Associates in the "first-round"

It's obvious looking at the results of the T20 World Cup "first round" that the performance of the associates was very much a mixed bag. Scotland and Namibia are the obvious success stories, whilst Papua New Guinea and the Netherlands have some questions to ask themselves, especially the latter.

Starting with Group A in the UAE which featured just two associates with sharply contrasting fortunes - Namibia and Netherlands. Namibia started with a thumping defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka, but bounced back by successfully chasing 164 against the Dutch and then recording a famous win a knock-out game against Ireland.

The game against Ireland saw them turn the established wisdom of the tournament that the powerplay was key on its head, scoring slowly in the powerplay before building a partnership between Zane Green and Gerhard Erasmus that allowed David Weise to come in and score quickly to secure the win and Namibia's place in the Super 12s.

Weise has been key to Namibia's success, with his 66 from 40 balls against the Netherlands being key to their win in that contest. He's also bowled well and has helped give the side a formidable upper-middle order alongside Erasmus and JJ Smit. He did play for South Africa in the last T20 World Cup before getting a Kolpak deal in England and becoming something of a T20 journeyman. His experience has been invaluable for the team.

The Dutch were, it has to be said, pretty dire. Questions will no doubt be asked about the lack of warm-up games ahead of the tournament and the decision not to play Paul van Meekeren in the first two matches after his recent success in the CPL was bizarre.

The nadir of their tournament was obviously the final match against Sri Lanka. Ryan ten Doeschate retired before the match, almost as if he knew what was coming. Bowled out within the first ten overs - for just 44 runs - a distinction they share only with Turkey for whom this happened twice in 2019. That Turkish side was a makeshift motley crew weakened by visa issues. This was supposed to be one of the strongest Dutch line-ups ever assembled, containing a a number of hardened county pros. Instead they looked like an ill-prepared bunch of misfits. Which, in many ways, they were.

In Group B, Scotland played superbly in the heat of Oman, starting superbly with a win over Bangladesh, their first over a full member at a World Cup. They probably allowed Papua New Guinea to score too many against them, but were clinical against Oman. All throughout they were business-like. They had a job to do and they did it.

Papua New Guinea have probably suffered most from the tournament's postponement from last year. Only recently returning to international cricket after an almost two year break they have struggled in both 50 over and 20 over formats. There were some bright spots in the field, but batting and bowling weren't great. It's unclear where they go from here.

Last we come to Oman. They started their tournament with a thumping ten wicket win over Papua New Guinea but fell short against Bangladesh and Scotland. The bright spot against Bangladesh was the bowling of Bilal Khan who showed a wider audience what observers of associate cricket have known for a while - he's a world class left-arm pace bowler. Hopefully he'll be getting calls from T20 franchise leagues on the basis of his performance.

Oman also hosted Group B of the tournament - which somewhat annoyingly for those of us who like order started before Group A - and did so superbly. The atmosphere at the ground was significantly better than in the soulless concrete amphitheatre of Abu Dhabi. The ground was the proverbial oasis in the desert and looked superb with the mountains in the background during the day and when lit up at night. I hope Oman get to host more big matches in the near future.

Namibia and Scotland now find themselves in the same group for the Super 12s, alongside Afghanistan, India, New Zealand and Pakistan. Finishing in the top two and reaching the semi-finals seems a long shot, but more wins against full members aren't out of the question. Both will no doubt be looking at Afghanistan with their players perhaps distracted by events at home, whilst Pakistan can be rather mercurial, to use a cliché that is often applied to them, and prone to surprise defeats even when playing well.

Scotland and Namibia's other prize

Finishing in the top two of the "first round" groups didn't just qualify Scotland and Namibia for the Super 12s of this World Cup. It also qualified them for the next tournament, potentially an even more important prize as it means avoiding the cutthroat nature of an associate qualifying competition.

Namibia in particular had a long road to the "first round" starting in African sub-regional qualifying where they played Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Saint Helena, followed by the African final against Botswana, Ghana and Uganda (games against Nigeria and Kenya were rained off) and the global qualifier where they played Bermuda, Kenya, Namibia, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Scotland and Singapore. They had to get so many things right at several stages just to get this far. They now get to take the highway to the next event rather than the meandering country roads.

Basing qualification for the next tournament on the results of the current tournament is definitely progress for the ICC, but as always there's a catch. A good performance in the Super 12s doesn't necessarily guarantee automatic entry into next year's Super 12 stage. Only making the final assures a team of a Super 12 place, the other six teams starting at this stage will be the best six in the rankings as of 15th November. With Scotland and Namibia in 14th and 19th place in the rankings respectively, even reaching the semi-finals is unlikely to be enough.

Men's qualifier round-up

Away from the main event in Oman and the UAE, qualifying for next year's men's T20 World Cup has been rolling on in Spain, Qatar and Rwanda.

Jersey dominated the European qualifier in Almeria, Spain, winning all six of their games. Denmark were well below par and lost every game they played. Germany and Italy finished equal with three wins each, but Germany edged out the Italians on net run rate to secure a place in the global qualifier for the first time.

In Rwanda the first group of the African sub-regional qualifiers saw Uganda and Ghana progress to the regional final, as predicted in this column last week. Malawi were the surprise package, losing only to the top two and finishing third with four wins after winning only one game in their sub-regional qualifier last time out. The Seychelles returned to international cricket for the first time since 2014 and won two games.

The Asian group A qualifier began in Qatar yesterday with the hosts beating Bahrain and the Maldives beating Saudi Arabia. Kuwait are the other team involved, and they beat Bahrain this morning. There is something strange going on with the Qatar team though as they have selected Andri Berenger who has previously represented Sri Lanka at the Under-19 World Cup and the UAE in ODIs.

The ICC's eligibility rules do not allow a player to represent three nations (Under-19 World Cups count for this rule) so quite how he is playing is currently a mystery and I have contacted the ICC for clarification. The ICC has previously dished out harsh punishments to Suriname and Greece for fielding ineligible players.

Women's qualifier round-up

The Americas women's qualifier is also being played at the moment at the fantastic Reforma Club ground outside Mexico City. There are four matches still to play with the USA unlikely to lose their current position at the top of the table even if they lose their final two games.

Brazil showed how well their development has been going by bundling out Argentina for just 12 and beating the more experienced Canadian side. Their bowling is their strong suit with their batting needing improvement if they are to close the gap on the US side. Canada are currently second in the table, ahead of Brazil on net run rate but have looked well off the pace of their North American rivals. Argentina have lost all four games so far quite convincingly.