Canada, Scotland and the UAE look good to progress to the Super Six Stage
Top seed UAE, third seed Scotland and sixth seed Canada are the three strong contenders looking to qualify for the Super Six stage from Group A of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier New Zealand 2014 (ICC CWCQ), which will be staged at seven venues from 13 January to 1 February.
Apart from these three sides, eighth seed Hong Kong and ninth seed Nepal are the other two sides in the group, whose matches will be played in Christchurch, Queenstown and Rangiora.
The UAE finished third behind Ireland and Afghanistan in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Championship 2011-13 (WCLC). Ireland and Afghanistan thus progressed to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 (ICC CWC) from the WCLC, leaving the UAE as the highest-seeded side at the ICC CWCQ.
The UAE won the ICC CWCQ, which was then known as the ICC Trophy, in 1994. That remains its only ICC CWCQ title yet and was one that earned it its only ICC CWC appearance (at the 1996 edition).
History, however, will be against the UAE, given its performance at the last four editions of the CWCQ. It finished 10th in 1997, fifth in 2001, sixth in 2005 and seventh in 2009.
Featuring an experienced side, the UAE will bank on Shaiman Anwar, who topped the batting averages at the WCL Championship with 625 runs from 14 innings at an average of 52.08, to change their fortunes.
Its 42-year-old captain Khurram Khan, who took the most wickets for the UAE (19 from 14 matches at an average of just 14.36) at the WCLC, said: “Even though it is the top seed, it will be difficult for the UAE right from the group stage.
“The conditions in New Zealand are completely different to those in the UAE. We practise and play mostly on dry wickets, but in New Zealand it swings and seams. So it will be a challenge for our batsmen to score heavily and for the pacers to handle the pressure of leading the attack.”
Scotland is the next highest seed in Group A, at third. Its encounter against Canada on 23 January will be the only One-Day International (ODI) in the group.
Their head-to-head record suggests Scotland will be the stronger side in one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of the tournament. It has beaten Canada six times out of eight in ODIs, for a win-percentage of 75. Moreover, Scotland has won the last three completed matches between the two teams.
Scotland finished fifth in the WCLC, winning seven of its 14 matches. It is bidding to qualify for the ICC CWC for the third time after 1999 and 2007. It won the ICC CWCQ in 2005, but more recently failed to qualify for ICC CWC 2011 after finishing sixth in the ICC CWCQ 2009.
Skipper Kyle Coetzer, who was the WCLC’s second-highest run-scorer with 595 from 11 innings at an average of 59.50, said: “Looking at the group, and especially in a tournament like this, we simply have to take each game at a time. We are not focusing on any player or team in particular, as we prepare for the event.”
Canada, which is seeded sixth in New Zealand, finished a disappointing eighth in the WCL Championship. The team is looking to revive its fortunes under new coach Andy Pick and new captain Jimmy Hansra, who has taken over the reins after Ashish Bagai’s retirement.
Canada will be without the services of its leading scorer in the WCL Championship, Hiral Patel. Given the conditions in New Zealand, it will rely on experienced right-arm medium bowler Rizwan Cheema, who was its best bowler in the WCLC by a wide margin, having taken 18 wickets from 10 matches at an average of 19.27.
Assessing the two groups, Hansra said: “Both Group A and Group B are evenly poised, and the tournament format means there will be no meaningless matches. So we’ll have to be on our toes throughout, as we aim to advance to the Super Six.”
Canada’s experience of playing on the big stage will be useful. Of all the teams in Group A, Canada has played in the ICC’s biggest event, the CWC, the most number of times (four times - in 1979, 2003, 2007 and 2011).
Canada has also performed strongly at the last three editions of the ICC CWCQ, finishing third in 2001 and 2005 and second in 2009. It has never won the ICC CWCQ, with its best performance a runner-up finish in 1979.
Hong Kong, seeded eighth, did not qualify for the last two editions of the ICC CWCQ. It will be looking to advance to the second round for only the third time after 1994 and 1997.
Hong Kong earned the right to play in the ICC CWCQ NZ 2014 by finishing fourth in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 2 2011. Having never qualified for the ICC CWC, Hong Kong will be looking, first of all, to cause a few upsets and qualify to the Super Six stage.
Leading Hong Kong in New Zealand is Jamie Atkinson, who has previously played ODIs against India and Pakistan, besides playing county cricket for Warwickshire as a wicketkeeper-batsman.
Nepal, the remaining team in Group A, is seeded ninth, and qualified for ICC CWCQ 2014 by winning the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 3 2013.
In its only previous appearance at the ICC CWCQ, Nepal failed to go beyond the group stage.
Nepal will rely heavily on its skipper and all-rounder Paras Khadka, who was the third-highest run-getter at the WCL Div. 3 with 176 runs from six innings, and who also took six wickets in that event.
The top three teams from each group of the ICC CWCQ NZ 2014 will progress to the Super Six stage. The top two sides at the end of that stage will not only reach the final but also qualify for the ICC CWC 2015 and complete the 14-team tally for that event, which will be staged in Australia and New Zealand from 14 February to 29 March.
Canada – Jimmy Hansra (captain), Harvir Baidwan, Trevin Bastiampillai, Khurram Chohan, Parth Desai, Nikhil Dutta, Jeremy Gordon, Ruvindu Gunasekara, Nitish Kumar, Usman Limbada, Cecil Pervez, Raza Rehman, Junaid Siddiqui, Zeeshan Siddiqui, Hamza Tariq
Hong Kong - Jamie Atkinson (captain), Tanwir Afzal, Irfan Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed, Haseeb Amjad, Waqas Barkat, Mark Chapman, Mark Ferguson, Babar Hayat, Aizaz Khan, Nizakat Khan, Courtney Kruger, Ankur Sharma, Manjinder Singh, Mark Wright
Nepal – Paras Khadka (captain), Pradeep Airee, Prithu Baskota, Binod Bhandari, Mahesh Chhetri, Shakti Gauchan, Sompal Kami, Avinash Karn, Subash Khakurel, Gyanendra Malla, Anil Mandal, Jitendra Mukhiya, Sagar Pun, Basant Regmi, Sharad Vesawkar
Scotland – Kyle Coetzer (captain), Richie Berrington, Freddie Coleman, Matty Cross, Gordon Drummond, Gordon Goudie, Majid Haq, Moneeb Iqbal, Michael Leask, Matt Machan, Calum Macleod, Preston Mommsen, Safyaan Sharif, Rob Taylor, Iain Wardlaw
United Arab Emirates – Khurram Khan (captain), Amjad Ali, Shaiman Anwar, Nasir Aziz, Salman Faris, Manjula Guruge, Amjad Javed, Rohan Mustafa, Muhammad Naveed, Swapnil Patil, Ahmed Raza, Kamran Shahzad, Vikrant Shetty, Shadeep Silva, Chirag Suri
Group A schedule:
Mon 13 Jan – UAE v Nepal, Rangiora; Scotland v Hong Kong, Queenstown
Tue 14 Jan – Reserve day for UAE v Nepal and Scotland v Hong Kong
Wed 15 Jan – UAE v Canada, Rangiora
Thu 16 Jan - Scotland v Nepal, Queenstown; Reserve day for UAE v Canada
Fri 17 Jan – Canada v Hong Kong, Rangiora; Reserve day for Scotland v Nepal
Sat 18 Jan – Reserve day for Canada v Hong Kong
Sun 19 Jan – Hong Kong v Nepal, Rangiora; UAE v Scotland, Queenstown
Mon 20 Jan – Reserve day for Hong Kong v Nepal and UAE v Scotland
Tue 21 Jan – Canada v Nepal, Christchurch
Wed 22 Jan – Reserve day for Canada v Nepal
Thu 23 Jan – Scotland v Canada, Christchurch; UAE v Hong Kong, Queenstown
Fri 24 Jan – Reserve day for Scotland v Canada and UAE v Hong Kong