Associate Cricket: Asian T20 Cup Preview
Russell Degnan

After a short break associate cricket returns with the last, and probably most keenly anticipated of the WT20 world regional qualifying tournaments. Ten teams are involved, in two groups of five, with the top three, exclusing Afghanistan progressing. This is slightly problematic, as the semi-finalists will no doubt be those three teams, and the draw, based on the 2010 ACC Elite Trophy appears to favour a weaker group A, although it is probably marginal. With seven teams in with a reasonable chance of making the semi-finals there is no margin for error from any side.

Group A
Afghanistan, as top seed, and past qualifier for the main event will be favourites, but, not needing to win (and needing to keep Hamid Hassan fit before all else), they might be tempted to play with their side a little.
Malaysia were unexpected semi-finalists in 2010 beating UAE on course to 4th, but were competitive even in losses, recently qualified for WCL5 and will be a good chance. The Oman game will likely decide their fate.
Oman are probably favourites for second place in the group, with the 3rd highest CricketEurope rating and a strong performance in the WCL3 where Wategaonkar and Ranpura starred.
Bhutan are cannon-fodder. They escaped relegation in 2010 through the absence of Bahrain (like Singapore, a far the better side) but were mauled repeatedly. A record T20 loss is possible.
Maldives are rated worse than Bhutan, they won the ACC trophy challenge and might be better than that, but the tiny atolls will be pleased to be here, and unlikely to compete.

Group B
Nepal, host and a good one with an enormous cricket following (percentage wise, even by full member standards) and crowds. That passion, nor junior success, hasn't translated to date, and they might be the unlucky team here again.
Hong Kong have some quality youth, particularly Nizakat Khan , but some uneven results in the WCL2, though they retained their status (and funding) and went close to UAE.
UAE have been on the up of late, with an experienced side and some solid performances in the I-Cup against Afghanistan and (more importantly) the WCL2. Was the surprise disappointment last year, and won't want a repeat in a format that can throw them up.
Kuwait are the dark horse in a strong group. They'll need two upsets to progress which seems unlikely, but their recent record (2nd in WCL7, 3rd in WCL6) is solid.
Saudi Arabia are the make-weight in this group. Will be surprising if they win a game, but upsets have happened throughtout qualifying. Woulf be ecstatic with seventh place.

The helpful contacts at the ACC inform me NTV (Nepal) are broadcasting the ACC Twenty20 Cup. There are no official web-streams - something that the ICC ought to make a priority for all women's, age group and associate tournaments - but NTV seems to be available online

World Cricket League Six passed me by while I was away, but a brief recap for the record. Malaysia played host to the Channel Islands nations, a hopeful Kuwait and Nigeria, and a Fiji in free-fall from higher up. Fiji continued to struggle, and Nigeria were winless; the remainder of the games were ridiculously close, Guernsey going undefeated, but winning 4 games by a combined 7 wickets and 21 runs, Jersey won 3 games 37 runs and 3 wickets, but lost three by 1 wicket and 17 runs, Malaysia being the (perhaps) fortunate second placed team, losing the final by two wickets. This tournament proved again that cricket is remarkably even between the teams ranked 10th through to 36th, even if none of them are a match for the very top, as a contest it is brilliant. WCL5 will be in Singapore in February.

Cricket - Associate 29th November, 2011 21:25:25   [#]