Competition tight as co-host Ireland aims for hat-trick; Newcomers Jersey looking to make big impression
This is only the second time that the tournament has been held outside of the UAE, which it did in 2010, 2012 and 2013. On the only other occasion that the qualifying tournament was held outside the UAE, Ireland were the solitary hosts back in 2008 and William Porterfield’s men will kick off its campaign in Stormont when it faces a Namibia side who will be chasing its inaugural qualification for the ICC World Twenty20 next year in India.
Ireland, back-to-back winners in the competition in 2012 and 2013, are boosted by the inclusion of several front line internationals including the likes of county cricketers Andrew Balbirnie, George Dockrell, Niall O’Brien, the in-form Paul Stirling and Surrey wicket-keeper Gary Wilson.
All-rounder Tyrone Kane will be looking to maintain his recent excellent run of form at club and provincial level for Leinster Lightning and left arm spinner Dockrell, who has claimed 31 victims to date in T20Is, will be eyeing up Scotland spinner Majid Haq’s record of 34 scalps in the tournament as Ireland bid to make home advantage count in experienced coach John Bracewell’s first competitive tournament in charge. Ireland will be strong favourites to emerge from this Group as winners, but will need to be mindful of some of the emerging talent on display elsewhere if they bid to make it three in a row.
For Namibia, much will depend on the form of influential captain Nicholas Scholtz, who has played in 41 T20Is to date. The African nation will be chasing its first qualification for the World T20 and the Eagles will be flying high following its recent ICC Intercontinental Cup victory over Hong Kong who it will face in the final group game in Clontarf, Dublin on 19 July. Much will also depend on the form of veteran attacking batsman Gerrie Snyman, while watch out for 19-year-old left arm paceman JJ Smit who has a strong all-round game and who has impressed in T20 cricket to date. Namibia will be making its third appearance in the qualifying tournament and is one of six teams in this year’s competition who has not played in the main competition, with the others being Canada, Jersey, Namibia, Oman and USA.
When Nepal lines up against USA in Stormont on Friday week, it will do so with one of its strongest ever panels, led by skipper Paras Khadka who boasts a healthy average of 36.11 in 24 T20Is to date. The 27-year-old all-rounder is named in an experienced 15-man panel alongside Subash Khakurel, left-arm spinning all-rounder Shakti Gauchan, Sagar Pun and Sharad Vesawkar. To date Nepal has won 11 of its 19 matches across all competitions and will be looking for a bright start after a challenging period which has seen it train in Dharamasala will the country recovers from the devastating recent earthquake.
Its round one opponents, the USA, will be aiming to get off to a bright start in the competition which it has featured in on two occasions previously. The USA’s plans have been hampered by wicketkeeper/batsman Steven Taylor’s unavailability, however they will look to former Under-19 captain Shiva Vashishat and fellow newcomer Alex Amsterdam to make an impact after qualifying as runners up behind Canada in the ICC Americas Division 1 qualification tournament in May. Led by captain Muhammad Ghous, whose off-spinning exploits have yielded 12 wickets in his 15 matches to date, much will depend on the form of left-arm swing bowler Naseer Jamali.
Fresh from its impressive Intercontinental Cup debut against the Netherlands last month, Papua New Guinea will be aiming to convert its form from the longer format to T20 cricket. Assad Vala is a destructive batsman on his day, while newcomer Loa Nou has been in sparkling form with the ball and it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his blistering start to his international career. Wicketkeeper/batsman Jack Vare will lead the team having played in 18 T20Is for his country.
Hong Kong will be looking for inspiration from its recently installed captain and opening bowler Tanwir Afzal, while Irfan Ahmed has been in sizzling form in the warm-ups, clocking back-to-back half centuries as the Asian side gear up for its third appearance in the competition. Hong Kong has won 10 of its 19 appearances across all competitions and will look to its strong batting line-up to lay the groundwork over the coming weeks before its opener against Jersey in Bready on 11 July.
Tournament debutants Jersey will be aiming to continue its progression and make an impression when it lines up against Hong Kong. Bolstered by the attacking talents of exciting youngster Jonty Jenner, Peter Gough will lead a fresh looking side in their near neighbours Ireland and Scotland having recently won ICC Europe Division 1 T20 title. Left arm spinner Nat Watkins, who has claimed 10 wickets in his last five T20I matches, has played underage representative levels for Oxfordshire.
The top six sides from the 18-day tournament, during which 51 matches will be played, will join the 10 Full Members for the ICC World Twenty20 India 2016, which will be held from 11 March to 3 April 2016.
The two groups are:
|Group A||Group B|
|A1 – Ireland||B1 - Afghanistan|
|A2 – Nepal||B2 – UAE|
|A3 – Hong Kong||B3 – Netherlands|
|A4 – PNG||B4 – Scotland|
|A5 – Namibia||B5 – Canada|
|A6 – USA||B6 – Kenya|
|A7 – Jersey||B7 – Oman|