Monday Melbourne: CCLV, March 2012
Russell Degnan

St Mary Star of the Sea. Taken March 2012

Melbourne Town 26th March, 2012 23:33:37   [#] [0 comments] 

World T20 Qualifiers - Notes in Review
Russell Degnan

  • Lots of teams and lots of games per day creates a festival atmosphere that (from afar) makes this tournament more like a world cup than the world cup proper. The advantage of simultaneous games is the ability to switch attention to a better one if something is happening, and the creation of a much tighter (too tight) tournament format. QuipuTV did a great job of switching between the adjacent grounds and relaying scores to keep track when so much was going on.

  • Namibia's last two games were as disappointing as their first two were impressive. Namibia's bowling lacks menace; against both Afghanistan and Ireland they struggled to get bowlers with decent pace away for singles, lost early wickets and put up weak scores. (Note that, in their win over Ireland, they exploded against Dockrell in the first 6 overs then stuttered). They badly need a decent quick of their own, not just to take wickets, but to practice against. As many teams ave discovered in cricket, practice in a match against good bowlers is invariably very very short.

  • Namibia also provide a useful barometer of whether a commentator has the slightest knowledge of associate cricket. Peter Della Penna, and the very under-rated Canadian World Cricket Weekly Talk both identified them as big threats (as did my ratings). The ESPNStar commentators somehow managed to be unapologeticaly condescending by displaying their own ignorance; and Switch Hit - whose teams to watch included the non-qualified UAE - were obviously surprised.

  • Ireland's big wins through the playoffs seems to have restored their reputation as a dominant associate team. They are very good; no other associate could survive losing batsmen of the quality of Porterfield or O'Brien for golden ducks and still score freely. Their depth in both disciplines - particularly Rankin who was the dominant bowler of the tournament - means they are almost always competitive at every level. They weren't dominant throughout the tournament however, particularly early on. Moreover, it is a farce to suggest they need to be dominant in order to become a test team; all the associates are improving their cricket. For Ireland to be a dominant - nearly unbeatable - team at associate level means being a lot better than Afghanistan, who'd match Bangladesh in the right conditions - and therefore the 7th or 8th best team in the world. But then, the structure of test cricket is a farce.

  • Afghanistan fairly cruised through the tournament, but lost a tense and tightly fought final. The easier group helped (or perhaps not, the final standings make it look the more difficult), but like Ireland, having the depth to call on Dawlat Zadran to step up in the absence of Hamid Hassan shows why they are a step above.

  • One other area Ireland are well in front is the depth of home interest. The twitter list I gave consists almost entirely of journalists and bloggers - their qualifying game trended heavily in Dublin, they got local tv coverage of games, and decent news coverage. Some of the Asian teams come close (Nepal and Afghanistan specifically); Canada is doing a lot to build that interest too, which bodes well for them.

  • On that, although breaking through in big markets will be much more lucrative, it is probably much easier to make an impact in a small one, where having the team competing on the world stage is a much more significant achievement.

  • Much has been made of Kenya's decline, but they still performed at a slightly higher level than the teams that finished ahead of them according to the ratings. Nevertheless, credit to Nepal and PNG for finishing 7th and 8th. The former might finally be translating impressive youth performances into senior results.

  • Rod Lyall already noted it, but it is worth repeating; the first class ex-pat players were good, but not dominant figures in the tournament. The top run scorers includes a huge list of players in their early 20s (van Schoor, van der Westhuizen, Atkinson, Irfan Ahmed, Stirling, MacLeod, Berrington, Obanda, Gunasakera and Khadka) all (I believe) products of the local system. A team can no longer expect to rise to the top of associate cricket with ex-pat players below first-class level. The best teams are better than that, and we've probably seen the last of ex-pat heavy sides in the World Cup - except England, obviously.

PlaceWorld RankTeamRatingFormWeightTournament Rating
111Ireland2157.8+49.018.82196.7
212Afghanistan2039.6+20.922.92037.0
314Namibia1962.8-52.425.81931.3
413Netherlands1963.2-4.011.31965.7
515Scotland1933.6-20.416.11911.8
616Canada1888.4-35.016.21836.9
723Nepal1622.4+27.518.31654.8
820P.N.G.1655.3+1.212.01673.2
918Kenya1754.8+20.927.01773.5
1022Italy1627.7+11.712.51681.0
1128Hong Kong1521.2+42.418.31556.6
1219U.S.A.1696.8-49.414.81640.4
1326Bermuda1565.4+33.213.41582.4
1421Uganda1644.5-56.215.31628.1
1524Oman1612.8+0.616.11577.5
1627Denmark1526.6-28.511.51489.3

Idle Summers 26th March, 2012 08:05:39   [#] [1 comment] 

Ratings - 22nd March 2012
Russell Degnan

2nd TestNew ZealandvSouth Africa
Pre-rating891.401178.45
Form+15.31-5.35
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 94 runs
Actual MarginSouth Africa by 9 wickets
Post-rating885.101183.70

No need to worry about rain. With Philander playing so well, South Africa have both a remarkable and balanced attack. They'd probably like more output from Morkel, who drifts in and out of games, but with Steyn and Philander doing the heavy lifting, being is difficult to get away and occasionally devastating is sufficient. Their batting looks slightly more troubled; not so much in this game, but only de Villiers really scored runs, with his 83.

New Zealand have played well at times in this series, but let the odd series drift with the ball - letting South Africa recover from 6/88 was the most significant period of the match - and with their periodic batting collapses. Their bowling is merely solid. Vettori was never a match-winner, and is now more batsman than bowler, albeit one that means they have a long tail. Martin seems to be in the prime of his career, but is not young, and the support is inconsistent. Thy are definitely playing better than they were a few years ago, but they are a long way from being even an average test side, ratings wise.

2 TestsSri LankavEngland
Pre-rating1030.561304.23
Form-9.02-11.70
Expected MarginEngland by 87 runs

An odd little tour, reminiscent of the early 1980s, without the tour of India to accompany it. England ought to win easily; they are a superior team, Sri Lanka have little to offer with the ball, their form is woeful in test cricket, and their players are past their best with the bat. Australia came to Sri Lanka last year and won, relatively easily; they did so, as teams need to, with their spinner, and with tight bowling. England have both. The caveat is their defeat by Pakistan where their middle order was inept against Saeed Ajmal and company. I don't see a repeat, mostly because Sri Lanka have no spinners as capable, and because that series was close, even if England consistently ended up on the losing side.

You can never rule out an absolute road in Sri Lanka, and after being rolled by Australia on a turning deck, it is more likely Sri Lanka will aim for high scoring draws, than run the risk of Swann finding form. For England, they need to prove they can play in these conditions, and not just the bouncy true tracks of Australia, or the seaming decks of home. Unfortunately, such a short series may merely lead to more questions anyway.


Rankings at 22nd March 2012
1.England1304.23
2.South Africa1183.70
3.Australia1177.62
4.Pakistan1128.35
5.Sri Lanka1036.56
6.India1023.29
7.West Indies923.80
8.New Zealand885.10
9.Bangladesh601.34
10.Zimbabwe543.69

11.Ireland555.48
12.Afghanistan514.53
13.Scotland444.87
14.Namibia407.53
15.Kenya317.93
16.U.S.A.296.99
17.Uganda268.44
18.U.A.E.212.22
19.Netherlands202.55
20.Nepal196.51
21.Canada154.58
22.Hong Kong148.65
23.Cayman Is134.24
24.Malaysia123.90
25.Bermuda105.40

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Idle Summers 24th March, 2012 14:37:36   [#] [0 comments] 

World T20 Qualifiers - Playoffs Preview
Russell Degnan

First Qualifying FinalAfghanistanvNamibia
Rating2020.31999.0
Form+0.4-13.6
Expected MarginAfghanistan by 3 runs
Qualifying Prob.76.5%72.5%
Leading ScorerMohammad Shahzad 261 @ 52.2 (127.31)R van Schoor 323 @ 80.75 (112.93)
Leading Wicket-takerDawlat Zadran 11 @ 9.81 (5.68)C Viljoen 11 @ 13.09 (6.75)

Afghanistan coasted through group A, with only the Netherlands challenging them strongly. Their bowling came through, despite the absence of Hamid Hassan, with only Bermuda making over 150 in a game they had well in hand. Karim Sadiq has been very consistent at the top and the middle order has capitalised, scoring rapidly. Namibia were also undefeated in their group, but did so with very tight victories over Ireland and Uganda, and some other scares. When their batting was on they scored very heavily, with multiple players producing innings of note; as the tournament progressed they've had more trouble however. Their bowling came through when it mattered, and they were deserving winners of a difficult group. Nevertheless, Namibia are rightly underdogs in this first final.

First Elimination FinalNetherlandsvScotland
Rating1965.21948.8
Form+2.9-31.0
Expected MarginNetherlands by 2 runs
Qualifying Prob.9.4%7.9%
Leading ScorerSJ Myburgh 245 @ 40.8 (131.01)CS MacLeod 248 @ 41.33 (137.01)
Leading Wicket-takerPW Borren 10 @ 12.10 (6.05)RM Haq 12 @ 12.83 (5.56)

The Netherlands have snuck under the radar a little bit. A big victory over Canada and a close loss to Afghanistan set them for second in the group early on, with big wins in their last three games making it a formality. The batting has been particularly strong and they look well placed to challenge for that final qualifying place. Scotland, by contrast, were fortunate to make it through, so easily might Berrington's final ball have been sent to or over the boundary. Their batting has produced big scores with contributions throughout the order, but their bowling has been repeatedly smashed - particularly by van der Westhuizen - and the possible loss of Sharif to injury won't help. The Dutch are slight favourites, but that's a very slight slight.


Second Elimination FinalIrelandvCanada
Rating2094.81910.1
Form+11.16-16.02
Expected MarginIreland by 23 runs
Qualifying Prob.28.9%4.7%
Leading ScorerGC Wilson 206 @ 51.5 (124.09)R Gunasakera 230 @ 32.85 (134.50)
Leading Wicket-takerWB Rankin 12 @ 7.08 (3.69)Junaid Siddiqui 10 @ 14.10 (5.35)

Unlike the other five finalists, Canada arrive at this stage with some problems. Cheema's form is woeful, the kids in the top three are at turns brilliant and hopeless, they were beaten badly in the two games against the group leaders, and perhaps fortunate not to be over-hauled by Nepal in the final game. Their opponents unexpectedly didn't top the group, but did everything right throughout. Rankin has been near unplayable, and they rarely conceded more than a run-a-ball. Their concern is whether the batting will hold up when they need to; Stirling and Porterfield haven't been great, and Joyce has been slow. They have the firepower, but three straight games to qualify is a tall ask.

Group Review

Group A
Papua New Guinea1654.2Expected to challenge, they pushed Canada close, were competitive against Afghanistan, but lost to Bermuda, ending any remaining hopes. PNG had a lot of okay players with the bat and ball but no stand-outs; but they should be pleased with 4th in the group.
Nepal1599.7Well suppported throughout; just for a moment it looked like they'd do the unthinkable and roll over Canada in the final game. They didn't, because their batting just isn't strong enough. The lowest scoring team in the tournament, but also the leading wicket-taker in Gauchan.
Hong Kong1495.0Sixth, but oddly disappointing. The games they won were good, but they were mown down by the top teams. Will be very pleased with the batting of Atkinson and Irfan Ahmed; less pleased with the lack of wickets with the ball.
Bermuda1552.8Stovell was immense with bat and ball, and Tucker's six hitting (particularly against PNG) was brilliant. Were competitive in most games, but they lack depth, and youth.
Denmark1536.9A mostly terrible tournament for the Danes. Never looked like scoring enough runs, and after beating Bermuda in the first game were rarely competitive.
 
Group B
Kenya1750.9So close for Kenya. After losing badly to Ireland looked unlikely to beat Uganda and Italy, but found their feet and missed out by effectively a single run. Will be particularly pleased to see Obanda and Allan score runs as they continue to rebuild.
Italy1638.3In a tight group, weren't too far from qualifying, nor too far from second last. Got plenty from Berg and can build around him and Sandri, if he stays around, and if they can find some locals.
United States1716.7Lost their first three games having been positioned to win all of them. A lack of previous competition at this level obviously hurt them, and there are a few positive signs for the USA for future tournaments. The win over Scotland was the only major upset of the tournament.
Uganda1683.5Batted last in every game, and never bowled the opposition out. Played well until their final two games without winning as many as they could have, but needed more runs from their top-3. Only one player scored 100 runs over the week.
Oman1611.2The only team not to register a win. Were the worst batting lineup, and a poor bowling one. Zeeshan Siddiqui's 12 wickets were the only real statistical highlight, and even he was expensive.

Idle Summers 22nd March, 2012 01:29:52   [#] [2 comments] 

Ratings - 15th March 2012
Russell Degnan

1st TestNew ZealandvSouth Africa
Pre-rating885.371181.00
Form+11.78-1.02
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 98 runs
Actual MarginMatch Drawn
Post-rating891.401178.45

The first test was determined by the events of days three and five; the double century stand between Smith and Kallis shifted the game from a low-scoring shootout between Martin and Philander into a race against the rain for South Africa. The rain comprehensively won on day 5, ruining what had looked like an intriguing day, as McCullum and Taylor were well set.

South Africa will be mostly pleased with the game, with both Smith and Rudolph - the two weakest links - scoring a fifty and a century. They might be a little concerned by the threat shown by their bowlers in reasonably helpful conditions. Philander continues his great first year of cricket, but Steyn looked out o rhythm taking only two wickets.

New Zealand will be pleased with the draw, having let the game slip on that third day, despite achieving a small lead. They ought to have put up a big lead; most of their batsmen got starts, but noone scored a fifty. If they continue to get starts they'll be confident of puting up a competitive total; but the opposite is just as likely, and the South African batting showed its teeth in Dunedin.

As always, rain could be a factor. The forecast is reasonable for the first few days, but mixed for the last two. A result is likely.


Rankings at 15th March 2012
1.England1304.23
2.South Africa1178.45
3.Australia1177.62
4.Pakistan1128.35
5.Sri Lanka1036.56
6.India1023.29
7.West Indies923.80
8.New Zealand891.40
9.Bangladesh601.34
10.Zimbabwe543.69

11.Ireland555.48
12.Afghanistan514.53
13.Scotland444.87
14.Namibia407.53
15.Kenya317.93
16.U.S.A.296.99
17.Uganda268.44
18.U.A.E.212.22
19.Netherlands202.55
20.Nepal196.51
21.Canada154.58
22.Hong Kong148.65
23.Cayman Is134.24
24.Malaysia123.90
25.Bermuda105.40

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Idle Summers 15th March, 2012 07:37:06   [#] [0 comments] 

World T20 Qualifiers Preview - Group B
Russell Degnan

A group as unpredictable as group A seems straight-forward. The Irish remain favourites, but they'll be challenged by both Scotland and the under-rated Namibia. The top-3 is far from set however, as Kenya, whose recent form is woeful, are confident recent inclusions will turn their form around and both Oman and Uganda have demonstrated a capacity or upsets. And Italy, boosted by the inclusion of experienced first-class players; and the United States, who can never be under-estimated, given their resources, if they are sufficiently organised. It would be an enormous surprise if the two big-name European sides didn't make the playoffs, but expect several upsets on this side of the draw.

Ireland
Rating2074.0Placing Probabilities1st: 45% 2nd\3rd: 48% Qual.: 40%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL.
Core PlayerGeorge DockrellThe young spinner has impressed observers wherever he has played, on slow turning pitches his accuracy and flight will be key weapons.
Key PerformerPaul StirlingIreland's most consistently dangerous batsman and a handy spinner. If Stirling has a big tournament Ireland will be hard to stop.
On TwitterJon Coates, Phil Simmons, Emmet Riordan, Tim Holt, Ian Callender, Justin Smyth, Ger Siggins, John Boomer, A Seat in the Pavilion, Barry Chambers, Cricket Ireland

Clear favourites to top their group and qualify. Ireland's depth may be their greatest strength as the tournament progresses. With no shortage of players with first class experience, variety in attack and one of the world's most brutal batsman to finish their presence in the latter stages is all but guaranteed. Winning through to Sri Lanka is still a big challenge though, with no margin for error. Their first game against Namibia might be particularly significant if the latter storm the group.

Kenya
Rating1723.8Placing Probabilities1st: 0.7% 2nd\3rd: 11% Qual.: 2%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL; 3rd in Africa.
Core PlayerCollins ObuyaOne of the last remnants of their golden generation; and a class player for over a decade. Still only 30; captaincy and on-field puts a lot on his plate.
Key PerformerRagheb AgaA recent addition to the side where has been the best performer; Aga played with Sussex for several years and could make the difference.
On TwitterCricket Kenya, Nick Deverell

Seeded second, but unfavoured to win through. Kenya's recent form has been poor, they sent their youth side to the African qualifers and limped into fourth; they were beaten 6-2 by Namibia last year, and 3-0 by Ireland last month. Still, despite the losses, they are one of the most experienced T20 sides at the tournament, and the indications are that the Kenyans come into this tournament confident they can make an impact.

Scotland
Rating2006.7Placing Probabilities1st: 26% 2nd\3rd: 58% Qual.: 27%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL.
Core PlayerKyle CoetzerScotland's best batsman; the opener isn't known as a T20 player, but at this level, a solid 50 is often enough.
Key PerformerRichie BerringtonThe 24 year old all-rounder ha sbeen in brilliant form recently, scoring runs heavily and quickly. A match winner on his day.
On TwitterCricket Scotland, David Kelso, Ian Robert Flannigan, Fantasy Bob, Ben Fox, Kat Heathcote

Scotland sometimes come across as Ireland's jealous and jaded older brother. A more than capable side who've gone through a rebuilding process recently and are now flush with talented youth. The loss of Davey will be felt, but there is talent enough in this squad to both top the group and qualify for the WT20 proper. If they have a weakness it is their bowling, and they'll need a good tournament from Majid Haq with the ball.

Namibia
Rating2009.1Placing Probabilities1st: 26% 2nd\3rd: 59% Qual.: 27%
Path to Qualifiers2nd in Africa.
Core PlayerCraig WilliamsAs devastating a batsman as nay in this tournament and useful bowler. Has scored heavily and quickly in previous tournaments and Namibia will need the same.
Key PerformerLouis van der WesthuizenAbsolutely dominated the African qualifiers with bat and ball. A repeat performance will book Namibia to Sri Lanka.
On TwitterCricket Namibia

One of the real danger sides; with a power-packed batting lineup that can win any game. Their performances in the past few years have been outstanding, but they've periodically suffered inexplicable losses (including the African qualifiers final to Uganda) they they can't afford in this tournament. They lack depth to their squad - their best batsmen are also their best bowlers - but their core is as good as any here.

Oman
Rating1652.7Placing Probabilities1st: 0.2% 2nd\3rd: 4% Qual.: 0.7%
Path to Qualifiers3rd in Asia.
Core PlayerVaibhav WategaonkarOman's top run scorer in the Asian qualifiers and the last WCL3. Will be needed to anchor the innings.
Key PerformerAamir KaleemThe most successful of Oman's spinners at the Asian qualifiers. They'll need the same consistency in the UAE.
On TwitterCricket Oman, Omani Cricket

Oman scraped into the finals with a last ball four against Malaysia. Competitive in every game, except Afghanistan, they were oddly devoid of star performances throughout the qualifiers. That depth will hold them in good stead here, as will their knowledge of local conditions. It is unlikely that wil be enough to win them a place in the playoffs however.

Italy
Rating1493.1Placing Probabilities1st: 0% 2nd\3rd: 0.2% Qual.: 0.03%
Path to Qualifiers2nd in Europe.
Core PlayerPeter PetricolaConsistently one of Italy's best batsmen in previous tournaments and a handy bowler.
Key PerformerMichael Di VenutoA player with an immense record at first class record, but limited international opportunities. It may surprise Australians that he is still playing, but at 38 he is not too old to influence this competition.
On TwitterNicola Sbetti, Joe Scuderi

Development officers tend to snub Italy because of their dependence on imports; this team being different only in their quality. Di Venuto and Gareth Berg could do some damage for the Italians, and it can't be ruled out that they challenge for the playoffs. No question that having players of that quality around will boost their squad, now and in the future. Hopefully the few non-ring-ins can use that to their advantage.

Uganda
Rating1674.6Placing Probabilities1st: 0.4% 2nd\3rd: 5% Qual.: 1%
Path to Qualifiers1st in Africa.
Core PlayerRoger MukasaA true all-rounder in that he bats, bowls and occasionally keeps. Just 22 and also the top scorer in Kenya's East Africa Premier League.
Key PerformerArthur KyobeLike Mukasa, young, talented and prolific. Scores at a faster rate but a little less consistently.
On TwitterUganda Cricket Association, Innocent Ndawula, Abdu Wasike, Robert Madoi, Diana Musiime, Aisha Nassanga, Ismail D. Kigongo

A very dangerous side; were recently relegated from WCL2, but beat Namibia in the final of the African T20, and their teams dominated the Kenyan domestic T20 tournament. Young and fit, which means the fast-paced tournament will suit them. But had troube on UAE pitches when they played there in the I-Trophy. Will almost certainly cause an upset or two, but will probably struggle to make the playoffs.

United States
Rating1758.3Placing Probabilities1st: 1% 2nd\3rd: 15% Qual.: 3%
Path to Qualifiers2nd in America.
Core PlayerSushil NadkarniUndoubtedly the most talented player in their squad, but not young. He'll need to score consistently, moreso than big for the US to progress.
Key PerformerMuhammad Asad GhousSpin will undoubtedly feature in the UAE and Ghous is the young incumbent. If he can keep things tight the raw batting talent in his team might win a few games.
On TwitterPeter Della Penna, Jamie Harrison, Burton de Witt, Matt Ferenchick, Bandon Decker, Dream Cricket, David Mutton, Jon Marthaler, Matt Becker, Jonathon Tannenwald, Diane, Cow Corner, Terry Coffey, Stephen Rooke, Devanshu Mehta
Live AudioUS Cricketer (telecast games)

If Americans don't like cricket, why are there so many of them on twitter? And if they only like foreign teams, why are they so keen to watch the American national side? But let's leave those questions for another day. With the talent they have at their disposal the USA ought to be a contender. I suspect though, that their rating is a little high, and they'll wind up disappointing. Certainly their performances in recent times against even a weakened Canada were fairly poor. They ought to be able to compete with everyone in this format though; as for most teams here; a little luck, some good performances, sneak into the playoffs, and then see what happens.


Other persons on twitter following the WT20Q (or associate cricket)...

Andrew Nixon, Tim Brooks, QuipuTV, Jon Newton, Dubai Sports City, Shahriar Khan, Steffi Wes, Cricket Europe, Cricket Lovers, Sabah, Paul Radley.

Idle Summers 12th March, 2012 23:04:47   [#] [2 comments] 

World T20 Qualifiers Preview - Group A
Russell Degnan

On paper, group A looks relatively straight-forward: Afghanistan are clearly the best side; the Netherlands and Canada are clear favourites for the top-3; WCL2 teams, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong are the most likely challengers, and the other three make up the numbers. Hopefully it will not be that predictable, and of course, a single upset could swing things around. Most likely though, the weakest few teams will upset the middle two often enough that any major upset won't change the final standings. The Dutch and Canadians are certainly vulnerable to upsets though, and either could miss the playoffs if key players fail to perform.


Afghanistan
Rating2019.4Placing Probabilities1st: 45% 2nd\3rd: 53% Qual.: 40%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL; 1st in Asia.
Core PlayerMohammad NabiLeading wicket-taker in the Asian qualifiers, and a useful batsman; will be suited to the UAE pitches where he has played a lot o cricket.
Key PerformerHamid HassanThe injury prone pace bowler is too good for most batsmen at this level. If he stays fit his ability to remove the top order makes almost any total defendable.
On TwitterAfghanistan Cricket, Fazel Fazly

Reigning champions, without seeming quite as dominant of late. Clear favourites to top the weaker group, but after that anything can happen. Along with Shahzad, they have three players who could play in most test sides, but their lack of depth - particularly in batting - means they can be beaten. Would be a huge surprise if they are not there at the pointy end of the tournament.

Netherlands
Rating1985.5Placing Probabilities1st: 34% 2nd\3rd: 61% Qual.: 33%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL.
Core PlayerTom CooperClever batsman with a big season for South Australia behind him that brought him into Australian contention. Will anchor any Netherlands success.
Key PerformerAlexei KervezeeA mainstay for Worcestershire, and still only 22, but a poor record in Dutch internationals. The Netherlands need him to step up in this tournament.
On TwitterCricket Blog NL, Cricket Netherlands, Rod Lyall, RG Vleeming, Harold, Marko Koning

The second best of the four associates at the last world cup, but entering this tournament with a glaring hole marked Ryan ten Doeschate. They struggled earlier in the Caribbean T20 in January, beating only the Combined Campuses and Colleges. While that level of performance ought to get them to the play-offs, it won't be enough to overcome the teams in group B.

Canada
Rating1936.9Placing Probabilities1st: 21% 2nd\3rd: 70% Qual.: 24%
Path to QualifiersAutomatic WCL; 1st in America.
Core PlayerJimmy HansraNo longer captain, but still the class batsman in the side after the retirement of Bagai. Will need to score heavily to support a fragile batting lineup.
Key PerformerRizwan CheemaRank slogger or not, Cheema can change a game in a few overs. If he explodes when it matters Canada can qualify.
On TwitterCricket Canada, Nigel Reed, Zubin Surkari, Faraz Sarwat, Vimal Hardat, Matthew Moore, Arsalan Qadir

A team in transistion for a while now, and a bright future. They won the American qualifiers despite sending a weaker side, but performed badly in the Caribbean T20 in January. Their biggest problem there was a tendency to slog aimlessly when they needed to lift the run-rate. Their young players - particularly Nitish Kumar and Hirat Patel - are immensely talented, but they need to learn to pace their innings if they are to put up consistent totals. Their bowling is better than most, and Baidwan in particular could cause problems. Can definitely qualify if things fall their way.

Papua New Guinea
Rating1601.9Placing Probabilities1st: 0.2% 2nd\3rd: 5% Qual.: 0.8%
Path to Qualifiers1st in East-Asia/Pacific.
Core PlayerAsad ValaPNG's most consistent batsman. Will, with Tony Ura, be expected to provide a quick start.
Key PerformerGeraint JonesThe former English keeper hasn't yet played for the land of his birth, but he is a class above most players in the tournament. If he can score heavily PNG might scrape into the playoffs.
On TwitterCricket PNG, Dan Faunt

Known for their fielding and raw athleticism, the Barramundi are big improvers both on and off the field over the last few years. Their preparation was disrupted when their coach got selected for Australia, but their squad has been playing throughout Australia in the past few months, which ought to help. Are capable of making the playoffs if things fall their way, but will probably be found out with the bat too often to be a serious threat.

Bermuda
Rating1565.9Placing Probabilities1st: 0.1% 2nd\3rd: 3% Qual.: 0.4%
Path to Qualifiers3rd in America.
Core PlayerDavid Hemp271 first-class games; Bermuda's fortunes have risen and fallen under Hemp's influence; now 41, one of his last appearances on the international stage.
Key PerformerLionel CannLike Hemp, no longer young, but scored heavily and quickly in the American qualifiers and they'll need the same to do well here.
On TwitterBalldinho

A team in decline, as some very good players have aged, and their limited population struggles to replace them. Copped some unfair criticism from Geoff Boycott in the past year over this decline, when really the surprise ought to be that they can compete at all. Nevertheless, will do well not to come bottom in their group.

Hong Kong
Rating1470.8Placing Probabilities1st: 0.0% 2nd\3rd: 0.3% Qual.: 0.05%
Path to Qualifiers2nd in Asia.
Core PlayerMunir DarAn experienced player who anchors the middle order; scoring heavily in the qualifiers and an important bowler on turning pitches.
Key PerformerIrfan AhmedOpening bowler and batsman; quick, erratic, free-scoring, unreliable. If Irfan has a good game, Hong Kong can beat anyone; if.
On TwitterCharlie Burke, Hong Kong Cricket Association

One of the emerging teams in world cricket, with a bunch of young talents including Jamie Atkinson, Nizakat Khan and Mark Ferguson. Hong Kong pushed Afghanistan to the limit in the Asian qualifiers final, and ought to have won. Ignore their rating - it is lower than it ought to be because of weaker performances in previous tournaments - Hong Kong are the most likely team to over-turn one of the three WCL1 teams.

Denmark
Rating1606.4Placing Probabilities1st: 0.2% 2nd\3rd: 5% Qual.: 0.8%
Path to Qualifiers1st in Europe.
Core PlayerFrederik KlokkerDenmark's keeper and only player with first class experience; Klokker was top scorer in the qualifiers and the Dane's top scorer in their unsuccessful WCL3 campaign. Few teams are more dependent on one batsman.
Key PerformerBashir ShahThe leading wicket-taker in the European qualifiers; in the UAE his miserly off-spin will be essential to success.
On Twitter? Any Danish fans out there?

A team that have struggled of late in WCL competitions, and unlikely to be well prepared coming off a European winter. Their bowling was good in the qualifiers, against a weaker standard, but their batting was fragile. The need to win 4 or 5 of 7 games means they are highly unlikely to make the playoffs, but (like all teams here) they are capable of upsetting anyone.

Nepal
Rating1536.9Placing Probabilities1st: 0.04% 2nd\3rd: 2% Qual.: 0.3%
Path to Qualifiers4th in Asia.
Core PlayerParas KhadkaThe captain, key bowler and leading run-scorer in the qualifiers. Possibly relied on for too much given his limitations.
Key PerformerBasanta RegmiThe purveyor of very accurate left-arm medium, who will do well on the low UAE pitches. Not a match-winner, but they are thin on the ground for Nepal.
On TwitterCricket Nepal, Birat Raya, Sirish Paudel, Pushpa Poudel

Nepal have a batting problem. Despite sneaking past the UAE in the Asian qualifiers at home, they were never dominant in a game, winning two very close contests over their rivals, and losing three others. Only one player scored, Khadka, scored over 100 runs for the tournament, and their bowling is not good enough to win games from that sort of platform. Like most teams they can challenge and win any game, but they'll struggle to win enough to be there when it matters.

Idle Summers 11th March, 2012 23:19:41   [#] [0 comments] 

World T20 Qualifiers Preview - The lead-up and format
Russell Degnan

With only a little exagerration, Tuesday 13th March might well mark the day that cricket became a truly global sport. It is fair to say that no associate tournament has ever been as widely promoted, or as keenly anticipated; profiling articles of most participating teams have appeared on cricinfo and their prospects discussed on various podcasts - albeit by people with limited knowledge of associate cricket.

Incremental increases in associate coverage have been occuring for some time, driven by the sustained success of Ireland, the romantic story of the skillful Afghanistan, and a gradual increase in mainstream coverage in Canada and the United States partly led by ESPN. It has been helped considerably through the implementation of meritocratic tournaments; whereas the ICC trophy tended to sneak up on people, the flawed World Cricket League allows people to track associate progress. The World T20 Qualifiers were a step forward again. The multiple regional tournaments played over the course of a year were interesting throughout, even with the limited coverage many of them received.

The highlight was Asia, which not only had limited visual coverage, via Nepalese tv, but the biggest upset, with the U.A.E. failing to qualify for the finals, losing out to Nepal and Oman by the barest of margins.

The qualifier in the U.A.E. promises to be just as close, with a nearly professional standard of play, and, most excitingly, proper coverage. From a purely comercial perspective, ESPNStar's decision to provide tv and online coverage for the playoffs on the last three days is a massive event. While associate nations have been in all the world cups, their treatment has tended towards patronising, their presence to fill up numbers in a tournament format designed to exclude them. Here, in their own tournament, the true depth and competitiveness of these nations will be apparent.

Probably more important in the long term will be QuipuTV's online coverage from the Global Cricket Academy, with 14 games across 7 days, using 4 cameras. Online coverage of cricket has lagged some way behind other sports, but the last year has seen a massive leap forward, and it is reasonable to expect further, low-cost coverage of associate cricket in the future - if the ICC continues to fund it. All 16 teams will be covered at some point, most more than once; a great opportunity to properly assess the depth of associate cricket, and for their national supporters (few as they sometimes might be) to see their national side in action.

The tournament itself has an odd, but fair format, favouring the best teams in the group stage, but allowing every team to dream, at least for the first few games.

The group stage will be played over 8 days: four rounds, a rest day, then three more rounds. This is insanely compact - funny how easy it is to make a short tournament without tv companises making unhelpful demands - and with teams needing to win almost every game to qualify, will favour sides with the depth to cover for injuries and poor performances from their star players.

The first qualifier pits the two group winners against each other. The winner progressing to the final, and the WT20 proper; the loser to the second qualifier played on the final morning.

The second and third placed teams in each group go into a four team playoff; effectively a round-of-16 and quarter-final. The winner of the playoff will enter the second qualifier against the losing group winner, for the final place in the WT20, and qualifer final.

Assuming equal skills, the group winners have a 75% chance of qualifying and second and third just 12.5% each: winning the group is essential to maximising a team's chance of qualifying. With so many games, it will take more than a slice of luck for the weaker teams to progress even to the playoffs, but at this point, optimism reigns (as it should).

Unprecedented coverage, a growing community of associate supporters online, the promise of a large number of close and competitive games, more riding on each game than almost any other cricket match outside the world cup semis/final, and a healthy number of first class players representing their nations - an increase in quality but not so many as to question whether they are representative. With more teams than either the WT20 or the World Cup, this tournament should be a big deal. Apparently, for the first time ever, it might be.

Idle Summers 9th March, 2012 00:50:01   [#] [0 comments] 

Monday Melbourne: CCLIV, March 2012
Russell Degnan

The governor and the Shrine. Taken March 2012

Melbourne Town 6th March, 2012 11:29:16   [#] [1 comment] 

Ratings - 4th March 2012
Russell Degnan

I-Cup MatchU.A.E.vScotland
Pre-rating219.51437.45
Form+50.06-21.39
Expected MarginScotland by 59 runs
Actual MarginScotland by 7 wickets
Pre-rating212.22444.87

An unexpectedly good win for Scotland. The first day of the match seemed to be repeating a pattern of team's scoring a hundred or less in the first innings before coming back to win. While Goudie and Sharif rolled the U.A.E. for an even ton, the Safires ended at 5/121 in response. Berrington continues to impress though, anchoring the innings with his first first-class ton, to set up a 205 run lead. The second innings from the U.A.E. was much better however, and t 4/280 nearing the end of day 3 a tight finish looked likely. Three quick wickets from Goudie turned the match right on stumps, and Haq and Berrington took the tourists home on the final day.

The result puts Scotland second on the table, although Afghanistan lurks with a game in hand. They have difficult games to follow, that they'll need to win, but they ought to be satisfied that they return from Sharjah with a victory over an in-form side. The U.A.E. move back to third, but with easier games to follow, they remain a threat to play the final at the end of the year.


Forthcoming Series

3 TestsNew ZealandvSouth Africa
Pre-rating885.371181.00
Form+11.78-1.02
Expected MarginSouth Africa by 98 runs

A potentially interesting series. The ratings suggest New Zealand have a 29% probability of victory, suggesting a 2-1 victory for the superior South African side. What happens on and off the field will have a big part to play in that result however. The Autumn start means rain and bad light are significant issues; the strength of the South African bowling and New Zealand conditions ought to ensure results, but at least one game will probably be drawn. South Africa have dominated New Zealand in most recent contests; while the New Zealand batting is improved on its nadir, and their bowling at home is capable of unseating a South African lineup with its own fragilities, they are rightly favoured.

If New Zealand does win it is likely to be a low-scoring affair. The batting of Smith and Boucher hs been poor for some time. If New Zealand can restrict Amla, de Villiers and Kallis then they are capable of winning the series. They are a young squad though, while the South African team is in its peak years. Having reached the pinnacle three years ago, they have struggled to keep improving, and been passed by England, and caught by Australia. They have the opportunity this year to prove themselves as a better than merely good side; with a tour to England. Their next few seasons are highly favourable to taking the official top ranking, but they'll need to win convincingly than they hve been, and in these conditions to be accepted as such.


Rankings at 4th March 2012
1.England1304.23
2.South Africa1181.00
3.Australia1177.62
4.Pakistan1128.35
5.Sri Lanka1036.56
6.India1023.29
7.West Indies923.80
8.New Zealand885.37
9.Bangladesh601.34
10.Zimbabwe543.69

11.Ireland555.48
12.Afghanistan514.53
13.Scotland444.87
14.Namibia407.53
15.Kenya317.93
16.U.S.A.296.99
17.Uganda268.44
18.U.A.E.212.22
19.Netherlands202.55
20.Nepal196.51
21.Canada154.58
22.Hong Kong148.65
23.Cayman Is134.24
24.Malaysia123.90
25.Bermuda105.40

Shaded teams have played fewer than 2 games per season. Non-test team ratings are not comparable to test ratings as they don't play each other.

Idle Summers 4th March, 2012 11:25:18   [#] [0 comments]