The 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Four is set to commence in Malaysia tomorrow. The week-long 50-over tournament will feature six Associate nations, with the top two teams earning promotion to the Division Three tournament scheduled later this year, and getting a step closer towards a shot at qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
The tournament will feature a round-robin stage, followed by playoffs. The teams in action are Uganda (fifth in 2017 Division Three), Malaysia (sixth in 2017 Division Three), Denmark (third in 2016 Division Four), Bermuda (fourth in 2016 Division Four), Jersey (first in 2017 Division Five) and Vanuatu (second in 2017 Division Five).
Eighteen matches will be played across three venues in Malaysia. With a few hours to go for what promises to be a keenly-fought and unpredictable week of highly contextual one-day cricket, here is a look at six players – one from each of the participating nations – who will be worth keeping an eye on in the tournament.
Henry Ssenyondo (Uganda)
A lot is expected from the Cricket Cranes, who slipped out of Division Three in 2017 after an ordinary show at home. Left-arm spinner Henry Ssenyondo will be one of the pivots for Uganda, as they aim for redemption. Ssenyondo was in good form in the recent home series against Saudi Arabia, and had scalped a vital 3/30 against Malaysia, Uganda’s first opponents, at the WCL Division Three.
Ahmed Faiz (Malaysia)
Ahmed Faiz may no longer be skipper, but he remains one of the most dependable batsmen for Malaysia. He led the team that finished last at the 2017 WCL Division Three, and also endured a poor run with the bat – a rarity, as he usually tends to score big in the World Cricket League. With Malaysia, as hosts, having a great chance for promotion, Faiz will be raring to make amends by piling on the runs.
Vanuatu’s Patrick Matautaava looks to hit one en route to his sensational 139* against Germany at the 2017 ICC WCL Division Five (source – ICC / vanuatuindependent.com)
Bashir Shah (Denmark)
Left-arm spinner Bashir Shah was the second highest wicket-taker at the 2016 WCL Division Four in the USA, with 13 wickets at 12.61. Though his performance could not spur the Danes to Division Three, Bashir’s wiles proved to be a handful for many a batsman. Denmark will hope for an encore from the experienced 35-year-old, who can be banked upon to take the game away from the opposition.
Kamau Leverock (Bermuda)
Bermuda have been on the decline in the past decade, but in left-handed opener Kamau Leverock, they have one of the more exciting talents on the Associate circuit. His barnstorming 137 against Jersey was one of the highlights of the 2016 WCL Division Four, and showed that he is capable of dominating bowling attacks from the word go. If he gets going in Malaysia, Bermuda could be in with a chance.
Ben Stevens (Jersey)
Jersey’s triumph at the 2017 WCL Division Five in South Africa owed a lot to Ben Stevens, who was the joint highest wicket-taker with 14 wickets at 10.50 through his left-arm spin, and his team’s second highest run-getter with a tally of 204 at 40.80. Jersey have twice been relegated from Division Four (2014 and 2016), and a strong display from the southpaw can go a long way in bucking the trend.
Patrick Matautaava (Vanuatu)
Vanuatu’s maiden entry into Division Four was driven by 26-year-old Patrick Matautaava, whose 139* in 76 balls against Germany in a must-win group game of the 2017 WCL Division Five sealed a chase of 228 in just 28.2 overs. Also, his 60-ball 83 helped Vanuatu beat Italy in the semifinal. Matautaava’s hitting prowess, coupled with his medium pace, makes him Vanuatu’s biggest game-changer.