Tomorrow sees the penultimate round of the World Cricket League Championship get under way, whilst second and third-placed Papua New Guinea and Scotland face off at Port Moresby, current leaders the Netherlands take on fifth-placed Kenya at Buffalo Park in East London. For the (nominal) hosts, the two match series is crucial to their hopes of breaking into the top four and thus bypassing WCL Division 2 and claiming a spot at the World Cup Qualifier, slated to be held in Zimbabwe early next year.

For the Netherlands the games are no less important. Though the promised prize of a berth in the mooted 13-team ODI league for the winner of this edition of the WCLC has been thrown into doubt by apparent ICC backtracking, the mere possibility of such a reward makes their next four games arguably the most important ever played by a Dutch side. At minimum, the visitors will be looking to secure at least the one win they need to guarantee their direct qualification for the qualifier, but regardless of the eventual prize, winning the competition outright remains their foremost goal.

Currently leading the table on 16 points, two ahead of Papua New Guinea and three ahead of Scotland, the Netherlands need to win three of their coming four matches to be certain of securing the top spot, their final two games being against Namibia at the final round in Dubai in early December. Kenya, meanwhile, trail fourth-place Hong Kong by a single point, but though they remain in notional contention for the title a top-four finish is likely the limit of their ambitions.

Despite the tourists perennial availability issues again preventing them from fielding a full-strength side, the Dutch are nonetheless favourites heading into the two-match series, having dropped only a single game in the competition so far. The decision to move the games to East London owing to concerns over potential unrest in Nairobi in the run-up to the Kenya elections also deprives their opponents of home advantage, to their evident disappointment. “The decision to play the game in the colder climate of East London may not favour our team, which is playing the catch-up to finish among the top four in the championship,” Cricket Kenya said.

Buffalo Park has historically yielded somewhat higher scores than Nairobi, with a par score probably not far off 300, though it remains to be seen how the recent rain will have affected the ground. The weather is expected to clear by tomorrow, though likely not much before.

Kenya are yet to record a 300+ total in the competition, whilst the Dutch passed that landmark in both of their recent matches against Hong Kong. Nonetheless Peter Borren’s side will be wary of overconfidence heading into the matches, well remembering the calamitous defeat that Kenya inflicted on them at Lincoln at the 2014 World Cup Qualifier, where Irfan Karim and Ragheb Aga inspired a remarkable chase, Kenya overhauling a sub-par Dutch total of 265 in just 35.4 overs.

That defeat not only sent the Dutch crashing out of the Qualifier, relegated to WCL Division 2, but also saw them later stripped of ODI status. Kenya would suffer the same fate later in the tournament, and the Netherlands would inflict an equally emphatic defeat on Kenya when they met in Division 2 in Namibia the following year, but it’s safe to say that the scars of Lincoln have not yet fully healed.

Despite that potential psychological edge for the hosts, confidence remains high in the Netherlands camp. Having finished their warm-up series against a strong Zimbabwe Select XI on a winning note and bolstered by the arrival of county players Timm van de Gugten and Roelof van der Merwe, not to mention some eye-catching additions to the coaching staff in the form of Allan Donald and Trevor Penney, anything less than four points will be a disappointment for the Dutch.

Kenya’s recent record in the 50-over format inspires rather less confidence, with a dismal showing in a split series with Nepal in their most recent full internationals and an acknowledged habit of collapsing in the face of spin that has dogged them throughout the competition, though a solid performance in last month’s Africa T20, where they recorded wins over Free State and Northern Cape and only narrowly missed the semi-finals will have bolstered their confidence somewhat.

It is the nature of Associates cricket that almost every match can usually be described as “crucial”, but for these two sides looking to reclaim their ODI status and aiming for a turn on the biggest stage, matches don’t come much more crucial than these.

Kenya vs Netherlands WCLC Round 6

  • 6 October: Kenya vs Netherlands at Buffalo Park (8.30am CEST)
  • 8 October: Kenya vs Netherlands at Buffalo Park (8.30am CEST)

Kenya Squad:  Rakep Patel (captain), Collins Obuya, Gurdeep Singh, Dhiren Gondaria, Irfan Karim, Nelson Odhiambo, Shem Ngoche, Pushpak Kerai, Nehemiah Ngoche Odhiambo, Emmanuel Bundi Ringera, Lucas Oluoch Ndandason, Rushab Patel, Alex Ouma Obanda, Peter Koech Langat

Netherlands Squad:  Peter Borren (captain), Wesley Barresi, Ben Cooper, Vivian Kingma, Fred Klaassen, Stephan Myburgh, Max O’Dowd, Michael Rippon, Pieter Seelaar, Timm van der Gugten, Roelof van der Merwe, Paul van Meekeren, Tobias Visée, Sikander Zulfiqar