One of the recent decisions made by the ICC which may have slipped under the radar was their idea to reduce the number of divisions in the World Cricket League from 8 to 5. The reasoning behind this was primarily two-fold. First the cost of travel for the teams was very expensive, and secondly it gave individual nations and regions the opportunity to focus on the type of cricket they wished to play – to me this sounds like a subtle way to move teams towards the T20 format, but there you go. I guess for smaller nations T20 probably does provide the best chance of scheduling local tournaments and involving women and juniors in the game, something which is vital for development lower down. So the WCL Division 5 that has just finished in Jersey is now the lowest rung on the path to the 50 over World Cup in 2019.
The pre-tournament favourites were probably Oman, who recently made the world sit up and take notice with their performance in the T20 World Cup Qualifier with a stunning victory over Ireland. At this level playing at home gives an enormous advantage so Jersey would have been confident of sealing the second promotion berth. However the great strength of the World Cricket League is its unpredictability – playing five matches in a week means momentum and confidence play a huge part. Getting off to a good start is imperative.
As it happened the form books were correct, with Jersey sealing the crown with a win over Oman in the final. Oman remained unbeaten through the group stage but Jersey took revenge in the final with a stifling bowling performance. Oman’s progress was based on a batting line-up with more experience than the others and boasted the leading run-scorer in Zeeshan Maqsood. Jersey were well-served throughout by their all-rounders and make maximum use of familiar surroundings.
Guernsey and Vanuatu finished third and fourth respectively. The former retain their place in the division, Vanuatu joining the two African sides of Nigeria and Tanzania in relgation back to their regional qualifying events. The Africans struggled with the bat all week and were dismissed for under 100 more than once. Impossible to defend such a total.
So the victorious sides move to a very interesting Division Four tournament to be held in Los Angeles later in the year. The ICC have been running American cricket since the suspension of USACA last year and some semblance of organisation is starting to take shape, so I would expect them to do well. Two European Associates in Denmark and Italy should be there or thereabouts, and Oman could push on from their performance here. So a very open competition ahead! A country with the population of the USA should dwarf the other sides really, especially the island nations of Bermuda and Jersey. Just goes to show how poor the governance has been of that country in the last few years. Will be fascinating to see if things have changed.