Associate Cricket: Mega-Update
Russell Degnan

The last month has seen a glut of associate cricket with three regional competitions and two editions of the world cricket league, played in four different regions. Afghanistan, Malaysia, Tanzania, Ghana, Bhutan and Nepal all played across two competitions, the latter winning both, and a possible sign, following their strong performance at the WT20 qualifiers in February, that their potential may be being finally realised.

World Cricket League Division 8 was a triumph for the East-Asia Pacific sides. Vanuatu won through to the WCL7, along with Ghana, whose batting let them down, and Japan retained their place in the division - if it exists next time around - with a third-place victory over Belgium. The latter result may have been fortunate, with all four teams in group B losing their play-offs to group A sides, there was a clear mismatch in their relative strengths. In particular, Bhutan and Suriname struggled throughout. The Americas side continuing their consistent record of recent relegations.

On the positive side, fans of leg-spin will note that 15 y/o Ghanaian Vincent Ateak led the economy rates, and 15 y/o Japanese spinner, Makoto Taniyama took 5/55 in their third place victory. The development of home-grown talent being paramount, the amount of youth and talent at this level is definitely a good sign.

A few steps up the ladder, World Cricket League Division 4 represented the only chance remaining for sides still holding out for a place in the 2015 world cup. As always, the cricket was closely fought going down to the last few overs, and net run-rate calculations, over-lapping with those of Duckworth and Lewis. Surprisingly, the home side weren't involved in those. Malaysia struggled throughout, beating only a disappointing Tanzania. Nor, except academically, were Nepal, who stormed the tournament, led by their dominant bowling - particularly Regmi, who took 21 wickets @ 6.66, they won every game comfortably, taking their first title.

The United States, although inconsistent, scraped past Singapore and Denmark despite a loss to the latter requiring them to smash the former on the final day. They succeeded because of the emerging talents of Taylor and Allen, and the consistency of Nadkarni. With WCL tournaments generally a crap-shoot, both Nepal and the United States are good chances of making it into the qualifier proper from the WCL3 in Bermuda next year. For the rest there are WT20 qualifiers to worry about. Singapore, in particularly, needing to promote themselves from the ACC Trophy Challenge in December.

Those qualifiers proceed apace, with the European T20 Division 2 held in Corfu in September. Like the WCL8 the groups lacked balance, with group B clearly stronger, and proving as such as the Isle of Man and Sweden emerged - not without difficulties - to go on to division one. Not that there were big differences in performance. A few teams struggled, but Sweden, who won group B, needed a last ball, last wicket victory over Spain when chasing 191 in their semi-final. Greece and Finland finished equal on points with victors Isle of Man, and Israel topped group A, although they eventually finished fourth. There is, unfortunately, a surfeit of ex-pats in the European competitions, and they'll need greater development to progress at a world level. Further reporting from my end on this tournament seems unnecessary, as both Cricket Europe and Darren Talbot of T20 International covered it extensively. What Europe lacks in raw cricket numbers, if more than makes up for in organisation and outreach of its major tournaments...

... and if you doubt that go and find the scorecards for the Africa T20 Division 2. The ICC outsources this, and it was sort of available on Web Cricket if you managed to click through an obscure link on the actual ICC site, obscured by the WT20 site, and didn't mind most of the results being missing. This isn't good enough. Not least when non-ICC tournaments like the Euro Twenty20 Cup (won by Poland by the by), are readily available.

Rant over. Tanzania and Botswana qualified through, with Zambia just missing out on net-run-rate Ghana, who had qualified from the previous edition, came fourth, with four losses, which speaks highly of the depth of African cricket. Sierre Leone and Swaziland made up the bottom two. I'd add more, but there is little to add, although the Tanzanian and Ghanaian press reported on the preparations and games, for those looking for more details.

Finally, the Asian Trophy Elite kicked off more or less the same day as the semi-finals of the world T20, which might have been embarrassing for the ACC if Afghanistan had done better in Sri Lanka. As it was their recent poor form continued, losing to the UAE (again) in the semi-final and coming third. The winners - and there were two, no super-over here - were Nepal, led admirably by Paras Khadka, whose recent form is remarkable, and the UAE, who overcame an early loss to Nepal to qualify for the semi-finals over Hong Kong and Kuwait, who each finished with two wins (as in the recent T20 qualifiers, the ACC groups were ludicrously unbalanced).

A closely fought tournament then, and a useful corrective to those who claim Afghanistan and Ireland are the only quality associate sides. The gap to the older full members might be large, but there are masses of sides on the other side of it, full of young players. Hong Kong is particularly remarkable on this score, sporting a sea of teenagers, although the UAE remain an enigma with a lot of older plauers, and a lack of home support. With Oman and Afghanistan likely to get associate status in the near future, and Qatar building a stadium of unusual size there are a lot of interesting developments in Asian cricket.

And one more worth watching. Apart from Africa, Asia may be sport the weakest full members in women's cricket. That may be a good thing this week, as they'll be joined by Thailand, Japan, China and Nepal in the Women's T20 Asian Cup. The relatively lower playing bases in women's cricket mean bridging the gap is considerably easier - though the gap in performance amongst the top sides is much larger - which has certainly been the case in football. The efforts than of the home team, China, and another potentially large market in Japan will be worth watching.

Cricket - Associate 22nd October, 2012 00:04:55   [#] [0 comments] 

T20 Ratings - WT20 Final Edition
Russell Degnan

FinalFormGamesWin. Prob.
1.Sri Lanka2576.6+55.321.7
4.West Indies2505.0+69.821.9
 Sri Lanka by 11 runs65.1%

Sri Lanka's victory over Pakistan gave them the mantle of the world's best side; add in home advantage, the most balanced bowling attack in the competition and some of its most outstanding batsmen, and they are deserved favourites for the final. Their semi-final victory was steady, rather than dominant, with multiple contributors, and no real drama. That is a good sign, provided someone steps up further when they are really tested, which to a degree they have yet to been. Arguably, given England's troubles, and their comparative failures versus New Zealand and South Africa, Sri Lanka's only really impressive performance has been against the West Indies.

That does, and doesn't bode well for both teams. For the West Indies, the knowledge that they scored 129 without a contribution from Gayle or Pollard, and bowled badly, without Badree, means that they have plenty of room to make amends. Whether they can do so is another matter, they have, after all, really only won two matches in the tournament to date, but as I've emphasised throughout, there is a lot of randomness to go with skill in a T20. Their last win was proof they can win the trophy, if they can replicate the performance.


Australia turned ou to be exactly what everyone said they were all along. A team dependent on its top-3, ill-suited to slower wickets, with a flailing middle-order. To be fair, most teams need runs from their top-3. If they fail a team is normally behind on both runs and wickets, and T20 is a very hard game to come from behind in. Bailey showed great determination to keep going, with an innings as good as any in the tournament, but his bowlers, particularly his spinners left them far too much to do.

Pakistan leave somewhat anonymously. They recorded wins over all the southern hemisphere sides, and were beaten soundly by their fellow Asians. Their batsmen never seemed to have enough runs to provide a consistent challenge, and their bowling lacked the bite of previous tournament victories. In a tournament full of flawed sides they weren't far from making the final, but that applies to most sides that were here.

Cricket - Ratings - T20 7th October, 2012 00:46:23   [#] [1 comment] 

T20 Ratings - WT20 Semi Finals Edition
Russell Degnan

Respective national presses can't help but dissect the disappointments of failed campaigns, but a reality check is in order, not least to demonstrate that small groups and closely ranked teams produce uncertain results.

New Zealand needed 2 runs to qualify, 1 in each tied game.
England needed about 3 more runs from New Zealand to push their NRR above West Indies.
South Africa needed 2 runs against India, and maybe 6 against Pakistan.
India needed South Africa to score those 6 against Pakistan.

It takes considerably more runs to displace Australia or Sri Lanka, who rightly head the table, but given no team is undefeated they are merely favourites, not certainties.

Semi-final 1FormGamesWin. Prob.
2.Sri Lanka2557.1+64.719.7
 Sri Lanka by 11 runs65.1%

Pakistan have been typically difficult to read in this tournament. Their T20 experience and record in global events is unparalleled, but they've merely drifted along just doing enough to beat South Africa and New Zealand and beating an Australian team that sets its sights lower relatively early on. Their opponents are at home, playing well, and full of dangerous players. Sri Lanka's batting depth and consistency ought to be enough to win this one.

Semi-final 2FormGamesWin. Prob.
7.West Indies2461.9-22.019.9
 Australia by 16 runs66.6%

Two three men teams. Australia looked very shaky losing to Pakistan, but Mike Hussey took them home, as few others can. Previous to that noone looked like getting past Watson who stomped all over the opposition with bat and ball, with Warner along for the ride. The West Indies have never looked convincing, but if Gayle or Pollard fire with the bat, or Narine - who dominated Australia earlier in the year - does with the ball, they will win any match. Expect Australia to book another final, but don't bet on it.

5.South Africa2496.9+9.427.6
8.New Zealand2432.1+21.624.8

Notwithstanding what I wrote above, none of these teams were unlucky to be knocked out. England never looked settled and while they'll be pleased that Finn continues his upwards trajectory, only Morgan looked like scoring enough runs to give them a target. South Africa need to strip AB de Villiers of something, preferably the gloves, given he isn't that good at it, and a team gets limited value out of a batsman at number 6, let alone a number 7. His captaincy was by the numbers, and at times quite bizarre, notably in the loss to Pakistan. That talent won't be around forever.

India continue to look tired, but the problem is mostly the bowling, which succeeded only against an inept England, and an erratic Pakistan. Kohli is a rare talent, and Yuvraj played well, but there wasn't much else to take from the tournament. And New Zealand just aren't very good. They might count themselves unlucky to hit two super overs - and lose both; a ridiculous concept at the group stage, that merely wastes time and ruins the warmups of other teams. But they wouldn't have got out of their group with half points, and while they might easily have won both games, they never really seemed like they would.

Cricket - Ratings - T20 4th October, 2012 03:04:48   [#] [0 comments]