Namibia will face Kenya, while Nepal takes on PNG and UAE faces off against Hong Kong
The first round of the ICC World Cricket League Championship got under way in Windhoek in May, and both Scotland and the Netherlands jointly lead the point table with two wins from as many matches.
The next round of games – eight matches spanning over two months – starts from Monday (September 14), with the Netherlands taking on Scotland at the VRA Ground in Amstelveen. With both sides having four points each, the top spot will be up for grabs when they square off.
The format of the tournament includes seven rounds of two home or away matches in each round, and the Netherlands will face Scotland for the sides’ second match on Wednesday.
While the tournament is still young, there is plenty at stake and an early lead will no doubt help. The top sides from this tournament will progress to the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, which will be held in Bangladesh in 2018, and subsequently have a chance to qualify for a place at ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
The Netherlands is well placed to take advantage of the momentum it has gained, following a 44-run win over Scotland in the ICC Intercontinental Cup win earlier this week.
In the first round, Netherlands beat Papua New Guinea in both their head-to-head matches in June, while Scotland claimed victory in two rain-affected matches over Nepal in Ayr in July-August.
The Netherlands’ strength has been its largely cohesive unit that includes the likes of Peter Borren at the helm, Pieter Seelaar, the left-arm spinner, Michael Swart, Ben Cooper, Wesley Barresi and Stephan Myburgh, among others. The form of Roelof van der Merwe, one of the more recent additions, is also a huge boost for the side. Van der Merwe starred in the Intercontinental Cup victory, scoring a half-century and claiming a match haul of 5 for 101.
Thijs van Schelven, Vivian Kingma and Rahil Ahmed are the new faces in the Netherlands squad, and it will be interesting to see how the side copes with the absence of the experienced Timm van der Gugten.
Scotland has won nine of its 16 matches in the competition’s history so far, and will be expected to put up a tough fight against the Netherlands.
Scotland's batting wears a solid look with Kyle Coetzer, Matthew Cross, the wicketkeeper, and Preston Mommsen, the captain, in its ranks. It will also take confidence from the fact that all its bowlers stood up in the match against Nepal, where it hunted in a pack.
There are six more second-round matches in the ICC WCL Championship, with Namibia and Kenya playing in Windhoek onOctober 30 and November 1, United Arab Emirates hosting Hong Kong on November 16 and 18 in Dubai, and Nepal hosting PNG in Kathmandu on November 28 and 30. However, the venue of the Nepal-PNG match is subject to security and infrastructure assessment and clearance.
Namibia will be led by Nicholaas Scholtzand and has in its ranks a host of players, including veteran all-rounders Gerrie Snyman and Stephan Baard. Earlier in the tournament, Namibia played a near-perfect game against Hong Kong in its opening match but a batting collapse in its second match hurt the side badly.
Like Namibia, Kenya too will need to iron out chinks which have hindered an otherwise good side from overcoming its opponents. It possesses a good batting unit with Irfan Karim and Narendra Kalyan at the top of the order, and Rakep Patel, Nehemiah Odhiambo and Collins Obuya in the middle, but the entire unit needs to fire in together to stack up big scores. And given the somewhat lean bowling resources it has, defending a below-par score will be tougher for Kenya.
Nepal faces off against PNG, who marked its One-Day International debut with a series win over Hong Kong in November last year, in the last set of matches in this round. Both the sides are yet to register a win in this edition of the tournament so far, and are placed at the bottom of the points table.
UAE, currently placed fifth in the points table, will have the advantage of familiarity of conditions when it takes on Hong Kong. UAE’s batting wears a settled look and it will take confidence from the fact that all its bowlers contributed in the two matches against Kenya in June.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, who beat Namibia by eight wickets in the opening round, will hope its batsmen come to the fore against UAE. The bowling, comprising Tanwir Afzal, Haseeb Amjad, the pacers, and Nadeem Ahmed, the offspinner, is Hong Kong’s stronger suit.
It is still quite early in the tournament with as many as five rounds remaining, but with the ultimate opportunity of featuring in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 on the horizon, there is a lot at stake and consistency will be the key.