- Stephan Myburgh (Netherlands) - 224 runs at 32.00, including three fifties.
- Will Porterfield (Ireland) - 111 runs at 55.50, at a strike rate of 143.
- Wesley Barresi (Netherlands) - 143 runs at 23.83, crucial to two winning scores.
- Tom Cooper (Netherlands) - 231 runs at 57.75, currently the top run-scorer in the tournament.
- Shafiqullah Shenwari (Afghanistan) - 103 runs at 55.50, also at a strike rate of 143.
- Sharad Vesawkar (Nepal) - 91 runs at 30.33, scored 40 and 37 in successive innings.
- Kevin O'Brien (Ireland) - 59 runs and four wickets, scored his runs at over two-a-ball.
- Shakti Gauchan (Nepal) - five wickets at 14.80, all of his wickets came in victories.
- Timm van der Gugten (Netherlands) - nine wickets at 18.77, most dot balls of any bowler in the tournament.
- Basanta Regmi (Nepal) - five wickets at 11.20, with an economy rate of only 5.60.
- Ahsan Malik Jamil (Netherlands) - twelve wickets at 13.83, including that five-wicket haul.
The World T20 isn't over, but the Associates are finished now.
After a couple of weeks of Twenty20 cricket, the party is over at last for the Associates. They have been involved in shocks and upsets, and just generally good games of cricket, too. Their opportunities were limited by a format that excluded as many of them as possible from the main draw, but the Netherlands emerged from their recent struggles to be the Cinderella story of this tournament.
My tournament XI:
This tournament was not designed for Associates, but it has ended up being a very good advert for them. I'm not advocating the unfairly weighted format, but the quality of the cricket produced by cricket's more downtrodden nations has shown that the Associate-Full Member gap is reducing all the time. We have seen not one but three different Full Members defeated by three different Associates. Peter Borren's men are the heroes of the tournament, and 39-all-out aside, they have produced better cricket than England, Australia, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe have managed. They have mixed it with South Africa and New Zealand, too. Not bad at all for a team that was adjudged to be the ninth-best Associate as recently as January.
And not just in the World Twenty20.
It's not that long since I wrote about Hong Kong's Courtney Kruger and the battle he had to fight just to keep representing his country, but today I want to talk about his team-mates, and what they are on the verge of achieving. Already they have reached the World Twenty20 and bagged ODI status for the next few years, but I think that this is just the beginning.
Some of their players would be absolutely worthy of Full Member attention. Irfan Ahmed, for instance, is a dangerous Twenty20 batsman (a best of 100 and strike rate of 125) but he pales in comparison to his 23-year-old captain Jamie Atkinson. The 'keeper, who has also played for Durham MCCU and Warwickshire, has been destroying bowling attacks at an average of 37 and strike rate of 132. With that pair at the top of the order, they'll be setting the kinds of targets that will trouble good sides.
And a look at their three most recent results confirms their batting quality: today, they chased down 159 against Zimbabwe; last week they eked over the line against a disciplined Irish attack, and the day before that, they set a target so large that the Netherlands couldn't even get half-way.
Of course, batsmen don't win games on their own, and their ex-Pakistan Under-19 new ball pair of Tanwir Afzal (three for eight against Ireland) and Haseeb Amjad (five for twelve against Italy) help to balance out what has always been a very spin-centric attack. There are so many spin options available that Nizakat Khan often plays as a specialist batsman. And there's always the possibility that Sam Hain might come out of the woodwork. It's not just about players, though - facilities are also vital for any cricketing country.
Personally, I think that Hong Kong have two of the finest grounds anywhere in the world: the Kowloon Cricket Club (right), which offers an incredible skyscape to surround the ground (not to mention an incredible clubhouse), and the Hong Kong Cricket Club (left) are, quite simply, breathtaking. That HKCC image just became my desktop background.
Of course, defeating Zimbabwe (a Full Member, no less) in today's game has some of the gloss taken away by occurring in an insignificant 15-a-side fixture that may not have been the most competitive of events, but it is a win nonetheless, and no team likes losing. Particularly not against supposedly inferior opposition.
The huge gulf between Full Members and Associate nations simply does not exist any more. Ireland have beaten the West Indies, Afghanistan have beaten Bangladesh and Hong Kong have beaten Zimbabwe all in the matter of a couple of weeks. If that's not a clear and legible sign to the ICC that things need to change, I really don't know what is.
The ICC World Twenty20 is finally here. Almost.
There's now only a week to go before the World Twenty20 kicks off, with Afghanistan taking on the hosts in Dhaka. It may only be a glorified Qualifier, but this first round takes on real significance for the rest of the competition. Bangladesh haven't won a game since November, which includes a loss against Afghanistan that must give the Associate real confidence of reaching the Super 10 (read: actual tournament) stage. Ireland, meanwhile, have to overcome Zimbabwe to get there. They might even be the favourites to progress from their group.
Group A's Associates
Afghanistan are coming off their Asia Cup defeat of Bangladesh with genuine hopes of overturning them once more to make an unexpected appearance in the Super 10 stage. They have an explosive squad with real talent, although they are without the perennially injured Hamid Hassan once again.
It's difficult to pick out any particularly dangerous players from the Afghan squad because they can all pack a hefty punch. Mohammad Nabi and Gulbodin Naib are the two impact all-rounders, while Samiullah Shenwari's reputation will have ballooned in the Asia Cup. Add to that their Test class pace battery of Shapoor, Dawlat and Aftab Alam, and even without Hamid Hassan, this is a big opportunity for Afghanistan.
It might be Hong Kong's first time at the World Twenty20, but they've got players who are capable of mixing it with the best. At the top of the order, Irfan Ahmed and Jamie Atkinson have been terrorising Associate attacks for the past few years, and will be hopeful that they can do the same here. When you add to that the quality of bowling imports Haseeb Amjad and Tanwir Afzal, as well as spinners like Munir Dar, Nizakat Khan and Nadeem Ahmed, then Hong Kong look ideally suited for Bangladeshi wickets.
They too will go into the tournament with confidence, having only yesterday defeated Ireland with ease.
Nepal's fans never had any doubts that they would make it to Bangladesh, but for me it was a pleasant surprise that they made it here. With the all-round skills of Paras Khadka, as well as the spin threat of Shakti Gauchan and Basanta Regmi, they should be confident against their fellow Associates, but I don't think they have the consistent strength to take on Bangladesh yet. All the same, there is nobody over the age of thirty in this Nepalese team, and the experience should be very valuable for the future.
Keep an eye on Sharad Vesawkar, who is a far better batsman than his stats suggest.
Group B's Associates
Full Member to beat: Zimbabwe
A lot has been written about Ireland, and a lot of it by me, but their run-in to this tournament has been far from ideal. They won their first T20 in the Caribbean, but they also lost against Trinidad & Tobago 'A', and then failed to chase a sub-100 target against the West Indies. Add defeats against Worcestershire and Hong Kong to that, and you would understand if Irish confidence is not at its highest.
All the same, the Irish often rise to the occasion for global tournaments, and they will be hoping that this is no different. They are still the favourites to progress from Group B, and I think that Stuart Thompson will be instrumental if they do.
This tournament carries absolutely massive consequences for the Netherlands. After their nightmare World Cup Qualifier lost them ODI status, they will be counting on this tournament to keep them somewhere in the mix for T20 Internationals and whatever fixtures and finances arise from that. A lot will depend on Ahsan Malik Jamil, after his Qualifier wickets, and on Wesley Barresi's batting form. They will also be hoping to get some good performances out of Kiwi Under-19 Logan van Beek.
Rippon and Seelaar will hope to make the most of turning Bangladeshi wickets, as all of them are pretty much playing for their international careers. Also, keep an eye on Ben Cooper, brother of Aussie-again batsman Tom.
The United Arab Emirates cop a lot of flak for the amount of ex-pats in their side (which almost directly correlates to the number of ex-pats in their country) but it's a strategy that is bearing fruit. Now a part of all three World Cups, (CWC, WT20 and U19) this ageing side can hope to have younger players following in their footsteps.
All the same, a great deal will rest on the ageless shoulders of Khurram Khan, the exemplary 42-year old Pakistani all-rounder who continues to lead the UAE with his captaincy, batting, bowling and fielding and would be a credit to any of the Full Members in the tournament. The same cannot be said of all his colleagues, though, and against good opposition they will likely be run ragged in the field. In stark contrast to Nepal, no less than eight of the Emirati squad are over 30 years of age.
11th place play-off
Kenya and Canada played off in a match that bizarrely boasted full Twenty20 International status. Kenya were inspired by some clean hitting from the veteran Tikolo, and, although they stalled after losing him, posted a solid 146. That was too much for Canada's weaker batsmen, and a virtuoso 46 from Ashish Bagai wasn't nearly enough.
Kenya finish 11th, Canada 12th
13th place play-off
Bermuda and Uganda probably found their rightful place in this tournament. The Ugandans, though, wanted to finish with pride, and Hamza Saleh hit their highest score of the tournament with 45. After a tidy bowling performance, the Bermudians batted pretty well but without urgency, and fell a dozen short of their 135-run target.
Uganda finish 13th, Bermuda 14th
15th place play-off
Despite almost putting one over Afghanistan, Denmark have been consistently feeble all month. They fought back respectably after an explosive American opening stand as Hamid Shah took three wickets, but he was outshone by Danial Ahmed's five wicket bag. After Klokker departed, Carsten Pedersen watched a collapse from the other end.
USA finish 15th, Denmark 16th
In the first quarter-final, Nepal and Hong were both playing for their place in their inaugural qualifying event, and they produced an absolute thriller. Not one of the Hong Kong batsmen really cashed in, but by virtue of four twenties, they succeeded in setting their opponents a tricky 145 to win. The standard rule of thumb is that when Paras Khadka gets runs, Hong Kong win, and he scored 46 at a good rate. However, when Babar Hayat ran him out, Nepal were far from home and dry. After a four and six at the start of the over, Haseeb Amjad and the electric Hong Kong fielders had to stop Sharad Vesawkar from stealing a single from the last ball. They couldn't, and the huge Nepalese contingent of the crowd were ecstatic.
Nepal qualify, Hong Kong to qualifying play-off
In the other quarter-final, the UAE faced off against the Netherlands. Ahsan Malik Jamil was excellent in keeping the UAE below a run-a-ball, which was a target the Dutch really should chase. However, Shadeep Silva's spin was too tricky for the Dutch batsmen, and his four overs set the tone for a failed chase. Nasir Aziz tidied p with three wickets.
UAE qualify, Netherlands to play-off
Nepal defeated Hong Kong from the last ball to qualify.
While the two thrilling quarter-finals took place, four other sides fought desperately for survival. Among them, Italy were outclassed by their ODI opponents. Despite a gritty 46 from Andy Northcote, their batsmen couldn't get the Scots off the square. Calum MacLeod and Richie Berrington kept things going, but ultimately were unable to get the Scots to a ten-wicket win. It was too late, though, for a come-back.
Italy out, Scotland face Netherlands
The result of the other qualifying semi was something of a shock, if only because of how unsurprising it was. Namibia have been plagued by political issues of late, and produced a performance lacking in intensity. Only the Scholtz brothers got into the wicket column, and not one batsman could stick with Craig Williams as the African side tried to chase PNG's 145. Pipi Raho backed his coach's faith with three scalps.
Namibia out, PNG face Hong Kong
If they wanted to beat the Dutch, Scotland didn't help themselves by losing both openers for ducks. Matt Machan and Michael Leask had to rebuild, Machan taking the measured approach while his partner tried to cart sixes. Both were successful, with half-centuries. More successful still was Dutch gloveman Wesley Barresi, whose nerveless unbeaten 75 was the driving force in the Dutch chase of 148 with overs to spare.
Scotland out, Netherlands qualify
Earlier on at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Hong Kong had secured their place as the eight Asian team in the World Twenty20. Despite Raho and Gavera sharing six wickets between them, Hong Kong managed to post 137, 48 of which were from Babar Hayat. The Hong Kong bowlers and fielders worked their socks off, so PNG's batsmen couldn't get the ball off the square or themselves to Bangladesh.
PNG out, Hong Kong qualify
9th place play-off
The Italians went into this game with nothing to lose, but you wouldn't have known it from their nervy batting. Only Crowley and Sandri really made meaningful contributions, and some poor calling late in the innings led to three run outs. However, the Namibians were still less convincing, and the young side crumbled. Gareth Berg capped an excellent tournament by claiming a hat-trick to finish an Italian win.
Italy finish 9th, Namibia 10th
5th place play-off
This game between the Netherlands and Hong Kong would determine the groups for the World T20, so it carried weight. Hong Kong's usually dependable batting folded again, but Babar Hayat was there to stop the rot once again, this time supported by Waqas Barkat. Still, 121 was hardly an imposing title, and even the spin threat of Nizakat Khan (three for ten) wasn't enough to stop the Dutch winning easily by seven wickets. Ben Cooper was very impressive with a rapid 42.
Netherlands 5th, Hong Kong 6th
7th place play-off
They might both have been out of the running for the World Twenty20, but both Scotland and PNG had a lot of pride resting on this game. The Pacific side wanted to leave the tournament as the best of the rest, with another HPP scalp to their credit, while Scotland desperately wanted to salvage some shred of dignity from proceedings. PNG's batsmen were competent, although not exactly earth-shattering, on their way to a competitive 143. This had a lot to do with the late flurry of Jack Vare, although without tidy and incisive spells from Majid Haq and Neil Carter, things could also have spiralled in the other direction. In reply, Richie Berrington wasted no time in establishing himself as the main Scottish batting threat, while Pipi Raho's impressive recent form vanished as he delivered a generous smattering of wides. After that, Kyle Coetzer provided the most support as most of the runs came between the wickets. Scotland had hit only eight boundaries all innings before a six and four from Matthew Cross finished the innings, and the chase from the very last ball available.
Scotland finish 7th, Papua New Guinea 8th
The semis didn't really provide the same quality of entertainment as the play-offs yesterday, because the two sides generally accepted to be on the fast track to the final weren't planning on taking prisoners. Nepal, for instance, could manage only 90 against the much-vaunted Afghan attack, which just proved to be too strong. The Nepalese managed to grab a couple of wickets, but nothing game-changing.
Nepal out, Afghanistan in final
For a short while, it looked like the other semi might be more of a contest as the Emirati bowlers made a positive start. However, the veteran Trent Johnston impressed with his hitting power to take the Irish to 147. That proved to be more than sufficient as Max Sorensen set about proving his qualities. He claimed four top-order wickets while Tim Murtagh took four tail-enders, and the UAE subsided horribly.
UAE out, Ireland in final
Things got pretty embarrassing pretty quickly for the UAE.
Afghanistan and Ireland were the two favourites, are widely accepted as being the two best Associate nations, and have gone about proving it all tournament. Ireland in particular have been clinical, despite missing some key players since the last edition, while Afghanistan have looked occasionally fragile. The big surprise, for me at least, was that the Afghan bowling was what really suffered. Where the Irish have struggled recently to post big scores, that wasn't a problem. Paul Stirling and Trent Johnston (who must by now be thinking of continuing as a specialist batsman) starred as Ireland raced along at eleven and a half an over, on their way to one of the biggest ever Twenty20 International scores. Afghanistan tried to counter - Mohammad Shahzad and Gulbodin Naib were particularly vicious - but ultimately the Irish had just scored too many runs; enough to win the title once more.
Ireland finish 1st, Afghanistan 2nd
Third place play-off
Nepal and the UAE would not have been many people's tip for the third place contenders, but both have won when it mattered. Basanta Regmi, who has been excellent all tournament, starred with the ball as he claimed four cheap wickets and put the UAE right on the back foot. With only 131 to play with, Kamran Shazad did his best to keep the UAE in it, but Sharad Vesawkar continued his good form to see Nepal home.
Nepal finish 3rd, UAE 4th
And so concludes an epic tournament. Congratulations are in order for Ireland and especially Nepal and Hong Kong. I've been tipping Hong Kong for quite some time, although my nerve failed me when I wrote my preview, but I thought Nepal were over-reliant on Paras Khadka. Others had good tournaments, though, and stood up to be counted. The fact is, they've come a long way since they were introduced in the very bottom of the World Cricket League.
Match of the Day:
For a long time, it looked as if the clash between the two best-supported Associate nations would be lost to rain, but Nepal and Afghanistan managed to squeeze in a seven-over contest.
This favours Afghanistan, whose batting has unrivalled firepower at this level, but Nepal weren't giving up without a fight. Sagar Pun and Gayanendra Mella each hit a brace of sixes as Afghanistan were set north of ten-per-over. a target that would have been far more without Shapoor Zadran and Mirwais Ashraf. The target posed little problem for Mohammad Shahzad though, and the crowd were repaid for their patience in pyrotechnic fashion.
Sometimes, there is no substitute for raw, brutal hitting. Mohammad Shahzad is good at that.
Match of the Day:
Namibia would guarantee a place in the playoffs by winning, while Canada would guarantee their elimination by losing, so the stakes could not have been higher. Canada got off to a reasonable start, but found it very difficult to push on against the tight spin of Bernard Scholtz. In the end, the spinner who cleaned up the wickets was not Bernaard, but his batsman brother Nicolaas, who took a five-for as the lower order tried desperately to add something of note in the last three overs.
The Canadian bowlers tried desperately to restrict the scoring, Abzal Dean chief amongst them, keeping his four overs to fourteen runs, but the best way to stop scoring is to take wickets. Canada couldn't do that, so Williams and van der Westhuizen scored what they had to.
The Brothers Scholtz had a bountiful day with aggregate figures of 7-0-32-7.
The penultimate day of the group stage was a quiet one with only four matches scheduled:
Match of the Day:
Oddly, the best cricketing action came in pretty much the only dead rubber of the day. Canada, already out of the playoffs, took on Italy, who had already qualified. The Canadian bowlers were out to prove their worth, though, and the three spinners kept things tight while Jeremy Gordon made the incisions. Only Damian Crowley, with an unbeaten 61, could do anything of note, while his side limped into three figures.
Munasinghe, who has been terrific all tournament, set heartily about a defence that looked unlikely. He removed Gunasekera first ball, then Hiral Patel and Ashish Bagai too. Eventually, the final-over responsibility fell to him, but he couldn't stop Raza-ur-Rehman making good Cheema and Hansra's foundations.
Italy lost the battle but won the war; they have been consistent whenever Canada drop the ball.
The rest of the games were notable for their drama and implications in the big picture of the tournament:
On Wednesday, things really get going in earnest.The two quarter-finals take place, and will decide two of the qualifiers. Hong Kong v Nepal and Netherlands v UAE will see two more added to the Bangladesh tournament alongside Ireland and Afghanistan.
The two losers will play the two winners of the Qualifying Semis, between Italy and Scotland, and Namibia and PNG. To those of you thinking that the format sounds extremely complicated, I completely agree, but it is the fairest way of sorting the wheat from the chaff. Hopefully, they will maintain the high standard of this tournament to the very end.
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Martin Jones is a teenage cricketer with an obsessive interest in the game, particularly the more obscure and quirky areas of it that don't get enough attention. He has also written articles for Planet Cricket, Third Man Cricket and ESPN Cricinfo.
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