So, a couple of weeks ago I posted a preview of the WCL Division Four tournament which has just concluded in os Angeles. In it, I made the prediction that USA and Oman would be the two sides who gained promotion, and for a change, I actually was correct, with USA winning the final by 13 runs. USA appear to be something of a bogey side for Oman, who were also beaten by them in the round-robin phase. That victory was underpinned by an extraordinary century from USA’s star batsman Steven Taylor, and in the end the 2 points gained were vital for their promotion charge.
The best thing about WCL is the importance of every match, and how even within a match permutations change, resulting in teams altering their approach to a match situation as new possibilities emerge. This seesaw effect is particularly prominent in the final group matches, where a match result could spell relegation or promotion. As teams level on points are split by net run rate, the back end of these matches are signified by frantic calculations of NRR, which are constantly updated as other matches progress. It makes for extremely tense and very exciting play.
But first, how we got there. USA got off to a great start, winning their first three matches, but a defeat to Denmark on day 4 derailed their progress and left the final round-robin match against Jersey on a knife-edge. Unfortunately the Danes, after two wins, suffered a shock loss at the hands of a Bermuda side reeling from two heavy defeats. This proved crucial, as they entered the final round at 3-1, the same as USA and Oman with the latter to play, leaving that match a virtual semi-final tie with the winner gaining promotion.
Meanwhile Bermuda followed on from that win with victory over Jersey, leaving them at 2-2 with only the winless Italy to play. So it came down to a straight fight between Bermuda and USA for the second promotion spot.
As it turned out, Italy put on one of their strongest bowling performances as Sandri and Crowley defended a reasonable low total. As the result came through that Denmark had been beaten by Oman, Bermuda knew that their NRR would be enough to keep them in Div 4 regardless of Jersey’s result against USA. So they ended up batting out their 50 overs, which was enough to secure their place. Denamark’s defeat also meant that the USA would finish 2nd if they scored 131 runs in their chase of Jersey’s 249, which meant we had something of a surreal situation where Akeem Dodson spent a few overs blocking the ball and running the odd single to ensure they reached the target without mishap. Once this had been accomplished they went for it – and smashed a few sixes on the way, but ended up falling one run short in a tense, exciting finish.
My predictions for the lower reaches of the table were nearly right, the only difference with Jersey suffering relegation rather than Bermuda. I was surprised Bermuda managed to bounce back from their poor start, but in Kamau Leverock they had a very destructive batsman whose sparkling century in round four hoped set off their revival. Jersey will rue some near misses, and Italy failed to produce a really good performance all tournament and succumbed to Division Five.
One note to add – I am usually quite scathing of the ICC but I felt they did a good job promoting this competition, at least on social media. Whilst it would be nice to have live streaming of the matches at least there were comprehensive highlights and interviews this time around. More of this please.
So USA and Oman progress to Div 3, to be held in early 2017 in Uganda. Canada, Malaysia and Singapore are their other opponents. A step closer to the 2019 World Cup but still a long way to go…