The 2017 ICC World Cricket League Division Five gets underway in Benoni, South Africa today. The week-long 50-over tournament will feature eight Associate nations, with the top two teams earning entry into the six-team Division Four tournament in 2018 and getting a step closer to a shot at qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
The tournament will feature a group stage followed by playoffs. Group A consists of Italy (6th in 2016 Division Four), Guernsey (3rd in 2016 Division Five), Cayman Islands (Americas qualifier) and Qatar (Asia qualifier); while Jersey (5th in 2016 Division Four), Vanuatu (East Asia Pacific qualifier), Ghana (Africa qualifier) and Germany (Europe qualifier) form Group B.
Twenty matches will be played across four venues in Benoni. Followers of Associate cricket would undoubtedly be looking forward to what promises to be a keenly-contested week of one-day cricket. While Jersey and Italy are the frontrunners, one should not rule out upsets from the likes of Ghana and Qatar. We look at eight players – one from each team – who will be worth keeping an eye on.
Experienced off-spinning all-rounder Carl Sandri will be vital to Italy’s chances of promotion to Division Four (source – alchetron.com)
Carl Sandri (Italy)
Australian-born all-rounder Carl Sandri, who qualified to play for Italy in 2012 due to his heritage, is one of the strongest weapons in the Italian bowling arsenal, not to mention his powerful hitting ability. Even as Italy finished last in the WCL Division Four in 2016, the 34-year-old off-spinner impressed with nine wickets at 19.44. In 2013-14, Sandri got a taste of the Big Bash League, playing for Sydney Thunder.
Matthew Stokes (Guernsey)
Guernsey’s third-place finish at the WCL Division Five in 2016 had a lot to do with the display of talented batsman Matthew Stokes. The 21-year-old, who also bowls handy medium pace, logged 247 runs at 61.75, with a best of 82 in the crunch third-place playoff against Vanuatu. Equally adept at opening the innings and playing at one-drop, Stokes will be the key to Guernsey’s promotion hopes.
Ramon Sealy (Cayman Islands)
Named captain of the Cayman Islands squad in August, 26-year-old Ramon Sealy will shoulder the responsibility of inspiring a team that has historically failed to deliver at the WCL. A top-order batsman as well as a wicketkeeper, Sealy has it in him to take the opposition by surprise, as shown during an attacking 84 in a losing cause against Norway at the WCL Division Six in 2015.
Mohammed Nadeem (Qatar)
Left-arm spinner Mohammed Nadeem starred for Qatar in their victorious WCL Asia Qualifiers campaign in Thailand four months ago, with a return of 20 wickets, the most in the tournament, at a sensational average of 5.95. Qatar, first-time participants at the WCL, will expect the 34-year-old to rise to the occasion again as they aim to make a mark in a challenging group.
Jersey’s young fast bowler Ben Kynman will be worth keeping a eye on at the ICC World Cricket League Division Five in Benoni (source – Barry Chambers/CricketEurope)
Ben Kynman (Jersey)
On form and on paper, Jersey start as favourites to win the tourney. Among the potential match-winners in their balanced line-up is 22-year-old paceman Ben Kynman, who thrived at the WCL Division Five at home in 2016, taking a tournament-best of 15 scalps at 8.80, including 4/10 in the final against Oman. His recent stint with Cape Town’s Ottoman Cricket Club will hold him in good stead.
Patrick Matuataava (Vanuatu)
All-rounder Patrick Matuataava is a precious asset for Vanuatu as the islanders look to move up the ladder. The 27-year-old medium pacer was instrumental in his team’s six-wicket win over Fiji in the winner-takes-all last-round clash at the WCL East Asia Pacific Qualifiers in Bendigo, Australia earlier this year, with figures of 3/17 in ten overs and a composed 54* from number three.
Simon Ateak (Ghana)
Opener Simon Ateak was the standout batsman at the WCL Africa Qualifiers in April, topping the run charts with a tally of 173 at 57.66 as his team finished unbeaten in the six-team competition. His best effort came against Botswana, anchoring a tricky chase of 154 with an unbeaten 75. Ghana may be rank outsiders to many, but if Ateak gets going, things might just get interesting.
Mudassar Muhammad (Germany)
All-rounder Mudassar Muhammad was the scourge of Germany’s opponents at the WCL Europe Division One in the Netherlands in June. The 36-year-old blazed 355 runs – 121 more than the next best – at 88.75, including two consecutive hundreds, and took nine wickets to play an invaluable role in Germany’s triumph. His team-mates will be hoping for an encore at the WCL Division Five.