Second-placed Netherlands currently sits on 26 points, 14 points behind leader Ireland, and can go top if it collects 20 maximum points against the bottom-ranked UAE, which is yet to get on the scoreboard. Fourth-ranked Hong Kong (20 points) goes into the third round leading seventh-placed Scotland by seven points with both the sides aiming for upward movement.
The outcomes of these matches will strengthen the sides’ ambitions of winning the ICC Intercontinental Cup and qualify for the ICC Test Challenge, which will be played against the 10th-ranked Test side on a home and away basis in 2018.
Netherlands captain Peter Borren admitted that his side had an opportunity to move ahead of Ireland, but added his team won’t under-estimate the opposition.
“Obviously it would be nice to see Netherlands at the top of the table, but the UAE is a team in transition. Its recent results haven’t been great, but we are aware it has the quality in its ranks and understand it will be keen to win on its home turf. We expect a battle of attrition in Abu Dhabi, where spin will most likely be a factor,” said the 32-year-old all-rounder.
In the two rounds leading up to this contest, Netherlands’ record reads one win and one loss. The loss came against Papua New Guinea (PNG) in June last year when it lost by five wickets. More recently, Netherlands pulled off a 44-run win over Scotland in September.
In contrast, the UAE is winless after loses to Ireland (by an innings and 26 runs) and Hong Kong (by 276 runs).
Home side captain Ahmed Raza admitted momentum was with the Netherlands, but added that the home advantage was with the UAE.
“It is a great advantage, you are familiar with the weather, the wickets and grounds. However, using the conditions to the best of our abilities is substantial and to generate results when we are playing home series is important,” remarked he 27-year-old left-arm spinner.
The home side managed to get some much-needed match practice during the England Lions tour of the UAE, ending on a high with a two-wicket win last week.
Ahmed Raza hoped the match will not be a one-sided affair. “Netherlands has a good team and won its last fixture against Scotland. Hence, it will be high on confidence. However, our preparation is on track and we played some really good cricket against the England Lions which is a perfect in the lead up to the match.”
Over in Hong Kong, Mission Road Ground, Mong Kok, previously known as Tin Kwong Road Recreation Ground, is getting ready to host its maiden first-class match when the home side takes on former winner Scotland.
The South East Asian side’s last outing was against the UAE whom it beat by a convincing margin of 276 runs after suffering a 114-run loss to Namibia in the tournament opener in June.
Looking forward to the match against Scotland, Hong Kong captain Tanwir Afzal said: “I think the key factor in this contest is home conditions. We will hope to use it as an advantage, but more than anything we need put in consistent performances to build on our winning momentum.”
Scotland captain Preston Mommsen agreed: “It’s going to be a challenge playing away in Hong Kong where we haven’t played any formal cricket before. So, we’re not quite sure what to expect in terms of conditions.
“We all know Hong Kong is an exciting, up and coming side and we won’t be taking it lightly. We’ve had a solid eight-week training at home where we have been working on conditioning, and it’s going to be great to be back out on the park.”
Scotland comes into this contest at the back of a couple of disappointing results, including a loss to the Netherlands and a weather-marred match against Afghanistan.
With the Test cricket carrot dangling before it, Scotland wants to get it right from here. “This upcoming fixtures against Hong Kong is hugely important for us. The ICC Intercontinental Cup is a massive opportunity, which we’re not halfway through yet, but every game from now on in is critical. We’ve been working hard on all formats of our game with a busy start to the year, but our minds focused on the task at hand in Hong Kong right now,” said Scotland coach Grant Bradburn.
The ICC Intercontinental Cup matches will be followed by the ICC World Cricket League Championship matches. Scotland will play Hong Kong in two ODIs at the same venue on 26 and 28 January, while the UAE-Netherlands 50-over games will be played at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on the 27 and 29 January. The top sides from WCLC will progress to the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier, which will be held in Bangladesh in 2018.
Hong Kong (from) – Tanwir Afzal (capt.) Jamie Atkinson, Nadeem Ahmed, Haseeb Amjad, Waqas Barkat,
Christopher Carter, Mark Chapman, Babar Hayat, Aizaz Khan, Nizakat Khan, Waqas Khan, Adil Mehmood, Ishtiaq Muhammad, Ehsan Nawaz, Anshuman Rath, Kinchit Shah, Ninad Shah,
Coach- Simon Cook
Scotland - Preston Mommsen (capt.), Richard Berrington, Matthew Cross, Kyle Coetzer, Joshua Davey, Alisdair Evans, Con de Lange, Michael Leask, Calum MacLeod, George Munsey, Matthew Machan, Safyaan Sharif, Robert Taylor, Bradley Wheal, Mark Watt,
Coach - Grant Bradburn
On-field umpires- Buddhi Pradhan and Vineet Kulkarni
Match referee- Stephen Bernard
UAE (from) -Ahmed Raza (capt.) Farhan Ahmed, Qadeer Ahmed, Shaiman Anwar, Muhammad Kaleem Burhan, Manjula Asanka Guruge, Saqlain Haider, Rohan Mustafa, Usman Mushtaq, Zaheer Maqsood, Swapnil Patil, Mohammad Shahzad, Laxman Sreekumar, Mohammad Usman
Netherlands (from) – Peter Borren (capt.) Wesley Barresi, Mudassar Bukhari, Ben Cooper, Max O’ Dowd, Quirijn Gunning, Vivian Kingma, Roelof van der Merwe , Paul Van Meekeren, Stephanus Johannes Myburgh, Ashan Malik, Pieter Seelaar, Michael Rippon, Sikander Zulfiqar
Coach – Anton Roux
On-field umpires- Sarika Prasad and CK Nandan
Match Referee- David Jukes
Fixtures- ICC Intercontinental Cup
21-24 January – Hong Kong vs Scotland, Mission Road, Hong Kong; UAE vs Netherlands, Abu Dhabi, UAE
31 Jan – 3 Feb – Ireland vs PNG, Townsville, Australia
Fixtures- ICC World Cricket League Championship
26 Jan – Hong Kong vs Scotland (ODIs), Mission Road, Hong Kong
27 Jan – UAE vs Netherlands, (50 over) Abu Dhabi, UAE
28 Jan – Hong Kong vs Scotland, (ODIs), Mission Road, Hong Kong
29 Jan – UAE vs Netherlands, (50 over) Abu Dhabi, UAE
ICC Intercontinental Cup Table
Team Played Won Lost Draw Points
Ireland 2 2
Netherlands 2 1 1 - 26
Afghanistan 2 1 - 1 21
Hong Kong 2 1 1 - 20
PNG 2 1 1 - 20
Namibia 2 1 1 - 20
Scotland 2 - 1 1 13
UAE 2 - 2 - 0
ICC World Cricket League Championship table
Team Played Won Lost N/R Points
Hong Kong 4 3 1 0 6
Kenya 4 3 1 0 6
Netherlands 4 2 0 2 6
Scotland 4 2 0 2 6
PNG 4 2 2 0 4
Namibia 4 1 3 0 2
UAE 4 1 3 0 2
Nepal 4 0 4 0 0