Most of the press are already assuming that the line-up for the Super 8s stage of the World Cup is already set in stone before a ball is bowled. Indeed, this even extends to the fixture list on the ICC's official site, which lists the Super Eight stage as already containing the top eight Test teams. One wonders what the ICC's anti-corruption unit would make of that!
So do any of the six associates have a chance of causing an upset? An associate has beaten a Test nation in every World Cup with the exception of the first tournament in 1975 and the fourth in 1987, so previous form would suggest that an upset is likely. All six in this world cup have a win over a Test nation with the exception of Bermuda. The reduced number of teams per group (four as opposed to seven last time out) also means that one upset could put an associate in the Super 8 stage.
Let's look at each associate in turn and look at their chances of beating each Test team in their group.
Last Meeting: 6th June 1990 (ICC Trophy); Bangladesh won by 36 runs [Scorecard]
Previous matches: 2; Bangladesh 1; Bermuda 1
The previous meetings between the two may be split 50/50, but that was a long time ago, and before Bangladesh started on their way to Test status. Bermuda are the weakest of the six associates so even against one of the weakest Test nations, the chances of an upset are slim at best. Bermuda do get an early look of Bangladesh in an ODI tri-series in Antigua at the end of February.
Only Previous Meeting: 10th May 1997; India won by 6 wickets
India routed Bermuda in their only previous meeting back in 1997, and with India in good form, there is nothing to suggest that anything less than another thrashing awaits Bermuda.
v Sri Lanka
These two teams have never met before, despite both being at the top of the associate tree in the 1970s. They would certainly have met in the 1979 ICC Trophy semi-final had it not been for Sri Lanka forfeiting against Israel in the group stage. But that was nearly two decades ago, and Sri Lanka have come on in leaps and bounds, including a World Cup win in 1996. Again, we have to say that Bermuda have little chance of causing an upset in this match.
Only Previous Meeting: 13th-14th June 1979 (World Cup); England won by 8 wickets
That previous meeting was obviously a long time ago, so little can be read into it. Of course England are a stronger side on paper, but are rather ropey when it comes to ODI cricket, despite their recent burst of form in Australia. A lot will depend on Canadian captain John Davison, who would punish any wayward bowling from Sajid Mahmood and Liam Plunkett. The bowling of Henry Osinde and Umar Bhatti is largely recognised as one of the best pairings outside non-test cricket, and could make England struggle, providing the soon to be 41 year old Anderson Cummins doesn't ruin things as he often did in Nairobi. A reasonable chance of an upset in this match.
v New Zealand
Only Previous Meeting: 3rd March 2003 (World Cup); New Zealand won by 5 wickets
John Davison starred in the previous meeting between these two sides, scoring 75 from 62 balls and taking 3/61 with the ball. A lot, as usual, will depend on him. Another player to watch in this game will be Geoff Barnett. Born in New Zealand but playing for Canada due to a Canadian parent, he plays domestic cricket with Central Districts in New Zealand, so will know a lot of the Kiwi players well. He could well provide the edge that Canada need to win this game. The chances of that happening though are relatively slim, especially with New Zealand's form at the present time. The England match is Canada's best chance of an upset.
Last meeting: 28th May 1987; Pakistan won on faster scoring rate
Previous matches: 3; Pakistan 2; Drawn 1
Pakistan may be coming off the back of a poor performance in South Africa, but are still a force to be reckoned with in ODI cricket, especially if Shahid Afridi fires. Afridi will be familiar with the bowling of the Irish players, having featured in Ireland's C&G Trophy campaign in 2006. Ireland's batsman have been in great form recently, but their bowling has often left a lot to be desired, and it will surely be exploited by the Pakistani batsman who are amongst the world's best on their day. A slim chance of an upset for Ireland in their St Patricks Day game.
v West Indies
Last meeting: 17th June 2004; Ireland won by 6 wickets
Previous matches: 15; Ireland 3; West Indies 4; Drawn 8 Ireland have a very good record against the West Indies, be
ating them three times. The most recent match between the two went the way of the Irish, as did a first-class match in 1928 and the famous Sion Mills match of 1969. The West Indies bowling is often wayward, which could be exploited by the in-form Irish batsman, who stand a reasonable chance of causing an upset in the first match between the two outside Ireland.
Last meeting: 15th June 2003; Zimbabwe won by 8 wickets
Previous matches: 5; Ireland 1; Zimbabwe 3; Drawn 1
That last meeting may have gone the way of the Zimbabweans, but two days previously, Ireland had thrashed Zimbabwe by 10 wickets. It is perhaps indicitive of the decline in Zimbabwean cricket that only two players from that match are in the Zimbabwe squad for the World Cup. Several have left Zimbabwean cricket all together. Most would agree that this is the best chance of an associate win over a full member in this world cup, perhaps to the extent that a Zimbabwe win could be considered an upset. A very good chance of a win for Ireland in this match.
Only previous meeting: 18th May 1999 (World Cup); England won by 9 wickets
As already mentioned, England can be very ropey when it comes to ODI cricket, so Kenya stand a reasonable chance of an upset in this match, especially if the likes of Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo hit top form.
v New Zealand
Last meeting: 10th September 1998 (Commonwealth Games); New Zealand won by 5 wickets
Previous matches: 3; New Zealand 3
Kenya were scheduled to host New Zealand in the last World Cup, but New Zealand pulled out due to security fears. New Zealand are on form at the moment with a couple of big wins over Australia, but Kenya still have a slight chance of an upset in this game.
Last meeting: 20th February 2003 (World Cup); Australia won by 75 runs
Previous matches: 5; Australia 4; Netherlands 1
The Dutch may have a defeat of Australia under their belts, but that was more than 40 years ago. Australia may be on a downward turn in form at the moment, but the Netherlands are still going to struggle to beat them.
v South Africa
Last meeting: 8th July 1998; South Africa won by 83 runs
Previous matches: 3; Netherlands 1; South Africa 2
Again, it has to be said that the Dutch are going to struggle to beat South Africa. South African born all-rounder Ryan ten Doeschate is the key for the Netherlands in both their matches, and if he plays as well as he has recently, they could well win this game.
Last meeting: 16th May 1999; Australia won by 6 wickets
Previous matches: 29; Scotland 1; Australia 11; Drawn 15; No Result 1
Scotland's only win against Australia came way back in 1882, and it's safe to say that a repeat of that is unlikely, despite Australia's recent poor form.
v South Africa
Last meeting: 10th July 1994; No Result
Previous matches: 14; South Africa 9; Drawn 4; No Result 1
Again, little chance of an upset here. It has to be said that it is rather unfair that the top two teams have been lumped together in the same group with two of the associates. The seedings were worked out even before the 2005 ICC Trophy, and a lot has changed since then.
So there you have it. It certainly isn't guaranteed that the Test teams are going to wipe the floor with the associates, and there is an outside chance that Ireland and Kenya could make the Super 8 stage. No-one would have suggested that Kenya would have reached the semi-finals in 2003. Will we see another giant-killing run this time out? Whatever happens, it will be a surprise to most people in the cricket media, but perhaps not to those of us who follow associate cricket.