The final regional qualifier for the 2020 Under 19 World Cup gets underway in the Netherlands this week, and full member Ireland are the likely favourites in the six team competition.
After a disappointing 13th place finish in New Zealand last year, Ireland are the only full member taking part in qualifying. They retain two players from that squad, including captain Neil Rock and his deputy Jonathan Garth.
Rock will be hoping that Ireland win in much more comfortable fashion than the 2017 qualifier he also played in, when they sneaked past Scotland on the final day after successfully defending just 108 and winning by 5 runs.
Scotland will be looking to avenge that last gasp defeat and follow their senior team in gaining a full member scalp. They have named a squad featuring a number of Scotland A and Scotland Academy players and will look to return to the Under-19 World Cup for the first time since the 2016 tournament.
Jersey have had a strong production line of young talent in recent years perhaps best indicated by the fact that 18 year old captain Harrison Carlyon has been playing for the Jersey senior side for almost three years and is playing in his third Under-19 qualifier.
He made his T20I debut earlier this year in a series against Guernsey, with Julius Sumerauer also having played in that series. Jersey will be hoping that their experience will help them do better than their third place finish in 2017.
Of the three sides who qualified from last year’s Division Two tournament, winners Netherlands are best placed to push the three teams who remained in Division One in 2017 having the considerable advantage of playing on home turf.
The Dutch side features three players who are regulars in the Dutch Topklasse, including two players who recently became the youngest ever to score a century in the Dutch top flight. Leg-spinner Philippe Boissevain impressed with the Dutch senior team on a recent tour of England, taking 3-19 in a match against a strong Gloucestershire XI, and will be a key part of their bowling attack.
Runners-up in Division 2 France are something of an unknown quantity, playing at this level for the first time since 2003 when they finished last in an eight team tournament. Five players return from last year’s Division Two campaign including captain Kishan Patel.
Denmark, third place finishers in Division Two last year, will be hoping that a return to South Africa for the Under-19 World Cup for the first time since 1998 will see them also return as their only appearance in that tournament was at that event over 20 years ago. Two members of their side have recent experience with the Danish senior side, including captain Abdullah Mahmood.
The winners of the tournament will join the other 11 full members, Americas qualifiers Canada, Asian qualifiers UAE, surprise African qualifiers Nigeria and East Asia Pacific qualifiers Japan who qualified in bizarre circumstances when a deciding match was forfeited by Papua New Guinea after ten of their players were arrested for shoplifting.
With Zimbabwe having been suspended at the recent ICC annual conference and prevented from taking part in ICC events, there may yet be a reward for the runners-up if Zimbabwe’s suspension continues and a replacement is needed.
The tournament starts on 26 July and will last until 1 August. The six teams will play in a single round-robin group. Four venues are being used – Voorburg, Scheidam, VOC in Rotterdam and VRA in Amstelveen.