From Dar to Buenos Aires for Afghanistan, Hong Kong
Having qualified for next January's Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 3 tournament in Buenos Aires, Afghanistan and Hong Kong are just one step away from reaching the World Cup qualifying tournament, and with it an outside chance of playing in the World Cup itself.
By winning the WCL Division 4 in Dar es Salaam last week, Afghanistan confirmed the enormous strides they have made since their emergence on the world scene.
Beyond all the hype, they are developing into a very good side, and they were a decidedly stronger outfit in Tanzania than they had been in Jersey five months earlier.
That may have had something to do with the conditions, but it is also a tribute to the role played by their new coach, Mohammad Kabir, who has encouraged them to bat with more discipline and has sharpened up their performance in the field.
Although pace bowler Hamid Hassan and allrounder Mohammad Nabi are still their key players, the Division 4 tournament saw greatly improved efforts by left-handed opening batsman (and useful left-arm spinner) Ahmad Shah, middle-order batsman Rais Ahmadzai, and captain Norooz Mangal, while opening bowler Hasti Gul Abed again made a valuable contribution, backed up by Dawlat Ahmadzai.
Being able to hold back the introduction of Hamid into the attack gives the side a huge advantage, and the combination of his pace with Nabi's spin will cause plenty of problems for Argentina, Papua New Guinea, Uganda and the Cayman Islands, Afghanistan's opponents in Buenos Aires.
The Afghans will have derived great satisfaction from their two wins over Asian rivals Hong Kong, especially in the round robin match, an even, hard-fought contest which finished with one of only two successful run chases in the eighteen-match tournament.
The inability of sides to chase even moderate totals was, indeed, one of the features of the competition, as it had been in the Division 5 tournament in Jersey, and it's an issue which coaches will need to tackle if winning the toss is ever to become a less crucial element of the lower divisions of the WCL.
For Hong Kong's coach, former England player Aftab Habib, there are just three months to get his side ready to avenge their double defeat by Afghanistan in Dar es Salaam, and possibly to set them up for progress to the World Cup qualifier.
There's plenty of talent among his squad of mostly Pakistan-born players, with batsmen like John Lamsam, Zain Abbas and Butt Hussain, seamer Irfan Ahmed, and spinners Nadeem Ahmed, Moner Ahmed and Najeeb Amar.
And one of the most encouraging features of the Division 4 tournament was the debut of 17-year-old leg spinner Nizakat Khan, who took four for 29 in the final.
Italy and Tanzania, who achieved the secondary goal of maintaining their place in Division 4, are in very different phases of development, and have adopted contrasting paths.
With four senior players retiring at the end of the tournament, Italy are set for a period of rebuilding, with South African-born brothers Andy and Nick Northcote likely to play a key role.
The Tanzanians, on the other hand, had a very young squad, and one which was entirely home grown.
Khalil Rehemtulla and skipper Hamisi Abdallah form a lively new-ball partnership, and they have a crop of promising young spinners, including leg-spinner Athumari Kakonzi, and off-spinners Kassim Nassoro and Riziki Kiseto.
The batting, however, proved fragile, and players like tall right-hander Shaheed Dhanani, openers Rishen Patel and Abhik Patwa, Abdallah himself, and the allrounder Benson Mwita will need to produce more runs if Tanzania are to progress further.
For Fiji and Jersey the tournament proved a tough trial, although the Fijians derived some encouragement from winning their final two matches. But they were already certain to drop down to Division 5, where they will be joined by Jersey.
The Channel Islanders' first foray outside Europe can best be viewed as a learning experience, and they too will have some rebuilding to do before their next WCL tournament, with several senior players reportedly calling it a day.
As an advertisement for the ICC's global development programme and for Tanzanian cricket, the Dar es Salaam tournament was, like its predecessors, an undoubted success. That the two Asian teams were without question the strongest, however, seemed to illustrate the advantage they have derived from their region's extensive schedule of competitions, itself a benefit of the unequal distribution of development funding.
That takes nothing away from their achievements on the field, but it remains an issue which demands attention if ‘global' development is to justify its name and achieve its ambitious goals.