Inaugural U19 Division 2 breaks new ground
Thu, Jul 19, 2007 3:32 PM
Next week's ICC European Under 19 Division 2 Championship breaks new ground in at least three ways: it's the first time this tournament has been held as a separate event, it is the first European tournament to be hosted by Jersey, and it marks the debut at this level of the hosts, neighbours Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
Nine countries will take part in the six-day competition, which will be played on five grounds. There will be three pools in the first phase, and thereafter a second series of round-robin matches will involve the three top sides playing each other, the second-placed countries playing off for fourth to sixth places, and the remainder contesting seventh to ninth.
Seedings have been based on the rankings established at the 2005 Under 19 Championship, which was a single tournament of two divisions for all participating countries. But that is an uncertain guide to form, not least because the newcomers, seeded third in their initial pools, are likely to be stronger than some of their competitors.
Add to that the fact that most of the players are new to this age group, and the use of turf pitches, more familiar to the new participants than to most of the other countries, and the outcome is very difficult to predict.
Jersey, of course, will enjoy home advantage in Group A, where they will meet top-seeded Gibraltar and Italy. Traditionally one of the strongest Division 2 sides in European youth tournaments, Gibraltar will need to be at their best if they are to qualify for the title play-offs this time.
The Isle of Man are more of an unknown quantity in Group B, where they will take on Israel and Germany. But their squad includes six of the side which won the 2005 Under 15 Division 2 competition, the island's first foray into European competition. With Israel another of the historically stronger teams and Germany having created an ambitious youth programme, this looks like another extremely competitive pool.
And the same goes for Group C, which pits top-seeded Belgium against France and Guernsey. The Belgians beat France in an Under 18 series in Bochum last September, but Guernsey also have a strong development programme, which has seen youth teams playing in South Africa over the past couple of winters.
One feature of the tournament will be the appearance of a significant number of players who have taken part in the ICC European Centre of Excellence and Academy programmes in recent seasons. Two of them - Belgian skipper Nirvam Shah and Guernsey's Kris Moherndl - were at this year's Academy, while others who have benefited from the programmes include Gibraltar's opening batsman Scott Chipolina, Germany's wicket-keeper Haris Bhatti and leg-spinner Tanzeel Tariq, and French captain Jonathon Houghton.
For daily score updates, full scorecards, reports, photos and audio interviews please visit the ICC European U19 Div 2 Championship website.