The upcoming ICC World Cricket League Division Two, to be played in Namibia from April 20 to 27, is set to be the last edition of the WCL as we have known it.
Having been one of the most hard-fought Associate tournaments over the years, the multi-divisional WCL will make way for two new tournaments – the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two and the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League – that are slated to start in July as qualification paths for the 2023 World Cup.
There is a lot at stake in the WCL’s final fling, which features Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Canada, Namibia, Oman and the United States of America. The top four teams will gain ODI status and join Scotland, Nepal and the United Arab Emirates in the Cricket World Cup League Two, while the bottom two will enter the 12-team Cricket World Cup Challenge League.
As we look forward to what promises to be a highly competitive tourney, here is a look at six players – one from each team – who will be worth keeping an eye on.
Tony Ura (Papua New Guinea)
The 2018 World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe witnessed one of the most remarkable ODI innings, as opener Tony Ura struck 151 for the Barramundis in their total of 235 against Ireland. Though his one-man show was ultimately in a losing cause, Ura once again underlined the value he brings to the top order. Having lost their ODI status last year, Papua New Guinea will be banking on Ura to deliver a strong start.
Anshuman Rath (Hong Kong)
At the age of 21, Anshuman Rath has grown to become the most reliable batsman in his team. Rath took over the captaincy last September, and found success as he led Hong Kong to victory in the Asia Cup Qualifier. In the Asia Cup, he gave India a massive scare by scoring 73 in an opening stand of 174 with Nizakat Khan. As Hong Kong look to regain their ODI status, much will depend upon their young skipper.
Papua New Guinea’s Tony Ura in action during his brilliant 151 against Ireland at Harare in 2017-18 (source – ICC)
Nikhil Dutta (Canada)
Off-spinner Nikhil Dutta had a bountiful return when he last played in Namibia at the WCL Division Two last year, with his 11 wickets coming at an average of 11.45 and an economy rate of just 2.47. As Canada’s premier slow bowler, Dutta will again be expected to come good on pitches likely to be conducive to spin bowling, and thus pave the way for his team’s return to the ODI club after a gap of five years.
Bernard Scholtz (Namibia)
Hosts Namibia will need to be at the top of their game if they are to finish in the top four. Central to their chances will be the performance of left-arm spinner Bernard Scholtz, who has now been part of the national side for over a decade. Scholtz starred at the 2018 WCL Division Two with 11 wickets at 11.81 and an economy rate of 2.45, and will look to produce a similar display this time as well.
Bilal Khan (Oman)
Few bowlers on the Associate scene have been as consistent as left-arm pacer Bilal Khan. Bilal was instrumental in Oman’s victorious WCL Division Three campaign on home soil last November, as he topped the charts with 12 wickets at 12.66 apiece. He was also the joint-highest wicket taker at last year’s WCL Division Two in Namibia with 17 scalps, and an encore would go a long way in securing ODI status for Oman.
Steven Taylor (United States of America)
Undoubtedly one of the most exciting all-round talents in the Associate world, Steven Taylor is the man who poses as the biggest threat to the USA’s opponents. With his destructive left-handed batting and tricky off-spin, Taylor has the ability to be a game-changer for the USA. He impressed on the recent tour of the UAE, where among his notable performances was a dazzling 39-ball 72 in the USA’s first T20I.