irishmen will be favourites to qualify for the finals with ease.
  • Kenya are also amongst the favourites to make it to 2011, with only one defeat in their five matches so far. Aging limbs may start to feel the strain at this stage, but they have enough quality to ensure qualification.
  • Namibia only made it to this stage by virtue of net run rate, and will not be expected to progress any further. One or two good results could see them sneak one of the six ODI places, but even that is a tall order.
  • The Netherlands, as expected, have done well so far, and are strong candidates for qualification if they can continue their form into this stage of the competition.
  • Scotland, on the other hand, have failed to live up to expectations so far, and their 148-run defeat to Canada will set alarms ringing. Their matches against the Netherlands and Kenya now take on ‘must-win’ status.
  • The UAE, a team of “baggage handlers and bursars” have exceeded expectations, finishing Group B with as many points as Kenya and the Netherlands, but will be seen as outsiders to beat those teams into the top four. Fifth or sixth place is, however, a realistic target.

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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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Strangely for a player trying to find form, Michael Vaughan has played very little cricket over the winter. It may be that his central contract prevented him from playing in a Southern Hemisphere domestic competition, or that he ‘needed some time away from cricket’, but his last First-class match was way back in September, when he made a whopping 14 for Yorkshire against Somerset.

In any case (and leaving aside the question of whether the rest has done the trick, or the pitches out in Abu Dhabi are merely flatter than Norfolk), he’s finally back in the runs. The former England captain tonked 115 from 113 balls for his county as they beat Surrey in their opening match of the pre-season Pro ARCH Trophy out in the UAE.

There was more good news for the expert proponent of the textbook forward defensive with cartwheeling stump recently, when Duncan Fletcher came out in support of Vaughan returning to the Test side at number three. Whilst this is about as newsworthy as ‘Man drinks Guinness on St. Patrick’s Day‘, I’m sure Vaughan was pleased to see his name appear in a newspaper other than the Yorkshire Post.

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Today’s shocking and sad events in Lahore are a cruel blow to many, but not least to Pakistani cricket. With cricketers themselves the targets, no international cricketer will want to travel to Pakistan for months, perhaps years, to come. Pakistan is in danger of becoming the cricketing equivalent of a pariah state.

It seems likely that the national team will return to the strange limbo of 2008, playing ‘home’ matches in the UAE, or perhaps England, and perhaps playing no Test cricket at all. Cricket at a neutral venue is preferable to no cricket at all, but as has been noted elsewhere, “Pakistan can play on as a nomad team, but they … cannot survive a wandering life”. There is a real sense that these events have brought about the end of an era. If cricketers are now terrorist targets, then the sport’s attitude to terrorism must, sadly, become less innocent.

There has been no official pronouncement that the 2011 World Cup will be reorganised to move matches away from Pakistan, but many players may not be convinced to travel if they fear being targeted. Where previously those who refused to tour Pakistan were criticised for not adopting the same approach to India, it now seems there is good reason for making a distinction.

For now, my thoughts are with the families of the dead, and with fourth umpire Ahsan Raza, reportedly in a critical condition after being shot in the back.

Also, my thoughts are with the people of Pakistan, who have lost so much recently, and now face losing their international cricket for the forseeable future.

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Afghanistan and Uganda have qualified from Division 3 of the World Cricket League to book their places in the final round of qualification for the 2011 World Cup, edging out Papau New Guinea on net run rate.

Afghanistan and Uganda had been forced to replay their final matches against the Cayman Islands and Argentina respectively following rain on Friday, but neither will have been too upset as both were in difficult situations before the matches were abandoned. Afghanistan in particular were a mere 28 runs away from defeat to the Cayman Islands in their original match, but triumphed in the replay. Uganda were also given a reprieve by the weather, having been 69/4 on Friday, and also enjoyed victory (by 99 runs) in their replay.

Joining the two qualifiers in the World Cup Qualifier – to be held in South Africa in April – will be Kenya, Scotland, the Netherlands, Canada,
Ireland, Bermuda, the UAE, Oman, Namibia and Denmark. Of these 12, four will qualify for the tournament itself, but the top 6 will all be granted full ODI status for four years (and the top 8 will qualify for the ICC Intercontinental Cup).

Personally, I’m very pleased that the remarkable story of the Afghan side is going to continue.

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