The ICC Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier gets underway on October 18, and will feature 14 teams competing in the United Arab Emirates. The top six teams will join Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the first round of the seventh edition of the men’s ICC T20 World Cup (earlier known as the World T20), to be held in Australia next year.
Group A consists of Scotland, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Singapore, Kenya and Bermuda, while the UAE, Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, Canada, Jersey and Nigeria make up Group B.
A total of 51 matches will be played, culminating in the final at Dubai on November 2. As was the case in the previous Qualifier in 2015, the two group toppers will go through directly while the teams placed second to fourth in the respective groups will undergo playoffs to decide the remaining four places.
The 16-day tournament can be expected to provide plenty of thrills, and fans of Associate cricket in particular will be hooked to follow the fortunes of their favourite teams. Moreover, unlike previous editions of the Qualifier, all matches will be classified as T20 internationals this time, and rightly so.
The Qualifier provides for players from the emerging cricketing nations to display their wares on the global stage, and a host of exciting talents will be in action in the days to come. We look at 14 such players – one from each team – who will be worth keeping an eye on as the much-awaited tournament progresses.
Onais Bascome (Bermuda)
One of three brothers in the squad, all-rounder Onais Bascome was a significant performer with the ball for Bermuda at the Americas Regional Qualifier on home soil in August. Bascome’s medium pace fetched him eight scalps at 11.12, including 4/10 against the Cayman Islands and 3/32 in a key game against the USA. As Bermuda gear up for a much bigger challenge, Bascome might just be their go-to man again.
Ireland’s Mark Adair will be one of the bowlers to watch out for at the T20 World Cup Qualifier in the UAE (source – rte.ie)
Ravinderpal Singh (Canada)
The hard-hitting Ravinderpal Singh created history at the Americas Regional Qualifier, when he became the first man to hit a hundred on T20I debut – batting at number four, he scored 101 in just 48 balls against the Cayman Islands. He ended the tournament with 189 runs at an excellent strike rate of 190.90, and given that he is tailor-made for the T20 game, Canada will have high hopes from him in the UAE.
Haroon Arshad (Hong Kong)
The going has been tough for Hong Kong of late, what with the withdrawal of several key players due to various reasons. Not too surprisingly, the team finished without a win at the recent T20I Pentangular in Oman. However, 20-year-old middle-order bat Haroon Arshad struck lively knocks of 45 and 68 against Ireland and the Netherlands respectively, showing that all is not lost ahead of the Qualifier.
Mark Adair (Ireland)
Mark Adair has impressed in his short T20I career so far, and brings new energy to an Irish side that has often stuttered in the shortest format. The pacer, who also took six wickets on Test debut at Lord’s in July, collected eight wickets at 14.00 at the Oman Pentangular, in conditions similar to those expected in the UAE. He will look to continue in the same vein, as Ireland aim to reinvigorate their T20 fortunes.
Dominic Blampied (Jersey)
Jersey start as one of the underdogs, but they are more than capable of holding their own. Central to their chances will be leg-spinner Dominic Blampied, who will look to exploit the spin-friendly tracks set to be on offer. Blampied took seven wickets at 13.85 during Jersey’s winning Europe Region Qualifier campaign in June, and a similar return from him in the UAE will surely help give his team a boost.
Dhiren Gondaria (Kenya)
Opener Dhiren Gondaria’s hitting prowess at the top could well dictate Kenya’s progress in the UAE. Beleaguered by a number of issues in the past few years, Kenya need someone who can take the attack to the opposition, and Gondaria is their best bet for a confident start to the Qualifier. The talented 24-year-old has a T20 strike-rate of 136.32, while in T20Is the figure stands at 141.46, albeit in just five games.
Jean-Pierre Kotze (Namibia)
Just two days after Ravinderpal’s feat, Jean-Pierre Kotze became the second man to reach three figures on T20I debut, with 101 in 43 balls – the fourth fastest T20I ton – against Botswana. A month later, the southpaw scored Namibia’s first ODI century, as he smote 136 against the USA. Considering his game-changing ability and adaptability, he is expected to be the biggest threat to Namibia’s rivals in the UAE.
Pieter Seelaar (Netherlands)
Primarily known for his left-arm spin, Dutch captain Pieter Seelaar has shown at times that he can pack a punch with the bat too, as seen from his 49-ball 96* in defeat against Scotland at the Ireland T20I series last month, as also a 15-ball 32* during an ODI chase of 291 against Zimbabwe in June. Armed with strengthened all-round skills, there is no reason why he cannot lead from the front at the Qualifier.
A lot will depend on the in-form Jean-Pierre Kotze as Namibia aim to qualify for the T20 World Cup for the first time (source – icc-cricket.com)
Daniel Ajekun (Nigeria)
Nigeria may have entered the Qualifier only due to Zimbabwe’s suspension, but if their performance in a warm-up against Kenya a few days back is any indication, an upset or two cannot be ruled out. The star of the 49-run win over Kenya was all-rounder Daniel Ajekun, who first scored 73 from 50 balls and then captured 4/15 with his off-spin. Nigeria will be hoping for more of the same from the 22-year-old.
Khawar Ali (Oman)
Following Oman’s clean sweep in the T20I Pentangular, it would not be wrong to say that they will start as one of the front-runners in the UAE. An important cog in their setup has been leg-spinning all-rounder Khawar Ali, who took nine wickets in the Pentangular, with a best of 4/16 (including a hat-trick) against the Dutch. He also opens the innings, and the value he brings to the side will hold Oman in good stead.
Nosaina Pokana (Papua New Guinea)
Left-arm fast bowler Nosaina Pokana has been consistently proving his worth with his pace and accuracy – be it through his 5/14 in a crunch match against Oman that helped the Barramundis regain ODI status in April, or the 17 wickets at 15.52 he has so far taken in the World Cup League Two. His T20I economy rate is just 4.08 in 11 matches, which bodes well for Papua New Guinea as they aim to make an impact.
Hamza Tahir (Scotland)
Left-arm spinner Hamza Tahir has quickly risen to become a vital wicket-taking option for Scotland. He has so far snared 11 wickets in his nascent six-match T20I career, and also taken ten wickets in just three ODIs. A cousin of former Scotland off-spinner Majid Haq, Tahir is expected to play a critical role if the Saltires are to gun for a ticket to Australia, and batsmen would do well to be wary of his wiles.
Tim David (Singapore)
A major reason for Singapore’s presence is Tim David, who played for the Perth Scorchers in the 2017-18 Big Bash League. Batting at number three, David hit 77 from 43 balls as hosts Singapore trounced favourites Nepal by 82 runs in a winner-takes-all game at the Asia Region Qualifier in July. He also scored 41 in Singapore’s famous win against Zimbabwe last month, and will look to carry on his good form.
Ashfaq Ahmed (United Arab Emirates)
The UAE will be keen to produce a robust display on home soil. A couple of months back, they emphasised their T20 strength by subjecting the Netherlands to a 4-0 sweep in their own backyard. Ashfaq Ahmed was the leading light of that series, tallying 210 runs at 52.50 with three fifties. The opener, who earlier played first-class cricket in Pakistan, is likely to be a thorn in the flesh of bowlers in the Qualifier.