World T20 Qualifiers Preview - Group A
Russell Degnan

On paper, group A looks relatively straight-forward: Afghanistan are clearly the best side; the Netherlands and Canada are clear favourites for the top-3; WCL2 teams, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong are the most likely challengers, and the other three make up the numbers. Hopefully it will not be that predictable, and of course, a single upset could swing things around. Most likely though, the weakest few teams will upset the middle two often enough that any major upset won't change the final standings. The Dutch and Canadians are certainly vulnerable to upsets though, and either could miss the playoffs if key players fail to perform.

Rating2019.4Placing Probabilities1st: 45% 2nd\3rd: 53% Qual.: 40%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL; 1st in Asia.
Core PlayerMohammad NabiLeading wicket-taker in the Asian qualifiers, and a useful batsman; will be suited to the UAE pitches where he has played a lot o cricket.
Key PerformerHamid HassanThe injury prone pace bowler is too good for most batsmen at this level. If he stays fit his ability to remove the top order makes almost any total defendable.
On TwitterAfghanistan Cricket, Fazel Fazly

Reigning champions, without seeming quite as dominant of late. Clear favourites to top the weaker group, but after that anything can happen. Along with Shahzad, they have three players who could play in most test sides, but their lack of depth - particularly in batting - means they can be beaten. Would be a huge surprise if they are not there at the pointy end of the tournament.

Rating1985.5Placing Probabilities1st: 34% 2nd\3rd: 61% Qual.: 33%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL.
Core PlayerTom CooperClever batsman with a big season for South Australia behind him that brought him into Australian contention. Will anchor any Netherlands success.
Key PerformerAlexei KervezeeA mainstay for Worcestershire, and still only 22, but a poor record in Dutch internationals. The Netherlands need him to step up in this tournament.
On TwitterCricket Blog NL, Cricket Netherlands, Rod Lyall, RG Vleeming, Harold, Marko Koning

The second best of the four associates at the last world cup, but entering this tournament with a glaring hole marked Ryan ten Doeschate. They struggled earlier in the Caribbean T20 in January, beating only the Combined Campuses and Colleges. While that level of performance ought to get them to the play-offs, it won't be enough to overcome the teams in group B.

Rating1936.9Placing Probabilities1st: 21% 2nd\3rd: 70% Qual.: 24%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL; 1st in America.
Core PlayerJimmy HansraNo longer captain, but still the class batsman in the side after the retirement of Bagai. Will need to score heavily to support a fragile batting lineup.
Key PerformerRizwan CheemaRank slogger or not, Cheema can change a game in a few overs. If he explodes when it matters Canada can qualify.
On TwitterCricket Canada, Nigel Reed, Zubin Surkari, Faraz Sarwat, Vimal Hardat, Matthew Moore, Arsalan Qadir

A team in transistion for a while now, and a bright future. They won the American qualifiers despite sending a weaker side, but performed badly in the Caribbean T20 in January. Their biggest problem there was a tendency to slog aimlessly when they needed to lift the run-rate. Their young players - particularly Nitish Kumar and Hirat Patel - are immensely talented, but they need to learn to pace their innings if they are to put up consistent totals. Their bowling is better than most, and Baidwan in particular could cause problems. Can definitely qualify if things fall their way.

Papua New Guinea
Rating1601.9Placing Probabilities1st: 0.2% 2nd\3rd: 5% Qual.: 0.8%
Path to Qualifiers1st in East-Asia/Pacific.
Core PlayerAsad ValaPNG's most consistent batsman. Will, with Tony Ura, be expected to provide a quick start.
Key PerformerGeraint JonesThe former English keeper hasn't yet played for the land of his birth, but he is a class above most players in the tournament. If he can score heavily PNG might scrape into the playoffs.
On TwitterCricket PNG, Dan Faunt

Known for their fielding and raw athleticism, the Barramundi are big improvers both on and off the field over the last few years. Their preparation was disrupted when their coach got selected for Australia, but their squad has been playing throughout Australia in the past few months, which ought to help. Are capable of making the playoffs if things fall their way, but will probably be found out with the bat too often to be a serious threat.

Rating1565.9Placing Probabilities1st: 0.1% 2nd\3rd: 3% Qual.: 0.4%
Path to Qualifiers3rd in America.
Core PlayerDavid Hemp271 first-class games; Bermuda's fortunes have risen and fallen under Hemp's influence; now 41, one of his last appearances on the international stage.
Key PerformerLionel CannLike Hemp, no longer young, but scored heavily and quickly in the American qualifiers and they'll need the same to do well here.
On TwitterBalldinho

A team in decline, as some very good players have aged, and their limited population struggles to replace them. Copped some unfair criticism from Geoff Boycott in the past year over this decline, when really the surprise ought to be that they can compete at all. Nevertheless, will do well not to come bottom in their group.

Hong Kong
Rating1470.8Placing Probabilities1st: 0.0% 2nd\3rd: 0.3% Qual.: 0.05%
Path to Qualifiers2nd in Asia.
Core PlayerMunir DarAn experienced player who anchors the middle order; scoring heavily in the qualifiers and an important bowler on turning pitches.
Key PerformerIrfan AhmedOpening bowler and batsman; quick, erratic, free-scoring, unreliable. If Irfan has a good game, Hong Kong can beat anyone; if.
On TwitterCharlie Burke, Hong Kong Cricket Association

One of the emerging teams in world cricket, with a bunch of young talents including Jamie Atkinson, Nizakat Khan and Mark Ferguson. Hong Kong pushed Afghanistan to the limit in the Asian qualifiers final, and ought to have won. Ignore their rating - it is lower than it ought to be because of weaker performances in previous tournaments - Hong Kong are the most likely team to over-turn one of the three WCL1 teams.

Rating1606.4Placing Probabilities1st: 0.2% 2nd\3rd: 5% Qual.: 0.8%
Path to Qualifiers1st in Europe.
Core PlayerFrederik KlokkerDenmark's keeper and only player with first class experience; Klokker was top scorer in the qualifiers and the Dane's top scorer in their unsuccessful WCL3 campaign. Few teams are more dependent on one batsman.
Key PerformerBashir ShahThe leading wicket-taker in the European qualifiers; in the UAE his miserly off-spin will be essential to success.
On Twitter? Any Danish fans out there?

A team that have struggled of late in WCL competitions, and unlikely to be well prepared coming off a European winter. Their bowling was good in the qualifiers, against a weaker standard, but their batting was fragile. The need to win 4 or 5 of 7 games means they are highly unlikely to make the playoffs, but (like all teams here) they are capable of upsetting anyone.

Rating1536.9Placing Probabilities1st: 0.04% 2nd\3rd: 2% Qual.: 0.3%
Path to Qualifiers4th in Asia.
Core PlayerParas KhadkaThe captain, key bowler and leading run-scorer in the qualifiers. Possibly relied on for too much given his limitations.
Key PerformerBasanta RegmiThe purveyor of very accurate left-arm medium, who will do well on the low UAE pitches. Not a match-winner, but they are thin on the ground for Nepal.
On TwitterCricket Nepal, Birat Raya, Sirish Paudel, Pushpa Poudel

Nepal have a batting problem. Despite sneaking past the UAE in the Asian qualifiers at home, they were never dominant in a game, winning two very close contests over their rivals, and losing three others. Only one player scored, Khadka, scored over 100 runs for the tournament, and their bowling is not good enough to win games from that sort of platform. Like most teams they can challenge and win any game, but they'll struggle to win enough to be there when it matters.

Cricket - Associate 11th March, 2012 23:19:41   [#]