ICC announces schedule for World Cup Qualifiers
Three ODI venues are among the nine set to host the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in South Africa, according to the schedule released for the 12-team tournament from April 1 to 19. Willowmoore Park in Benoni and Senwes Park in Potchefstroom will be used for first-round and Super Eight matches, while the final will be held at Centurion's SuperSport Park.
Fifty-four matches during the 19-day tournament will determine the four qualifiers to join the ten Full Members at the 2011 World Cup in the subcontinent. "It looks like it's going to be a great event," ICC president David Morgan said. "Many of the top Associates are very evenly matched and I am expecting some thrilling matches during the tournament.
"We know from experience that South Africa is a perfect place to host big multi-team tournaments such as this and I know the teams will have some of the best facilities at their disposal," he said. "Four years ago, Scotland deservedly overcame the opposition in Ireland so I'm sure they'll be anxious to hang on to the title. It's not going to be easy though. Many of the other Associates have made big strides since then so it's going to be a hard-fought tournament."
Among the teams that will be keenly watched will be Afghanistan, who have won the ICC World Cricket League Division 5, Division 4 and Division 3 in the past year en route to South Africa.
The 12 teams are split into two groups of six teams. Ireland, Scotland, Canada, Oman, Namibia and Uganda make up Group A while Kenya, Netherlands, Bermuda, UAE, Denmark and Afghanistan form Group B. Each team plays the other sides in its group once, with the top four making it to the Super Eight stage.
The teams then play four Super Eight matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage. All points won against qualifiers from the group phase will be carried over to the Super Eight stage.
The top two teams in the Super Eight stage will contest the final to be played on 19 April. The third and fourth-placed sides will play off at Potchefstroom, the fifth and sixth-placed sides play off at Willowmoore Park while the seventh and eighth-placed teams play off at the Stan Friedman Oval, Krugersdorp.
Teams in the top six earn ODI status till 2013 and also qualify for the ICC Intercontinental Cup 2009-10. The bottom two teams will be relegated to Division 3 of the World Cricket League.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa