Under 15 Championship Preview
This Monday, the ICC European Under 15 Division 1 Championship get under way in Jersey, where the host nation will join Channel Islands neighbours Guernsey in making their debut at this level. They join regulars Ireland, Scotland, Denmark and the Netherlands to complete a strong line-up, which - given favourable weather - should provide for some excellent cricket over the coming week.
Defending champions Ireland have brought another talented squad to the Championship and are captained by Leinster's Hugh MacDonnell. Only Jonathan Andrews returns from last year's victorious team, but there are several exciting players to look out for. Ben Wylie, for instance, was the leading runs scorer in last year's Under-13 Championships in Denmark, while the promising Graeme McCarter has caught the eye of English county Warwickshire.
Ireland's perennial rivals, Scotland, can also look forward confidently to this year's event and are led by Peter Legget, younger brother of senior international Charles. Andrew Lewis will expect to be in the runs for the second year in a row at this level, while the all-rounder Andrew Umeed should hope to successfully bridge the gap between Under-13 and Under-15. Matthew Cross, Freddie Cox and Peter Ross complete what could be a formidable batting line-up.
The Dutch squad is led by all-rounder Nick Wories, whose cricket is progressing at rapid pace, according to Dutch legend Roland Lefebvre. Great things are also expected from the very promising Sebastian Braat and spin twins Usman Yousaf and James Gruijters will look to wreak havoc with the opposition's batsmen. Paul van Meekeren, meanwhile, was player of the tournament at the corresponding Under-13 tournament two years ago.
Christian Peck-Thorsted, a talented all-rounder, leads the Danish side for the second year in succession and will be hoping to put his recent Under-17 experience to good use. Rasa Bajit Javed and Saad Hasmat Ahmed will also feature prominently in a strong-looking top order, while Siddique Akbar Raja and Peter Skole-Soresen have no doubt come back to the Championship looking to build upon last year's performances.
The hosts, meanwhile, are skippered by Aiden McGuire, who starred at last year's Under 15 Division 2 tournament at La Manga Club. Joining him from that squad are wicket-keeper Thomas le Lievre, Joseph Mayes and Corey Bisson. This might be Jersey's first appearance at this level, but they are usually a well-drilled and organised outfit, and home advantage may prove crucial in some of the tighter matches.
Completing the field is Guernsey, whose Under 17 team impressed a number of observers in Belfast last month by finishing in a deserved joint third place. Captain and opening bowler Matthew Renouf has enjoyed considerable experience within the Sussex youth set-up, Christopher Peatfield was the leading runs scorer at last year's second-tier tournament in Spain, while Thomas Still proved his worth by picking up several key wickets in that competition's final.
Although Ireland probably start the tournament as favourites, having won every Under 15 Championship since the Dutch triumphed in 1999, nothing should be a foregone conclusion. Both Scotland and the Netherlands have numerous players capable of winning matches single- handedly, while the Danes are beginning to cause a few upsets on a more regular basis. Jersey and Guernsey, meanwhile, should definitely not be discounted, what with experience of the conditions and an undoubted desire to impress first time round surely counting in their favour. Nevertheless, whatever the outcome, an exciting and memorable week should be guaranteed for all those involved.