After 51 matches involving 15 teams, the European leg of qualification for the ICC World Twenty20 2012 Qualifier in the UAE reaches its pinnacle in the Channel Islands next week.
The two teams set to join 8 qualifiers from the other four ICC regions as well as the six ODI status teams as they look for a place in the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka.
All but two of these teams will be looking for a first ever place in a global qualifier tournament. Denmark has appeared in seven ICC Trophies, whilst Italy made an appearance in the 1997 tournament, and those two teams will be amongst the favourites to progress to another global qualifier come the end of the ICC European Division One Championship.
Co-hosts Jersey are the defending champions at Division One having won the tournament at home in 2010. That was a 50 over tournament though, and anything can happen in the Twenty20 format, so they face a fight to hold on to that title. Seven members of that winning team return for this tournament, and they come into the event having finished as runners-up to the Netherlands A in the Continental Twenty20, ahead of Belgium and France, also taking part in this tournament.
Their fellow hosts, and oldest rivals, Guernsey won the 50 over ICC European Division 2 last year, and has nine of that winning squad returning for this tournament, including player of the tournament Jeremy Frith. The player to watch though could well be Tim Ravenscroft. The youngster is on the books at Hampshire and made his first-team debut this year against Leeds/Bradford MCCU. In the Second XI Twenty20 tournament in May, he smashed an unbeaten 103 from just 53 balls against Surrey. Guernsey will no doubt be hoping he can repeat that feat in this event.
Denmark will be hoping to bounce back from a disappointing Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 3 tournament in Hong Kong that saw them relegated. Italy also played in that tournament; finishing fourth, and it is these two teams, along with the hosts that, on paper at least, are most likely to be contesting the semi-finals.
The other eight teams in the tournament shouldn't be discounted though. Norway will be hoping to regain the form that saw them win Division Two back in 2006, and they have made wholesale changes to their squad, with only four returning from last year's Division Two tournament in Guernsey. Gibraltar is another team going through a period of change with the retirement of the long serving Christian Rocca and Richard Buzaglo.
Promoted sides Belgium and Austria can't be discounted, and Belgium come into the tournament on the back of a win over France at the Continental Twenty20. Due to the previous scarcity of Twenty20 matches at this level, they have more experience at the format than many of the competing teams, which is likely to give them somewhat of an advantage.
Israel beat two teams at Division Two last year, and they will hope to go one better in 2011 and push for a semi-final spot. With spin being an important part of Twenty20, the talented young leg-spinner Josh Evans could be a key player, whilst Eshkol Solomon will hope to repeat the form that saw him score the highest individual Israeli score against Gibraltar last year.
Germany, runners-up at Division Two in 2010, have retained seven of the squad that finished third at World Cricket League Division 7 in Botswana earlier this year, and are probably the best bet to break up the likely semi-finalists.
Finally, Croatia are something of an unknown quantity, having only played one international since the 2008 Division Two tournament in Guernsey, whilst France will, like Germany, be hoping to break into the semi-finals, and come into the tournament as the sixth highest ranked side.
The twelve teams in the tournament are divided into two groups of six, with one group being played in Jersey and the other in Guernsey. Once the first round is complete, the whole tournament decamps to Jersey, where semi-finals, play-offs and finals will be played to determine the places from one to twelve.
The two finalists will qualify for the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier. The six associate/affiliate ODI status teams, Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland automatically qualified for the tournament, whilst Papua New Guinea recently became the sole East Asia Pacific representative. The two African qualifiers will be confirmed shortly before this tournament begins, the two Americas qualifiers will be determined during this tournament, whilst the three Asian qualifiers will come from the ACC Twenty20 Cup in Nepal later this year.