Tournament preview


The European Under 17 Championships return this week to Ireland, where the hosts and defending champions, last year's runners-up Scotland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Jersey and Guernsey lock horns over six days and across fourteen grounds in the Greater Belfast area. What can we expect from the competitors?

Defending champions Ireland seem favourites to retain their title, bringing with them some considerable experience: captain and slow-left-armer George Dockrell, for instance, has just been named in Ireland A's European Championships squad; seamers Graeme McCarter and Shane Getkate have been involved with Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, respectively, while Eoghan Conway (who took a six-for against the Netherlands in the corresponding U-15 tournament) and Cameron Grieve both spent time in India over the close season.

Stiff opposition should be expected from Scotland, though. Opening batsman Freddie Coleman was the leading runs-scorer in last year's tournament and averaged close to 50 in the recent U-19 championships; Peter Ross, meanwhile, was the leading wicket-taker in Jersey for Scotland U-15s in 2008, and a number of squad members have been regularly featured in dispatches from the SNCL First Division.

The Netherlands, meanwhile, have submitted a squad in which almost everyone was part of last year's Championships. Indeed, only three fail to return, so captain Dennis Coster should have plenty of experience to call upon, and will be looking to U19 international seamer Sebastian Braat, all-rounder Paul van Meekeren, Matthijs Luten and leg-spinner Vinoo Tewarie to lead from the front.

Conversely, the Danes bring a relatively young squad to Belfast and may well be reliant upon captain and top-order batsman Hamid Shah for many of their runs. Fellow U19 internationals Ihyas Sawmy and Sohaib zahid should be the main men with the ball.

And finally, Jersey and Guernsey: since they were admitted to the First Division of European youth cricket the Channel Islanders have more than held their own, and both will be looking to build on the successes of 2008 and early 2009. Indeed, so far and so quickly have the islands progressed, would it even be a surprise if one or the other was to sneak fourth place ahead of one of the more established nations?

Jersey, led by last year's player-of-the-tournament and promising left-arm spinner Ben Stephens, will likely look to opening bowlers Charles Perchard and Stephen Blackburn for wickets, while Tim de la Haye and Aiden McGuire have established themselves at the top of the order. For Guernsey, Thomas Kirk and Robbie le Corre will be expecting big runs, while Matthew Breban, Andrew Hutchinson, and Matthew Renouf - who has experience within Sussex's youth system - will likely be a handful with the new ball.