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Cricket news - How the participants of the T20 WC Qualifier stack up

Always a strong batting side, Scotland famously knocked over soon-to-be World Champions England in a high-scoring boundary-fest at the Grange earlier this year.

Group A

With seedings for the groups based on T20I rankings immediately ahead of the draw in August, Group A, which will be based in Dubai for the Group phase, is widely seen as marginally the tougher of the two groups including both the teams that shared the Qualifier title in 2015 after a washed-out final. Based in Dubai, many of the early group matches will be held at the ICC Academy grounds rather than in the Dubai Stadium, regrettably meaning much of the early running will not be broadcast, but more pertinently for the sides themselves meaning that pace bowlers may have more of an impact early in the tournament, with Academy 1 traditionally the most seam-friendly ground in the Emirates.

Scotland are widely seen as early favourites to win both the group and the tournament; Kyle Coetzer's side are currently ranked 11 in the world and were closest to securing a bye to the World Cup by dint of their ranking. Nonetheless, they've shown some vulnerability in recent results, twice losing to resurgent hosts Ireland at the recent tri-lateral series with the Netherlands and only scraping a 1-run win against their near-neighbors in their second warm-up match, having lost the first to the UAE. Perhaps still acclimatising after spending their preparatory tour in South Africa, the Scots are nonetheless widely fancied to secure direct qualification. Always a strong batting side, Scotland famously knocked over soon-to-be World Champions England in a high-scoring boundary-fest at the Grange earlier this year, and with the explosive George Munsey at the top of the order partnering skipper Coetzer, and Calum Macleod and Richie Berrington coming in behind them, the Scots have probably the strongest batting line-up at the tournament. With a varied seam attack, boasting the competition's highest-rated bowler in Ali Evans, Scotland have in recent years also developed a potent spin attack, with the slow-bowlers key to their success both in their first CWC League 2 fixtures and recent T20 outings.

One to watch: Hamza Tahir, nephew of Scotland stalwart Majid Haq, is something of a new face in the side. The left-arm spinner has excelled this year in both the 50 and 20-over formats and is key to Scotland's emerging spin-bowling threat.

On paper, fellow 2015-finalists the Netherlands ought also to be strong contenders for the title, especially fielding close to a full-strength side with the addition of Colin Ackermann and the return of the iconic Ryan ten Doeschate to Orange. The Dutch have however arrived in Dubai looking an unsettled side, in thoroughly miserable form. Coach Ryan Campbell's rotating cast of players had lost fully nine of their previous ten T20Is prior to the tournament, and duly lost both of their warm-up matches to Ireland and Oman on arrival. Yet even if the Netherlands have gone from serial overperformers to a team that looks less than the sum of its parts, anything short of a top-three finish and comfortable qualification would be a significant upset. With fully half the squad now contracted to County sides, key players' regular absences due to domestic commitments in England have had a clear effect on team cohesion, but remains a testament to the depth of talent in the country. Young legspinner Phillipe Boissevain comes into the squad to complement the left-arm spin pairing of skipper Pieter Seelaar and Somerset's Roelof van der Merwe, while county-contracted seamers Fred Klaassen, Timm van der Gugten, Paul van Meekeren and Shane Snater will compete for a starting spot with newly-introduced quick Brandon Glover. With familiar faces such as Stephan Myburgh and Wesley Barresi missing out on selection, Campbell will put his trust in Max O'Dowd and the explosive Tobias Visee at the top of the order, with the in-form Ben Cooper returning from injury at three.

One to watch: Toby Visee may be the scion of a venerable Dutch cricketing family, but is thoroughly modern in his approach to the game. A genuine 360-player, able to clear the rope straight but often preferring an array of ramps and scoops to drive the scoring in the powerplay, Visee came to global attention outpacing opening partner Chris Gayle at the recent GT20 in Canada and was duly snapped up by the Delhi Bulls in the upcoming T10 league. He remains something of a hit-or-miss gambit in the openers spot, still vulnerable early and comparatively untested at the highest level, but when he comes off, he generally comes off big.

Papua New Guinea, who like the Dutch are coming off a string of disappointing results, likely lack the quality to coast through the tournament on current form. Though the Barramundis have generally looked more comfortable in the shorter format, having gone unbeaten through the East Asia Pacific sub-regional and regional qualifiers to earn their spot, an eight-match losing streak in ODIs is not easily shaken off, and losses to Oman and the UAE in their warm-up matches does not bode well for Assad Vala's side. Vala himself remains the linchpin of the batting, but PNG will hope opener Tony Ura rediscovers his fluency on return to his preferred format. The Papuans remain something of a squad off bits-and-pieces players, which has seen them repeatedly shown up in the longer white-ball format but need not be such a disadvantage in T20.

One to watch: Nosaiana Pokana, the tall left-arm quick, is one of the real specialists in the PNG side. Still just 23, Pokana came into the senior side while still a teenager and has since developed into a canny bowler, especially at the death, bowling at a decent pace and able to extract troubling bounce when the conditions suit. For at least the last year he has been the Barramundi's standout bowler, one of the few youngsters to have genuinely settled into his role in the side.

African regional champions Namibia meanwhile arrive at the tournament on something of a high, having secured ODI status for the first time in their history by winning the final World Cricket League Division 2 at Windhoek earlier this year, and sweeping Botswana in their most recent T20 outing, with the in-form JP Kotze striking their first T20I century, which he followed up with a blistering ODI 136 against a more fancied USA-side away in their first CWC League 2 tour last month. Kotze is the outstanding hitter in a line-up packed with rope-clearers, skipper Gerhard Erasmus himself arguably the most technically gifted, but destructive batsmen are found well down the order, with the big-hitting seam-allrounder JJ Smit attracting franchise attention after making a name for himself at Division 2. Traditionally known more for their seam bowling, Namibia nonetheless now boast a pair of genuinely threatening left-arm spinners in Bernard Scholtz and Zhivago Groenewald, who proved a particularly potent pairing in the recent CWC League 2 series in Florida. Namibia have a habit of underperforming in crunch tournaments however and traditionally take a while to acclimatise abroad, as evidenced by their warm-up loss to an out-of-sorts and understrength Hong Kong side. Nonetheless, on recent form, this tournament looks like Namibia's best shot at making a flagship global tournament since their solitary World Cup appearance in 2003.

One to watch: JJ Smit, originally a dedicated left-arm seamer, was forced to concentrate on his batting after injury kept his bowling arm out of action for a protracted period. Reinventing himself as a destructive lower-order right-hand bat, Smit returned to the national side with an additional string to his bow, earning his Player of the Tournament award at Division 2 by taking 13 wickets across the tournament and hitting 221 runs at an average over 50. There may be no home crowd in the UAE to celebrate his exploits with chants of "Smit can hit," but there's every chance they'll be shouting at the television back in Windhoek.

Another team arriving in the UAE on an unambiguously upward trajectory are Singapore, who secured a place at their first-ever global qualifier by beating out favourites Nepal to the top-spot at the Asia regional finals in July. They followed that up by beating Canada in the final match of the first round of the 50-over CWC Challenge League A at Kuala Lumpur to go neck and neck at the top of the table last month, before capping off an extraordinary year by recording their first win over an ICC full member when they beat Zimbabwe in front of a home crowd at the Indian Association Ground in a preparatory T20I tri-series with Nepal two weeks ago. Bolstered by the addition of Perth Scorchers' allrounder Tim David, but also looking a hugely improved all-round outfit, Amjad Mahboob's side arrived with momentum very much on their side. Back-to-back warm-up losses to Canada and Jersey may have deflated them somewhat, and they remain outsiders to win through to a qualifying berth, but certainly look capable of beating any team on their day.

One to watch: Tim David may have learned his game coming up through the grades in Perth, breaking into the Scorchers team last year, but his cricketing roots in the country of his birth are deeper than many might think. A second-generation Singapore player, his father Rod turned out for them at the 1997 ICC Trophy. That said, it's clear that David brings something a little different to what was previously a competent but serially underperforming Singapore side, not just a heap of runs and some handy occasional leg breaks, but a certain fearlessness that makes them genuinely dangerous.

Likewise seen as unlikely qualifiers are Bermuda, who blasted past a highly-regarded USA side at the Americas regional final to secure a place at the global qualifier alongside Canada. Despite a long absence from the top-flight of Associate competition the tiny island nation nonetheless continues to punch above its weight. In Sussex-signed Delray Rawlins they have one of the most gifted young batsmen at the tournament, backed up by such talents as fiery seam all-rounder Kamau Leverock and the Bascome brothers the Gombey Warriors should not be taken lightly, as the USA found to their cost. Bermuda arrive in the UAE as unquestioned underdogs but will have little to lose, and plenty to prove. Should Rawlins or Leverock have a solid tournament have every chance of springing some upsets or even putting together a run to the play-offs.

One to watch: Kamau Leverock is perhaps still best known to the world as the nephew of the iconic Dwayne, and indeed "Dwayne Leverock's Nephew" is the name he goes by on twitter, yet he is arguably a more complete cricketer than his celebrated and yet underrated uncle. His right-arm pace can be genuinely quick when he finds his rhythm, and behind Rawlins is the most consistently dangerous batsman in the side. Though his combative character has in the past caused him disciplinary problems off the field, few in Bermuda would change it as he's charging into bowl. Bermudan cricket is about ready for some new iconic image, and who better than Leverock to provide it?

Meanwhile the once-mighty Kenya, African runners-up and a once standout side of the Associate world, come into the tournament wearing the now all-too-familiar label of underdogs, a situation they underscored on arrival by losing a warm-up to wildcards Nigeria and then sinking to defeat at the hands of unfancied Jersey, the toll of a year (or arguably ten years) of unrelenting administrative turmoil continues to show on the field, and Shem Ngoche leads a side in desperate straights into the tournament. The talent is still there, Alex Obanda remains a menace at the top of the order and young Dhiren Gondaria shows great promise, veteran Collins Obuya's belligerence is undiminished by age and on paper the side ought to be title-contenders. As it stands, though, Kenya are bereft of confidence, form and match practice, beset by infighting and selection controversies, and widely seen as no-hopers. That's likely putting it rather too strongly, however, and if the erstwhile powerhouse of Associates cricket can somehow leave their baggage at the boundary they could again be a genuine threat.

One to watch: Dhiren Gondaria, the Indian-born-but -Kenya-raised opening bat, Gondaria is already a comparative veteran at just 23, having remained a steady presence through Kenya's tumultuous past two years. Rather more a finesse player than a natural power-hitter, Gondaria is nonetheless capable of putting bad balls over the boundary and serves as a fine foil to the more straightforward hitting of veteran Alex Obanda at the top of the order.

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Group B

On the other side of the draw, the Abu Dhabi-based Group B features the tournament's only Test-playing nation in Ireland as well as hosts UAE, and though seen as marginally the easier of the two groups it will be anything but a cakewalk for co-favorites Ireland and Oman, much less for the troubled hosts.

Ireland have ascended to the rank of Full Members since they hosted the last Qualifier in 2015, yet at that edition, Ireland looked less-than-dominant as they wound up with a third-place finish, and have since looked a less convincing white-ball side than many of their former Associate peers. In the last year or so there are signs of a turnaround, however, and Gary Wilson's side look a safe bet to go at least one better this time around. With some established names making way for hard-hitting youngsters steeped in the shorter format, and seasoned campaigner Kevin O'Brien thriving in a new role as T20 opener in partnership with Paul Stirling, whilst Andy Balbirnie has established himself at first drop as the side's most dependable run-getter. In short, the senior side at the tournament suddenly looks the part. Wins in their home tri-series and then in their pre-tournament warm-ups over rivals Scotland and traditional bugbears the Netherlands will have bolstered their confidence, even if the later Scotland game turned out to have been a one-run defeat after double-checking the scores.

One to watch: Harry Tector, former Under-19 captain and still two months shy of his 20th birthday, is one of the young guns coming into the Ireland middle order. With the maturity to adjust his game where the top-order fail, Tector is nonetheless at his best piling on the runs at the death. With a wide array of shots and the strength behind them to take the field out of the equation if pressed, Tector is simply no fun to bowl to when the runs are flowing.

Ireland's chief rivals for the Group A top-spot will be Zeeshan Maqsood's in-form Oman side, indeed some avid Associate-watchers might say the smart money is on the "Red Brigade" to win the entire tournament. After bagging ODI status for the first time alongside Namibia at the final WCL Division 2, an unbeaten series win over rivals Ireland, Netherlands and Hong Kong as well as Nepal in their home pentangular series underlined how far Oman has come as a T20 side since their win over Ireland at the last WT20 was seen as a huge upset. The pace attack, spearheaded by left-armer Bilal Khan, was already regarded as the best in the Associate game, and with spin all-rounders such an Aamir Kaleem Khawar Ali and Maqsood himself Oman has never lacked for slow-bowling options, but the arrival of Sandeep Goud and keeper-bat Suraj Kumar in the middle order has now shored up the batting and Oman now look a balanced side with no obvious weaknesses.

One to watch: Suraj Kumar is hardly a young gun at thirty years old, but the keeper-bat is a recent addition to the Oman set-up and has proved a very handy acquisition. A natural behind the wicket, Kumar acts as something of a force-multiplier for Oman's already dangerous spin attack, and equally valuable as a backstop and counter-attacking batsmen coming in behind Oman's still-brittle top order.

Hosts UAE on the other hand suddenly look like a side in crisis. The eleventh-hour suspension of skipper Mohammad Naveed along with seamer Qadeer Ahmed and batting linchpin Shaiman Anwar on match-fixing charges just ahead of the tournament has forced a last-minute reshuffle in the Emirati camp, with left-armer Ahmed Raza stepping into the captaincy role. Spared having to complete regional qualification thanks to winning hosting rights, the UAE looked short of match practice and understandably distracted as they sank to a ten-wicket loss to Namibia in an unofficial warm-up, though they bounced back to see off Scotland and PNG in their official preparation games, with the three replacement players Darius D'Silva, Waheed Ahmed and Junaid Siddique all performing creditably. Ordinarily, the Emiratis would have ranked among the contenders for the title on home turf and in principle, they have the bench strength to weather even the loss of the skipper and stand-out batsman but will need to put off-field dramas out of their heads if they are to win through the tournament.

One to watch: Waheed Ahmed is no spring chicken at 33, and after an innocuous Netherlands tour owes his place in the squad to the regrettable turn of events that opened three more places at the last minute. Waheed has seized his opportunity with both hands, taking three wickets in each of the warm-up games and blasting a breakneck 36* in the second, making a nigh unanswerable case for inclusion. As the saying goes, "beware and old man in a hurry."

Hong Kong's lead-up to the tournament has been arguably even worse, after losing three players to their own fixing scandal last year, Hong Kong were hit with a further double-blow as their young skipper and star bat Anshuman Rath declared for India and then a player rebellion over selection cost them the services of Babar Hayat, Ehsan Nawaz and Tanveer Ahmed, who withdrew from the squad ahead of the warm-up pentangular in Oman, where Hong Kong would go winless. There are signs that the side may have rallied somewhat in recent days, with stand-in skipper Kinchit Shah relishing his senior role even after relinquishing the reins to Aizaz Khan and young Haroon Arshad continuing his fine form from Oman, and with warm-up wins over Nambia and Bermuda some measure of confidence may have returned to what nonetheless remains a much-weakened Hong Kong side.

One to watch: Haroon Arshad, the 20-year-old right-arm seam all-rounder, has been thrust into the senior team rather earlier than he might have expected, but has stood up admirably even as the rest of the Hong Kong side has struggled to adjust. Hong Kong's standout bat on an otherwise forgettable Oman tour, the youngster finds himself carrying a remarkable weight of expectation into what is only his second senior tour.

Hong Kong and the UAE's troubles rather throw the door open for a resurgent Canada side, who have bounced back from the disappointment of losing ODI status at WCL Division 2 to go on a remarkable winning streak, led from the front by new skipper Navneet Dhaliwal. Since taking over from Davy Jacobs (who retired after a dispute with the board over player payment caps at the Global T20 Franchise League), Dhaliwal led Canada unbeaten through the Americas T20 regional final, where he was the sides' top-scorer, and on through the first round of the Challenge League, where he again topped the run tables despite missing three matches due to illness. The last of those three, a narrow D/L/S loss to Singapore, has been Canada's only competitive defeat since Division 2. In addition to Dhaliwal himself, Ravi Singh is also in a fine vein of form, whilst returning veterans Rizwan Cheema and Jeremy Gordon also looked to be rolling back the years in warm-up wins over Singapore and Kenya.

Also looking to take advantage of Hong Kong and the UAE's woes will be European regional champions Jersey, who narrowly beat out a much-hyped German side as well as the more established Denmark to claim the sole European qualifying spot. The Channel Islanders for once arrive at the global event more as dark horses than outright underdogs, with a third or fourth-place finish and a little luck in the play-offs a qualifying berth is not an unreasonable target for what is an increasingly disciplined and coherent side. Left-arm spin all-rounder Ben Stevens and young gun Jonty Jenner remain the fulcrum of the Jersey side, and at least one of the two will likely need to fire for Jersey to stand a serious chance of progression, but increasingly match-winning performances have come from elsewhere. The addition of former Leicestershire opener Nick Ferraby lends some experience to the top order, whilst promising youth-team graduates are coming through in promising left-arm spinner Elliot Miles and 18-year-old quick Julius Sumerauer. Always a good bet for an upset or two, this time around Jersey may just have rather higher ambitions. Two wins in the warm-ups over Singapore and Kenya will have restored some confidence after a winless tour to Qatar, but Jersey need to start strong if they are to target a place in the play-offs.

One to watch: Jonty Jenner has had some buzz about him in Associate circles for some years now. Still, just 21, right-hand bat Jenner has been a regular for the Jersey senior side since his mid-teens. Having split his cricketing education between the Jersey youth system and the Sussex academy, as well as a stint at MCC young cricketers, Jenner has been widely touted as a potential England prospect, and indeed has already taken the field for England as a substitute fielder, requiring some administrative wrangling to ensure he didn't compromise his eligibility for Jersey. If there is perhaps a feeling Jenner will find his way onto the global stage one way or another, one feels he'd prefer to make his first appearance at least in the red of Jersey.

Standing in Jersey's way in the first match will be wild-card entrants Nigeria, who benefited from Zimbabwe's exclusion following their suspension in July. Arguably fortunate to have finished third at the rain-affected Africa regional finals, Nigeria nonetheless look determined to make the most of their good luck, taking two wins from a five-match series against Zimbabwean provincial side the Mid-West Rhinos before departure and announcing themselves with a win over Kenya on arrival in an unofficial warm-up. 22 year-old off-spinning all-rounder Daniel Ajekun was the standout in the win over Kenya striking a brisk 73* and taking four wickets, and is close to a senior player in a squad that features several teenagers, including right-arm seamer Vincent Adewoye who has likewise impressed on the tour, as well as three members of the Under-19 side that made history by qualifying for the coming Under-19 World Cup. To see the senior side repeat that achievement here is probably asking too much of the rapidly rising but still developing cricket country, yet Africa's sleeping giant does not seem to have sent a team of whipping boys either.

One to watch: Daniel Ajekun, at 22 years old, was born too soon to accompany some of his teammates to the next Under 19 World Cup, but remote as the chance may be the possibility of a place at a World Cup is there for the taking. The off-spinning all-rounder has been Nigeria's greatest threat with both bat and ball since they touched down in the UAE, and regardless of what happens over the next two weeks, he looks likely to be a key player for the rapidly rising Nigeria for years to come.

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