Thursday, 16 April 2009

All to play for in the Qualifiers final round

After a far from disgraceful loss against Canada and a triumph against the fancied Scots, the Afghans' chances of qualification for the World Cup (in the top 4) or, failing that, one-day international status (the top 6) have come down to their very last match against Namibia on Monday morning - the official site is the place to watch events unfold live and to see video highlights from throughout the tournament.

The other fixtures in that last round of matches are Ireland v Kenya, Canada v Netherlands and Scotland v UAE, with the table currently standing as follows:-

TeamMatWonLostTiedN/RPtsNet RR
Ireland 6510010+0.860
Canada 642008+0.855
Kenya 633006+0.006
Netherlands 633006-0.019
U.A.E. 633006-0.813
Namibia 624004-0.022
Afghanistan 624004-0.316
Scotland 624004-0.576

Even though Ireland are guaranteed a place in the final of the competition, I'd be surprised if they eased up against Kenya, who will need something special from Steve Tikolo to bounce back from a huge 201-run defeat at the hands of Namibia. Scotland will be fighting tooth and claw to hold on to their one-day international status, a huge shock given the 6 professionals in their side - the criticism coming their way could well spur them to victory against the UAE.

If the Canadians then beat the Dutch - very possible given that their star player Ryan ten Doeschate returned to Essex for the start of the county season after his one-man run chase against Namibia - the five teams placed 3rd-7th will all have won 3 games and qualification will come down to Net Run Rate. If the Afghans post a hefty win against Namibia, they stand a chance of leapfrogging one of Kenya and Holland, the teams I've picked to lose, and securing a top-4 spot.

The problem is that almost nothing has gone as expected in this exciting, evenly matched tournament and the Namibians have been very solid in the tournament's second stage. Nonetheless, reading interviews with any of the Afghan players reminds one that many stranger things have happened in the past two years.

(If, after all that, you'd like someone else's predictions, Will Luke's on-the-spot assessment of the teams' chances can be heard here.)

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