Several teams impressed over the first couple of days, not least Hong Kong, whose slaughtering of Denmark was of epic proportions. Firstly, their batsmen fired at once, forcing the score up to a round 200 for four, then the bowlers polished off the Scandinavians for 60 in reply. If Hong Kong play in such a fashion, they've got it in them to beat any side in the tournament.
Papua New Guinea have also made an excellent start to proceedings in the UAE, by brushing aside Uganda with businesslike ease, before edging out a far more impressive scalp in Ireland. Brisbane Heat's Charles Amini was simply too good for the African batsmen, who were unable to post sufficient runs against his leg-spin. The surprise, though, came when the Irish batsmen found him equally problematic. The real stars of that win, though, were John Reva and Geraint Jones. Papua New Guinea certainly look like they have the quality to go all the way to Bangladesh.
Bermuda showed the sort of character we haven't seen from them in a long time. After bottling their run-chase against Italy, the usual chorus of dissenters arose from the internet. The defeat proved, they said, that Bermuda really had forgotten how to win. Italy went on to push the Netherlands close on the back of a strong captain's performance yesterday, while Bermuda faced Canada. Canada breezed to 182 without undue effort, and left Bermuda right behind the eight-ball. Despite contributions from Curt Stovell and JJ Tucker, Kamau Leverock still had to hit the last ball for at least three to win the game. He dispatched it hard and high for double that. Forgot how to win, you say?
And this was a Canadian side that was straight off the back of a win over Afghanistan, who had been restricted to just 128 from their quota. The fearsome bowling attack was tamed by Ashish Bagai, who saw his nation home. Ruvindu Gunasekera also played calmly for the victory. Afghanistan calmed themselves by dismembering a fragile Uganda the following day.
In the space of two days, several teams will have made bookmakers ponder the accuracy of their odds.
Pictures from CricketEurope's excellent album.
Namibia will be sweating after two defeats. In the previous Qualifier, they only suffered two defeats in the entire competition, but such a run now looks unlikely after they fell victim to both Kenya and Scotland, not forcing either to break sweat. Nepal also appear quite reliant on a small part of their team: when Paras Khadka fired, they downed the UAE; when he didn't, the United States proved too good.
Everyone will have things to ponder as the competition draws ever nearer. Nobody has been even nearly invulnerable, but the most comfortable of the sixteen nations must be Scotland. They have routinely dispatched both Namibia and the USA, and have a very settled look about them. By far the most worries must be Denmark, who don't look especially likely to improve on the 16th out of 16, where they finished last time around.
I only want to make two changes to my preview predictions: firstly, I now suspect that Scotland might make it all the way to the final, in place of Afghanistan; secondly, I fear that Namibia will fail to qualify, and that their place may actually be taken by Papua New Guinea. The same PNG who I suspected might not even escape the groups. And, to point out why there's really very little point in making predictions, I refer to Hong Kong. In their first game, they impressed everyone with a clinical assassination of Denmark, but in their second, they were rolled for less than 100 by Kenya. But they still nearly fought back and won it.