European teams battle for World Cup qualification
Scotland hosts the European Women's World Cup Qualifier next week, as Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, and an ECB Development XI travel to Stirling, where battle begins on Monday.
Of the European nations, Ireland must surely enter the tournament as leaders, having lost only three wickets across the duration of last year's European Championship success. The majority of that successful side are here, too: Isobel Joyce will surely rack up the runs, Kim Garth is fresh off the back of a match-winning 82 against Yorkshire for the Ireland A team, while Eimear Richardson returns to spearhead a potent attack.
Scotland, however, will seek to exploit the important factor of home advantage. Runs should flow from the bats of Kari Anderson and Leigh Kasperek, while Lynne Dickson will look to repeat the good tournament she had with the ball last year.
Nevertheless, the Dutch should not be discounted. Violet Wattenberg, for instance, recorded both the highest individual score (87*) and the highest runs aggregate (152) at last year's tournament. Marijn Nijman scored useful runs, too, while Marloes Braat - sister of Dutch under-19 men's captain, Sebastian - poses a threat with the ball.
The ECB Development XI, of course, is not eligible for World Cup qualification, but - given England's domination of women's cricket at a global level - should still provide a stern test for all of the European teams.
The forecast for the coming week is variable, but should the rain stay away Stirling should play host to a fine tournament, another important step in the development of women's cricket across Europe.