The Netherlands became the first Associate country to secure a berth at the 2018 World Cup Qualifier with a win over Kenya yesterday. The victory took the Dutch three points clear at the top of the World Cricket League Championship table, with 18 points from 11 matches - two washed-out games against Scotland and a surprise home defeat at the hands of Nepal the only blemishes on their record in the competition.
Their Kenyan hosts remain on 10 points in 5th place, and with only three matches to go the Netherlands are thus assured of finishing in the top half of the table. The top four teams from the eight-team competition, which concludes with a simultaneous final round to be held in the UAE in early December, will qualify directly for the World Cup Qualifier.
They will join the bottom four teams from the ICC ODI Championship rankings (West Indies, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Ireland) at the ten-team tournament, expected to be held in Zimbabwe in March of next year.
The bottom four teams from the WCLC will have a second chance to make the cut, contesting World Cricket League Division 2 together with Division 3 finalists Canada and Oman at an as-yet unannounced location, with the top two teams progressing to the Qualifier.
The champions and losing finalists at the Qualifying tournament will qualify for the 2019 World Cup - a ten-team round-robin tournament to be held in England and Wales from May to July of that year. Final standings at the Qualifier may also determine which Associate nations retain, regain or attain ODI status for the following cycle, though there is as yet no clarity on that question.
Equally unclear is whether the winner of the World Cricket League Championship will join the 12 ICC Full Member countries in the mooted 13 team ODI league, slated to be introduced next cycle. ICC CEO David Richardson had previously indicated that the WCLC Champion would be rewarded with the coveted 13th slot in the league, but following the ICC conference in London in June Richardson appeared to backtrack on that commitment.
The Dutch camp nevertheless remain confident, in the absence of a clear reversal from Dubai, that the prize remains on offer - and they are now well-placed to claim it. With nearest rivals Papua New Guinea dropping into third place following a defeat to Scotland yesterday, the Netherlands need only win two of their remaining three fixtures - a repeat against Kenya tomorrow and two final matches against Namibia in the UAE in December - to be certain of staying clear of the Scots at the top of the table.
Scotland would need to win two more matches than the Netherlands across their remaining three games - a rematch against PNG tomorrow and a brace of games against Kenya in the final round - to be sure of the top spot. Should a no-result or a tie see the teams finish level on points the Scots would need to dramatically improve their net run rate to ovehaul the Dutch.
In theory Papua New Guinea on 14 points and Hong Kong on 11 also remain in contention for the top spot, PNG needing to make up a four point deficit over three games and Hong Kong needing at least 7 points from their remaining 4 matches against Nepal and PNG - and for the Netherlands to go winless for the rest of the tournament.
The priority for Hong Kong, however, will be to remain ahead of Nepal and Kenya, who will be looking to stake their claim to the fourth WCQ berth and avoid having to qualify through WCL Division 2.
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World Cricket League Championship
P W T NR L Pts NRR Netherlands 11 8 0 2 1 18 1.12 Scotland 11 6 0 3 2 15 0.44 Papua New Guinea 11 7 0 0 4 14 -0.28 Hong Kong 10 5 0 1 4 11 1.00 Kenya 11 5 0 0 6 10 -0.17 Nepal 10 4 0 0 6 8 -0.21 Namibia 12 3 0 0 9 6 -0.55 UAE 12 3 0 0 9 6 -0.60