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A lowdown on the ICC World Cricket League Division Four

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ICC_Cricket_World_Cup_QualifiersFar away from the glitz and glare of the Indian Premier League, six Associate nations are set to embark upon a crucial, week-long campaign in Malaysia. Uganda, Denmark, Bermuda, Jersey and Vanuatu will join the hosts at the 2018 ICC World Cricket League Division Four, which will feature 18 matches across three venues from April 29 to May 6.

The top two finishers will earn promotion to Division Three, where they will join Oman, Kenya, Singapore and the United States. The WCL Division Three is expected to be played later this year, with the venue yet to be announced. As the tournament – which assumes great importance in view of the road to qualification for the 2023 World Cup – draws close, here is a look at how the six teams stack up.

Uganda

The Cricket Cranes endured a poor ICC WCL Division Three tournament on home soil last year, finishing fifth out of six teams, a performance that saw them get relegated. They have had a busy preparation schedule in the past few weeks, with a tour to India, where they played against various local clubs, followed by a visit to Qatar and a hard-fought home series against the promising Saudi Arabians.

With the experienced Roger Musaka at the helm, the Ugandan squad has six changes from the one that competed at the 2017 WCL Division Three. Head coach Steve Tikolo, the former Kenyan mainstay, has reposed his trust in youth who have been performing consistently, as is evident from the selection of the likes of 16-year-old batsman Steven Wabwose and 17-year-old wicketkeeper Fred Achelam.

Previous WCL finish: Fifth in Division Three, 2017

Player to watch out for: Henry Ssenyondo, left-arm spinner

Malaysia

Malaysia are the second relegated side in the fray along with Uganda, having finished last in Division Three. Being the host nation can serve the Anwar Arudin-led outfit with an added advantage as they bid to return to Division Three. Arudin was recently named as the new captain in place of Ahmed Faiz, who had been in charge for four years. Many of the Malaysian squad recently turned out for the MCA President’s XI, which beat Hong Kong A at home.

Malaysia, under new coach Sampath Perera of Sri Lanka, successfully defended the Stan Nagaiah Trophy last month, after drawing the three-match series with Singapore 1-1. This encouraging outcome against a Division Three team holds them in good stead ahead of the WCL Division Four. With Malaysia reportedly being considered to host Pakistan’s home internationals later this year, a top-two finish would only add to the country’s cricketing profile.

Previous WCL finish: Sixth in Division Three, 2017

Player to watch out for: Ahmed Faiz, right-handed batsman

Denmark

Denmark have failed to move above Division Four since their relegation from Division Three in 2011. Promotion narrowly eluded them at the last WCL Division Four in the United States in 2016, where they missed out on net run rate. The coming week presents the Danes with a fourth chance to break out of Division Four. They are coached by former Irish batsman Jeremy Bray, who headed a preparatory training camp in Pakistan with a few of the players earlier this month.

The squad, led by Hamid Shah, appears to have a good mix of experience and youth, with old hands such as Frederik Klokker and Bashir Shah expected to be aided by young guns like Anders Bulow and Jonas Henriksen. Two notable absentees are Michael Pedersen and Aftab Ahmed, who were captain and joint leading wicket-taker respectively at the 2016 WCL Division Four.

Previous WCL finish: Third in Division Four, 2016

Player to watch out for: Bashir Shah, left-arm spinner

Bermuda

A strong collective showing will be required if Bermuda are to make a comeback to Division Three, from which they were relegated after a last-place finish in 2014. It was only due to a superior net run rate to that of Jersey’s that they avoided relegation from the 2016 WCL Division Four. Coaching the Bermudans in their quest for promotion is former ODI cricketer Clay Smith.

Bermuda will take the field under the captaincy of Terryn Fray. The only team in the tournament to have been part of a World Cup (in 2007), Bermuda have undergone their preparation in Dubai last week, where they played three practice matches against local sides. It remains to be seen whether they can stem the decline that has hampered their ranking in the last ten years.

Previous WCL finish: Fourth in Division Four, 2016

Player to watch out for: Kamau Leverock, left-handed batsman

Jersey

One of the two promoted teams, Jersey will feature in their third WCL Division Four tournament in four years. Having finished runners-up in Division Five in 2016, they were promoted to Division Four held later in the year, only to get relegated following a fifth-place finish. The cycle continued in September 2017, when Jersey returned to Division Four by winning Division Five in Benoni, South Africa.

Jersey fine-tuned themselves by taking on Kent’s second eleven in Beckenham two weeks ago, sharing a two-match series 1-1. They later travelled to Singapore for warm-up matches against domestic opposition. Captained by Charles Perchard and coached by former Scottish international Neil McRae, Jersey will be desperate to avoid a third successive relegation from Division Four.

Previous WCL finish: First in Division Five, 2017

Player to watch out for: Ben Stevens, left-handed batsman and left-arm spinner

Vanuatu

The second promoted team in the tournament, Vanuatu can prove to be a surprise package. The Pacific islanders finished runners-up to Jersey at the WCL Division Five last year, ensuring an entry into Division Four for the first time. Interestingly, Vanuatu’s 42-year-old coach Shane Deitz, a former South Australian first-class cricketer, is also a part of their playing squad.

Andrew Mansale will captain the team, which trained in Singapore prior to the tournament, but the spotlight will be on all-rounder Patrick Matautaava, who helped Vanuatu avoid an early exit from the 2017 Division Five. With his team needing to chase down a target of 228 in 31.3 overs or less in a must-win game against Germany, Matautaava creamed 139* in 76 balls to star in a four-wicket win. A day after that, he scored 83 in the semifinal against Italy.

Previous WCL finish: Second in Division Five, 2017

Player to watch out for: Patrick Matautaava, right-handed batsman and right-arm medium pacer

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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