As the 2010s come to a close, top ten lists are appearing everywhere. Usually I like to avoid cliches like the plague, but on this occasion I'm willing to make an exception and present my personal top ten moments in associate cricket of the decade. The list is presented in chronological order.
2 March 2011: Ireland beat England at the World Cup
I could hardly leave out one of the most remarkable World Cup matches at all time could I? After England scored 327 in their 50 overs and William Porterfield was bowled by Jimmy Anderson from the first ball of the Ireland reply, the odds on an Ireland victory had lengthened to over 100-1. When Kevin O'Brien strolled to the crease in the 23rd over with the score on 106-4, few could have predicted what was about to come.
Playing the innings of his life, O'Brien smashed the England bowlers all over the place, reaching his century from just 50 balls - still the fastest in World Cup history - and was eventually run out in the penultimate over having scored 113 from 63 balls. Ireland now needed just 11 to win in 11 balls. O'Brien had been ably assisted by Alex Cusack with 47 and John Mooney, who went on to hit the winning boundary with five balls to spare. It set the stage for a decade in which Ireland went on to gain Test status, and it was appropriate that O'Brien would go on to become Ireland's first Test centurion in 2018.
13 July 2013: Freddie Klokker scores 129 from 65 balls for Denmark v Guernsey
Less high profile but also memorable for those who were at the County Ground in Hove - and those watching the live stream - to see it. Denmark were taking on Guernsey in the semi-final of the European Championship Division One tournament, with the finalists set to qualify for the global qualifier later that year. Denmark batted first and lost Carsten Pedersen for a duck early on, but his opening partner Klokker wasn't so easily dismissed.
Klokker didn't score as many sixes as O'Brien did in his innings, with only two in the knock in all. One of those sailed clean out of the ground, and the other was hit into a hospitality tent full of ICC Europe officials and representatives of European member boards. He finished unbeaten on 129 from 65 balls, an innings that would have been a record had universal T20I status been in place as it now is. There have only been four higher in official T20Is.
Denmark scored 226-3 and won the game by 113 runs. Klokker looked like he was going to repeat the performance in the final against Italy, but was dismissed having scored 58 from 26 balls and his team lost by 18 runs.
21 March 2014: Ireland v Netherlands at the World T20
Another remarkable match for Ireland at an ICC global event, though this time they were on the losing side in quite spectacular fashion. Going into the match, the Netherlands knew that they would need a big net run rate turn around if they were to qualify for the Super 10 stage. When Ireland scored 189-4, the Netherlands knew that they would have to chase down their target in a little over 14 overs, a tall task indeed.
Dutch captain Peter Borren sent himself up the order to open with Stephan Myburgh, and the tone was set when they scored the first 50 in just 19 balls. Borren was out for 31 from 15 balls at the end of the powerplay, with the Dutch score on 91. Myburgh was out for 63 from 23 three balls later, but the onslaught continued.
Wesley Barresi scored 40 not out from 22 balls and Tom Cooper scored 45 from 15 balls and the Netherlands secured a six wicket win in 13.5 overs to qualify for the Super 10 stage. In that Super 10 stage, they were due for a rematch against England who they had beaten at Lord's in the 2009 tournament. Which brings us to...
31 March 2014: Netherlands beat England - again - at the World T20
Ten days after that remarkable win, the Netherlands arrived at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in Chittagong for their Super 10 match against England. With both teams already eliminated from contention for the semi-finals it was technically a dead-rubber match, but with England looking for revenge for the 2009 defeat and the Netherland keen to show they belonged at this level, there was still something to play for as far as both sides were concerned.
Myburgh was again in the runs for the Dutch with 39 from 31 balls, whilst Barresi top scored with 48 from 45 balls. The Dutch total of 133-5 should have been a relatively straightforward for an England side that had become increasingly more comfortable in the T20 format since that 2009 game. But they didn't even get close. Mudassar Bukhari took 3-12 and Logan van Beek 3-9 as England were bowled out for 88, losing by 45 runs.
9 November 2014: Papua New Guinea become the first team to win their first two ODIs.
Australia won the first even ODI in 1971, and since then New Zealand in 1973, Zimbabwe in 1983, Bermuda in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2009 had all won their first ODI. On 8 November, Papua New Guinea played Hong Kong at the Tony Ireland Stadium in Townsville, North Queensland and joined that exclusive club with a 4 wicket win. The next day they did something that none of those teams were able to do - win their second ODI.
Hong Kong batted first and scored 261, setting a tricky target for PNG. But Lega Siaka was able to become their first ODI centurion with 109 from 114 balls, whilst Vani Morea scored an unbeaten 65 from 68 balls as they won by three wickets with four balls to spare. Papua New Guinea may have only won 5 of their subsequent 20 ODIs and at the time of writing are on an eight match losing streak, but they still have a place in history as the only team to win their first two ODIs.
26 February 2015: Afghanistan v Scotland at the World Cup
It perhaps isn't the most amazing World Cup match, but this is included more for what it represents. Afghanistan's captain Mohammad Nabi won the toss and put the Scots in to bat, with both teams looking for their first World Cup win. Shapoor Zadran took 4-38 as Scotland were bowled out for 210.
Javed Ahmadi scored a run a ball 51 at the top of the order in the Afghan reply, but their chase was built around Samiullah Shenwari's 96. Nobody else in the top nine reached double figures though and when Shenwari was dismissed with 19 balls still to come and Afghanistan still needing 19 to win, it was looking unlikely for the Afghans.
But Hamid Hassan and Shapoor Zadran held on, and when the latter hit the winning boundary he wheeled away and sank to his knees as he was mobbed by his team mates. The players were in tears - in less than five years they'd gone from Division Five of the World Cricket League to winning a game at the World Cup. Just over two years later, they'd become an ICC full member.
This was the tenth World Cup match between two associates. With the World Cup now a ten team event, we could be in for a long wait for the eleventh.
14 February 2018: Nepal v Canada at WCL Division Two
Nepal fans have long been used to following a rather mercurial team. Capable of brilliance and incompetence, often within the same match, they have the most passionate fans in associate cricket, but those fans can often be left frustrated as Nepal contrive to lose from winnable positions and fail to qualify when they look almost certain to. But on this day in Windhoek, Namibia, they won from a losing position and qualified when they looked certain to fail to do so.
Canada batted first and scored 194-8 from their 50 overs, largely thanks to Srimantha Wijeratne's unbeaten 103. It should have been a straightforward chase for Nepal, but with Paras Khadka out for a golden duck, Nepal were struggling and at 144-9, they were looking well out of contention.
But KC Karan had other ideas. Ably assisted by Sandeep Lamichhane who held up an end, the number ten batsman scored 42 from 31 balls as Nepal pulled off a remarkable one wicket win from the final ball of the match. The win sent Nepal to the World Cup qualifier where they gained ODI status, and they returned home to a hero's welcome.
26 April 2018: ICC grants everyone T20I status
An ICC meeting isn't normally the scene of a highlight for associate cricket. But the meeting in April 2018 was an exception as the announcement was made that all members of the ICC would be granted T20I status, to be effective form July for women's teams and January 2019 for men's teams. Whilst some complained - more on that later - the prevailing opinion amongst followers of associate cricket is that it has proven to be a great decision. Associates are playing more matches than ever against a wider variety of opponents. The status of the games gives them a wider audience than before. No longer are associates told that their matches aren't real internationals.
10 June 2018: Scotland beat England
You knew this was coming didn't you? Another England defeat by an associate makes this top ten. This was also one of the all time great ODIs. England - in the midst of an excellent run in ODI cricket - won the toss and put Scotland into bat at the Grange in Edinburgh, perhaps hoping for an easy victory.
If ann opening partnership of 103 between Matt Cross and Kyle Coetzer in 13.4 overs didn't tell England that Scotland were no pushovers, Calum MacLeod clubbing an unbeaten 140 from 94 certainly showed that they meant business. The innings contributed to Scotland's highest ever ODI total of 371, a challenging total even for this England side.
England's opening partnership was even bigger than Scotland's, with Jason Roy and Johnny Bairstow putting on 129 for the first wicket in 12.4 overs before Roy was out for 34. Bairstow was the next man out for 105, scored from just 59 balls. Alex Hales and Joe Root took the score to 220-3 in the 27th over, and things were looking bad for Scotland.
Scotland though came back, taking a few wickets to reduce England to 276-7. Moeen Ali and Liam Plunkett put on 71 for the eighth wicket and the game was swinging back the way of the visitors. Ali was out for 46 in the 46th over, but Plunkett was holding on. Numbers ten and eleven Adil Rashid and Mark Wood couldn't stay with him though and he was left unbeaten on 47 when Safyaan Sharif had Wood lbw in the 49th over to secure an amazing six run win. After just missing out on the World Cup due to a poor lbw decision, Scotland had showed that they belonged at the top table.
20 June 2019: Uganda Women score the first T20I 300
I wanted to choose something from 2019 for the list, but it was a difficult choice to make. Papua New Guinea and Namibia qualifying for the T20 World Cup after just missing out in 2015 was close, as was Thailand Women qualifying for their T20 World Cup. The European Cricket League with Pavel Florin becoming a cult hero was also close, but in the end I settled for Uganda Women scoring the first ever T20I total over 300.
The match wasn't the best. Mali were hopelessly outclassed in the four team tournament that also involved Tanzania and hosts Rwanda. Prosscobia Alako and Rita Musamali both scored centuries with 116 and 103 respectively in the total of 314-2. Mali were bowled out for 10, losing by 304 runs.
So why have I chosen it? I'm very much a non-traditionalist when it comes to cricket. And traditionalists getting annoyed is one of my favourite things. In this case the traditionalists were those who go on about the need to "protect the record books". They reacted to Mali's performance in this tournament in much the same way that certain 50 year old Doctor Who fans reacted when it was announced that the main character would now be played by a woman.
The reaction was hilarious. Annoyed that his precious record books had been sullied in this way, one statistician used his Twitter account to pompously proclaim, "I call on the ICC to reverse its decision, and retain international status only for the top tier of competition, so that the records of the the most skilled are not tainted with the performances of those who are clearly only learning the game." There were other equally hilarious reactions.
All missed the point - for the first time ever, people who had no idea that there was any cricket in Mali, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania were talking about their women's national teams. Somewhere in the ICC development office, ICC global development head Will Glenwright no doubt had a smirk on his face.
There you have it. My top ten associate cricket moments of the 2010s. No doubt some readers will disagree. Tomorrow I'll look at some of the worst things about associate cricket in the decade.