The event is the Asian qualifying tournament and is the first step of the ladder for Associate and Affiliate members of the ICC as they strive for a place in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2023 and beyond.
This takes place from 22 April to May 1, where seven teams will compete for one place in the ICC World Cricket League Division 5, where they will join regional qualifiers Ghana, Vanuatu, Cayman Islands and one from Europe. As well as Guernsey, Jersey and Italy.
WCL Division 5 will be a truly global event so the seven teams, Thailand, Bahrain, Bhutan, China, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have a lot to play for as they take part in a round robin league with each team facing a tough schedule of six 50-over matches within 10 days.
Three matches will be played each of the seven playing days with three days also allowed for rest days or reserve days should the weather intervene, so it is a great chance for Chiang Mai to show off the excellent facilities available at the David Buck Oval at Prem International School, at Chiang Mai Gymkhana Club and at the newest ground at Royal Chiang Mai Golf Course.
The competition also gives Thailand’s men’s team the chance to come out of the shadow of the successful women’s team as they play their first major competition since December 2012 when Chiang Mai hosted the Asian Cricket Council Challenge for the last time. The new look Thailand squad looks to be a good mixture of young Thai players joined by several experienced expats and it will also be a good chance to play against strong teams as Thailand builds up for the South East Asia Games in Malaysia later this year.
Thailand will face some familiar opponents who have taken part in ACC Challenge competitions in 2008, 2010 and 2012 when the host country each time managed to reach the semi-finals without taking the extra step which would have seen them qualify for ACC Elite tournaments and earlier editions of the World Cricket League.
Bhutan took part in the ICC World Cricket League Division 8 when it was held in Samoa in September 2012 and faced teams from Norway, Japan, Vanuatu, Samoa, Ghana, Suriname and Belgium. Bahrain and Kuwait both played in WCL Division 6 held in Jersey in 2013 where they faced Argentina, Jersey, Nigeria and Vanuatu.
It is difficult to work out the relative strengths of the seven teams as several of the participating countries haven’t played in international competitions for a number of years. China did play in the Asian Games T20 event in 2014 but they managed to lose to hosts South Korea, while Thailand were regularly in the top four teams in ACC Challenge competitions without gaining promotion to the Elite.
Bhutan reached the Challenge Final in January 2009 by beating Thailand in the semi-final to gain promotion, then in December 2010 Saudi Arabia beat Thailand in the semi-finals and then two years later it was Bahrain who completed an unwanted hat-trick for Thailand.
The most recent form guide comes from the revamped ACC Elite competition (new second division beneath a six team the Premier) played in 2014 which saw Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Bhutan take part in a 50-over league along with Singapore and Maldives. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait each won four out of five matches, but Bahrain won only match and Bhutan lost all five. Thailand. China and Qatar, also losing semi-finalists in 2012.
Play gets under way on Saturday with Bhutan facing Thailand at Prem, China meeting Saudi Arabia at Gymkhana and Kuwait facing Qatar at Royals. The final round of fixtures will be played on 1st May and there is a lot at stake for all seven teams as they take their first steps on a clear pathway to ICC Cricket World Cup.
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