The 2019 T20 World Cup qualifying tournament was held in the UAE, and featured 14 teams split across two groups. On the face of it there was a seemingly generous six qualification slots on offer for the participants, but it is in effect something of a charade, as it is only in reality a qualifier for another qualifier with Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
Group A featured joint holders The Netherlands and Scotland, together with Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Kenya, Singapore and Bermuda. Group B on paper seemed a much weaker group, with hosts UAE, Ireland, Canada, Nigeria, Jersey, Hong Kong and Oman.
There was controversy on the eve of the competition when four UAE players were embroiled in a match/spot fixing scandal, including their captain and their most experienced batsman, leaving their squad ravaged.
It wasn’t perhaps surprising then that they were well beaten in their opening game, losing by seven wickets against Oman. They did however bounce back immediately with a five wicket win against Ireland, who were inconsistent throughout the tournament.
The Irish had won their opener versus a Trent Johnston coached Hong Kong – half centuries from Paul Stirling and Andy Balbirnie.
Stirling made 72 in their clash with UAE, but four wickets from Rohan Mustafa, who also clubbed 8 fours in a 16-ball 39 saw the hosts win at a canter. Jersey won their first match against Nigeria thanks to 57 from Jonty Jenner, who also made a half century against Canada the following day, but in a losing cause as Nitish Kumar hit 83.
Canada made the early running with Kumar again the runs as they beat Nigeria, while Ireland got back on track as they beat Oman thanks to a devastating blitz by Gareth Delany (89). UAE beat Hong Kong but then slipped up losing to Jersey, to leave the group wide open.
Canada beat Ireland by 10 runs thanks primarily to a century stand between Nitish Kumar and Dhaliwal, while Hong Kong got themselves up and running with a tight win over Jersey. Oman won again, dismissing Nigeria for just 71 – four wickets for Aamir Kaleem.
The group really started to open up then as Kinchit Shah hit 50 as Hong Kong beat leaders Canada, who then also lost against Oman – with Aqib Ilyas and Jatinder Singh both scoring 60s. Three wickets from Mark Adair and a half century from Paul Stirling led the Irish to an eight-wicket win over Jersey, and in their last game they hammered Nigeria as Craig Young took 4 for 13 – Ireland chasing the 66 target in just six overs.
With their campaign finished, Ireland sat top but much like 2015 needed other results to go their way if they were to stay there and gain the automatic World Cup slot and immediate progress to the semi-finals.
They achieved just that as Jersey stunned Oman by 14 runs – three wickets apiece for Dom Blampied and Elliot Miles. Despite the loss Oman stayed second, while Mohammad Usman hit 89 as UAE leapfrogged Canada, who missed out on NRR as Hong Kong beat Nigeria convincingly.
In the other group, Max O’Dowd scored 53 as The Netherlands got off to a winning start against Kenya, but Singapore stunned Scotland by two runs - Surendran Chandramohan getting a fifty. Scotland bounced back thanks to a fine all-round display as they overcame Kenya, while The Netherlands continued to set the pace as they overcame an always dangerous Namibia by 44 runs – Ryan ten Dosechate making 59, while the Dutch seam attack again fired, with three wickets apiece for Paul van Meekeren and Brandon Glover.
Papua New Guinea gave a signal of their intent as they trounced Bermuda by 10 wickets – wickets for Norman Vanua, plus runs for Assad Vala and Tony Ura. They followed that up with an 81-run triumph against Namibia – Tony Ura again in the runs, while Vala showed his all-round ability with three wickets. Singapore gained their second victory with a last over chase against Bermuda thanks primarily to an unbeaten 72 from Navin Param.
The group tightened up as Kyle Coetzer’s 54 saw Scotland edge out Papua New Guinea by four runs in a thriller – wickets for Hamza Tahir, Mark Watt, Josh Davey and Safyaan Sharif. They weren’t able to follow it up though as they lost to Namibia, but The Netherlands continued their good form as three wickets from Roelof van der Merwe and Timm van der Gugten saw them beat Singapore by five wickets.
Kenya and Namibia kept their hopes alive with wins over Singapore and Bermuda, who remained bottom of the table as they lost heavily to Scotland – Calum MacLeod (74) and George Munsey (51) propelling the Scots to over 200.
Papua New Guinea beat The Netherlands to join them at the top, setting up a tense close to the group with little to separate the pair. Namibia came with a late run beating Singapore and Kenya to clinch third.
The final round saw The Netherlands taking on Scotland, with both still hoping to gain top spot if Papua New Guinea slipped up against Kenya. The Dutch duly kept their side as Ten Doeschate was again in the runs as they chased 130 to win by four wickets with three overs remaining, Papua New Guinea though held their nerve as they overcame Kenya by 45 runs – enough to ensure they pipped the Dutch on NRR.
The play-offs started with the Dutch gaining a semi-final berth as well as the third qualification slot with a dominant display over UAE. Brandon Glover took 4 for 12 as UAE made just 80. Ben Cooper (41*) ensured an eight wicket win with five overs left. They were joined by Namibia for whom JJ Smit hit five sixes in hard hit 59 as they beat Oman.
That meant the final two qualification slots would be determined between Hong Kong v Oman and Scotland v UAE. The first game saw Scotland come good as George Munsey powered them to 198 – winning by 90 runs. It looked as if Oman would miss out after being reduced to 42 for 6, but they recovered to 134 with Jatinder Singh making 67 not out. That proved just enough – Bilal Khan taking 4 for 12.
The semi-finals were similar affairs with The Netherlands thanks to the spin of Pieter Seelaar and Van Der Merwe accounting for Ireland by 21 runs, while Papua New Guinea beat Namibia by 18 runs, thanks to Sese Bau (40*). Ireland beat Namibia by 25 runs in a low-key third place classification game – three wickets for Simi Singh in his first appearance in the tournament.
In the final it was to be a third triumph for the Netherlands (two shared) as they had too much power for Papua New Guinea – chasing 129 to win by seven wickets without really having to get out of second gear.
Gerhard Erasmus of Namibia picked up the Player of the Tournament Award, while Paul Stirling (291) was leading run scorer and Bilal Khan (18) the leading wicket taker.
Coach Ryan Campbell was justifiably proud of his side's efforts in clinching the silverware, especially as their form going into the tournament was so poor.
“I believe we went into the WCQ under the most pressure of any of the favoured teams,” Campbell told CricketEurope.
“Our record of three wins from 13 matches leading in, plus injuries to key men Ben Cooper (ankle) and Colin Ackerman (cracked rib) put us under the pump.
“We felt though that we had the talent & the game plan to be successful. Our record looked horrible from the outside but I knew that we had played 27 players in the lead up, sacrificing wins to give our youngsters an opportunity to play top opponents, with the WCQ always being our main goal.
“So much credit must go to our leadership group who never lost faith and then the rest of the guys brought their A games. Winning 8 out of 9 matches (we had a really bad 20 minute period against Papua New Guinea) was a true reflection of how dominant we were in the competition and fully deserved to lift the trophy.”
- Winners: The Netherlands
- Runners-up: Papua New Guinea
- Other qualifiers: Ireland, Namibia, Scotland, Oman.