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A place in the Americas Championships in Bermuda in May and boasting rights as the region's top Affiliate nation will be up for grabs when the Americas Division Two tournament starts on Monday. Hosts Bahamas and 2008 Division Two champion Suriname are expected to be the main contenders for the trip to Bermuda, in what will be a continuation of the rivalry from the previous tournament.
Suriname caused a shock when it inflicted a 148-run loss on the tournament favourites in 2008, snaring the Affiliates' spot at the Americas Championships in the process. The South Americans have retained the bulk of that squad, including 19-year-old allrounder Troy Dudnauth, who was player of the tournament. Dudnauth, who also took 5 for 21 against Bahamas, is one of the six Suriname-born players in the squad.
Also returning will be the experienced opener Raj Sewanan, who plays the Suriname off-season in New York, and allrounder Arun Gokoel, who, at 22, is already a veteran of five tournaments and will play a key role in the middle order.
Bahamas will be led by 22-year-old allrounder Gregory Taylor. He will have considerable experience around him, including former captain Narendra Ekanayake, Gary Armstrong, Dwight Weakley and Jonathon Barry. Though aged just 16, Jermaine Adderley has captained the Under-19 team at regional level. In the team's last outing in May 2008, they finished eleventh at the World Cricket League Division Five. Six of the squad are born in the Bahamas.
Another team with a point to prove will be Brazil, making their debut at the regional Division Two level. They qualified with a surprise win over Chile in the Americas Division Three tournament last October. Sadly, they will be without captain and star player Matt Featherstone, who is unavailable. In his absence, opener Greigor Causley will step up to assume the reigns. Paceman Rudyard Hartmann will also be a key member of the attack while brothers Daniel and Alexandre Miziara can be lusty hitters and bowl useful off spin. Brazil includes six players who were born in the country.
Panama finished the 2008 tournament level on points with Suriname and Bahamas and it was only the run-rate which placed them third. They beat Suriname in the last two Division Two tournaments, and could well decide who takes the crown this time. Allrounder Irfan Tarajiya has scored a century at this level and reliable opener Soyab Chohan ensures the Panama innings gets off to a solid start. Peculiarly, five members of the squad have the surname Ahir, but are not related.
Turks & Caicos Islands will be led by opener Ebbon Caesar who has a century against Peru to his credit. Unfortunately, allrounder Donovan Mathews, their best player in the 2008 event, has moved to St. Kitts. Cricket is played on two islands - Providenciales, where there are six teams and Grand Turk, with three. The team's best showing since first appearing in ICC tournaments in 2004 was last year, when they won Division Three on points difference.
In Monday's opening matches, Brazil face Bahamas, while Suriname play Panama. Turks & Caicos Islands have the bye.
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