I certainly haven't made a secret of my high hopes for the young, talented Hong Kong squad in this year's World Twenty20 Qualifier, and in the format generally. They have the youth, the commitment and the exuberance to make a real go of Twenty20 cricket; they also have the three most vital features of any T20 team: athletic fielders, clean hitters and tight spinners.
The spin attack is probably Hong Kong's absolute forte. Nizakat Khan, Nadeem Ahmed, and Mark Chapman are three parts of a finger-spin battery the match of any in the Associate world. In addition, Jamie Atkinson and Irfan Ahmed will make an explosive top-order duo. Finally, keep an eye on young Kinchit Shah and ex-Pakistan Under-19 Haseeb Amjad, who may both make their first big impressions on an international stage if Hong Kong are to turn 11th place in 2012 into 6th or better eighteen months later.
Announced Squad: Tanwir Afzal, Irfan Ahmed, Moner Ahmed, Nadeem Ahmed, Haseeb Amjad, James Atkinson (C), Waqas Barkat, Mark Chapman, Babar Hayat, Aizaz Khan, Nizakat Khan, Roy Lamsam, Kinchit Shah, Daljeet Singh, Ali Skhawat
Much has been written about the Irish team and its strengths, and with good reason. For well over half a decade, it has been some distance ahead of the rest of the Associate pack. Even the departure of their two long-standing opening bowlers - Trent Johnston and Boyd Rankin - does little to dent the optimism as Mick Delaney returns well from injury and Graeme McCarter continues to develop well amongst a battery of similar-aged seamers.
Neither of those names will be present in the Emirates, though. This tournament will be Johnston's last hurrah as he seeks so exit the international scene with one last piece of silverware. Also highly influential will be the monstrous hitting range that both Kevin O'Brien and Paul Stirling can achieve. Both starred last Qualifier, and both should do so again.
Announced Squad: Alex Cusack, George Dockrell, Trent Johnston, Ed Joyce, Andy McBrine, John Mooney, Tim Murtagh, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, James Shannon, Max Sorensen, Paul Stirling, Stuart Thompson, Gary Wilson
Italian cricketing stocks are on the rise, not without the help of talent that started off life south of the equator. Andy Northcote has been a loyal servant to Italian cricket, as has Joe Scuderi, the ex-player, turned national coach. The newest name to add to that list is tattooed Middlesex all-rounder Gareth Berg, who will play his second Qualifier this winter.
Dinidu Marage could have an equally huge impact with both bat and ball, as he is the leading light of a large Sri Lankan faction of the dressing room. If he, Berg and the rest all find form, the Italians could sneak themselves a win or two, but despite an encouraging tenth place last time out, I personally can't see them making it out of their group.
Announced Squad: Gareth Berg, Alessandro Bonora, Damian Crowley (C), Damian Fernando, Dilan Fernando, Warnakulasuriya Fernando, Sujith Kumara, Dinidu Marage, Gayashan Munasinghe, Andrew Northcote, Vincenzo Pennazza, Joy Perera, Peter Petricola, Michael Raso, Carl Sandri
By the standards of a team who used to be in the top ten in the world, a finish that ranked them at 19th was pretty hard to bear. They will be looking to better that 2012 campaign, but until their recent victory over Afghanistan in the second Twenty20 International (which was a consolation win, but console it did) I had consigned them to a similar result, perhaps even worse.
However, with Collins Obuya, Alex Obanda, Rakep Patel, Tanmay Mishra and others to call upon, it is a very real possibility that some opposition bowling attacks could get a fair bit of treatment. The African side don't really have any weaknesses per se, but they don't often seem to have a great many strengths either. Still, if they can get their act together, there's no reason that they can't earn themselves a trip to Bangladesh next year.
Possible Squad: Ragheb Aga, Dhiren Gondaria, Irfan Karim, Tanmay Mishra, James Ngoche, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya (c), David Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Morris Ouma, Rakep Patel, Hiren Varaiya
So, if my notoriously inaccurate predictions are accurate thus far, Afghanistan, Ireland and Kenya all look set to qualify, while the most high-profile casualty so far is Canada. Which three of the eight remaining sides do I think will qualify? Wait until Friday for more.