At least where batting is concerned, there's no substitute for first-class experience, it would seem from the performances of Associates players in the World Cup's group phase.

Of the top fourteen Associates batsmen in the averages, only four have never played domestic first-class cricket in a Test country. The situation among the bowlers is somewhat different, with only three of the leading nine wicket-takers having played regular first-class cricket in the past.

The figures are as follows:

Batting: Leading averages for Associates players
                           I  NO   Runs   HS     Ave   100 50
S Dhaniram       Canada    3   2    81    34*   81.00   -   -
JP Bray          Ireland   3   1   159   115*   79.50   1   -
SO Tikolo        Kenya     3   1   155    76    77.50   -   2
RN ten Doeschate Neth      3   1   128    70*   64.00   -   2
DL Hemp          Bermuda   3   1    90    76*   45.00   -   1
IS Bilcliff      Canada    3   -   104    50    34.67   -   1
DR Brown         Scotland  3   1    64    45*   32.00   -   -
GEF Barnett      Canada    3   -    88    41    29.33   -   -
CJO Smith        Scotland  3   -    85    51    28.33   -   1
NJ O'Brien       Ireland   3   -    84    72    28.00   -   1
AA Mulla         Canada    3   1    83    58    27.67   -   1
JM Davison       Canada    3   -    81    52    27.00   -   1
RD Shah          Kenya     3   -    81    71    27.00   -   1
B Zuiderent      Neth      3   1    53    43*   26.50   -   -


Bowling: leading wicket-takers among Associates players
                            O    M  Runs   W    Ave    Econ
S Mukuddem       Bermuda   15    1    69   5   13.80   4.60
WK McCallan      Ireland   24.4  2   103   5   20.60   4.18
WF Stelling      Neth      16    4    55   4   13.75   3.44
SO Tikolo        Kenya     19    -    97   4   24.25   5.10
WB Rankin        Ireland   21    2   113   4   28.35   5.38
TM Odoyo         Kenya     24    1   114   4   28.50   4.75
RM Haq           Scotland  16.5  -   121   4   30.25   7.19
PJ Ongondo       Kenya     24    -   146   4   36.50   6.08
S Dhaniram       Canada    27    1   147   4   36.75   5.44

With so few games, of course, such averages need to be read with some caution: one not-out innings makes a disproportionate difference to the batting standings, and a couple of expensive overs or a maiden can similarly transform a bowler's statistics.

Even so, these tables have some striking features.

The fact that only four players managed to accumulate more than 100 runs in three innings is a fair measure of the difficulties experienced by the batsmen when facing the pace, hostility, control and subtlety of Test attacks. Only Steve Tikolo and Ryan ten Doeschate achieved two half-centuries, and in each case, one of these was scored against a fellow-Associate.

Of twelve half-centuries in total, nine were scored against Test bowlers. Six of these were by regular first-class players, present or past, the three exceptions being Canada's Asif Mulla, Kenya's Ravindu Shah (who also made 60 against South Africa in the 2003 World Cup), and Scotland's Colin Smith.

While Billy Stelling, one of the most economical bowlers in the competition so far, was no doubt drawing on his first-class experience in South Africa and, briefly, England, it is noteworthy that the leading bowlers among the Associates did not generally have such a background.

One disappointing aspect for the ICC's development programme is that so few graduates of the winter training camps in 2005 and 2006 made a significant impact on the World Cup.

The 25 former participants of the camps who appeared in the group phase played a total of 49 innings between them, making 575 runs at an average of 13.69. Even if we only look at the performances of the recognised batsmen, things improve only slightly: in 32 innings these 13 players contributed 480 runs at 17.14.

Among the bowlers, things were scarcely any better: sixteen bowlers who had been at one or both of the two camps took a total of 22 wickets at an average of 48.55, with a collective economy rate of 5.94.

Among this group, the great success was obviously Sunil Dhaniram, who made an important contribution with both bat and ball to Canada's spirited performances. But other players who had done well in the World Cricket League competition in Nairobi, such as Man of the Tournament Ashish Bagai (Canada), key batsmen William Porterfield and Eoin Morgan (Ireland), and bowlers Umar Bhatti (Canada) and Hiren Varaiya (Kenya) found the step up to World Cup level a huge demand.

For Porterfield and Morgan, of course, the race is not yet over, and they will be looking to prove their quality before the Super 8s are completed. Ireland have achieved much already, but the biggest challenge is yet to come.