Yesterday saw the end of another enthralling segment of the World Cricket League, with Division 2 coming to a conclusion in Windhoek, Namibia. There was a lot at stake in this tournament, with the prize for the top two teams promotion to the WCL Championship and a chance of qualification for the 2019 World Cup, along with the Intercontinental Cup 4-day competition. The winner of that will have the chance to play in the ICC Test Challenge against the lowest-ranked full member in 2018. S, a lot to play for.
The 6 teams that took part were those that were relegated from the last World Cup qualifier. Nepal and Uganda had to win promotion to get here. The other 4 teams making up the numbers were hosts Namibia, the Netherlands, Kenya and Canada.
The favourites for the tournament beforehand were probably Namibia and the Netherlands. The former had home advantage and a very strong batting line-up. The Dutch have vast experience – they beat both Ireland and England in the recent World T20 due to their explosive batsmen at the top of the order.
As it proved it went with the form book with the Netherlands beating Namibia in the final. However there were many twists and turns to get there.
The winners the Netherlands came up on the outside to reach the final. After a convincing win over Canada they stumbled and lost their next two, to Namibia and Nepal, both due to erratic batting performances which had a drastic effect on their net run rate (NRR). They went into the final group game needing to thrash Uganda and hope for a Nepal defeat to reach the final. In the end this is exactly what happened, dismissing Uganda for 79 and chasing down the target in just 6.3 overs.
Meanwhile Namibia started the tournament the strongest with 3 fairly straightforward wins over Kenya, Uganda and the Dutch. Their batting line-up all shone, particularly against the Netherlands when they made 314 in their 50 overs, far and away the best score of the competition. A defeat to Nepal left things to the last day but 6 wickets from Craig Williams against Canada restricted them to 224 and fifties from Baard and Snyman saw them home. Of the 6 teams Namibia are the only team who play regular multi-day cricket in a domestic competition, playing in the Sunfoil Cup in South Africa. This experience had a huge impact on their performance. I’ve always had a soft spot for Namibia so was pleased to see them get through. They also have my favourite named player in their squad which has to be worth something!
Nepal could consider themselves very unlucky. Their opening day defeat to Uganda by two runs proved crucial. After this setback they beat both promoted teams and went into the last group game knowing a win would see them through. Unfortunately a poor batting performance against Kenya spelled defeat by 5 wickets and the Netherlands edged ahead on NRR. Nepal’s struggles were with the bat – they failed to score 200 in any of their matches and were edged out by Kenya in the third place play off. They also struggled to finish teams off, especially against Canada when they had them 22/5. In the end this was crucial for their NRR. I find it difficult to warm to Nepal if I’m honest – have admiration for their players but their fans are sadly arrogant and judging by some of their posts on social media after the Kenya defeat, bad losers as well.
Kenya have had the biggest fall from grace. A strong Associate side in the 2000s, they lost ODI status after the Wold Cup Qualifier last year and came into the tournament on a poor run of form. In the end they will probably be thankful for their 3rd place finish as this keeps them in WCL2 for the next cycle and stops the rot of descent. They only recorded 2 wins but that last day victory over Nepal sank Canada to 5th place and relegation.
Uganda went into the tournament favourites for the drop and so it proved. Much like Nepal, Uganda found it impossible to post challenging totals, also failing to make 200 in any of their matches. Their tight bowling and fielding unit can help to make these totals competitive but against stronger batting line-ups their frailties were exposed.
After USA and Bermuda’s performance in WCL3 it has not been a good few months for the Americas sides. Canada couldn’t find any consistency, recording 250+ scores against Kenya and Uganda but slumping to 114 all out against Nepal. They have number of batsman who are coming to the end of their careers but there doesn’t seem to be any new blood coming through. Defeat to Uganda in the 5th place play off saw them finish bottom and worrying times lay ahead.
All in all it was a fantastic tournament and the last round of group matches was edge-of-the-seat stuff. When games have context it really makes the matches so much more exciting. Something for the full members to learn from.
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