A brief history ...

The ICC Trophy

A result of the success of the inaugural 1975 World Cup, the ICC Trophy was launched for all ICC Associate members in 1979 and the first tournament ran ahead of the main World Cup, with the finalists offered the additional prize of being included in the competition proper. It was superseded by the World Cricket League from 2007.

1979
Venue England
Winner Sri Lanka
Runner-up Canada
As widely expected, Sri Lanka, pushing hard for Test status, won the competition, which was based at club grounds across the Midlands, although they were indebted to their depth of batting as their bowling was generally weak. But their claims for more recognition were further boosted when, three days before the final, they beat India at Old Trafford in the World Cup. The only blemish was their refusal to play Israel on political grounds, but they qualified from their group for the semi-finals by virtue of a faster run-rate, where they beat Denmark. The other semi-final produced an upset as Bermuda were defeated by Canada, who had only qualified for the last four as best runners-up of the three groups. The final was one-sided as Sri Lanka rattled up 324 for 8, although Canada battled well in reaching 264 for 5 in reply.

1982
Venue England
Winner Zimbabwe
Runner-up Bermuda
With holders Sri Lanka having moved up to join the big boys, the second ICC Trophy was more of an open race. Again held in the Midlands, appalling weather blighted the tournament, ironic in the light of the organisers' decision to move the event from May to June to ensure better weather. Four sides - USA, Gibraltar, Singapore and West Africa - had four games washed out. Zimbabwe and Bermuda, the favourites, emerged from their groups with 100& records and some outstanding performances. Zimbabwe trounced USA by 191 runs after Dave Houghton and Kevin Curran had scored hundreds in their 332 for 4; Bermuda went one better, smashing 348 for 9 against Malaysia in a 284-run win. The surprise package were Papua New Guinea, who beat the fancied Canadians by 20 runs to go through to the semi-finals, where Bangladesh completed the line-up with a win over Holland. Both semis were one-sided affairs, Zimbabwe bowled Bangladesh out for 124 and passing that for the loss of two wickets, and Bermuda beating Papua New Guinea, who won the third-place play-off, by six wickets. But the final was a good contest. Bermuda made 231 for 8, Duncan Fletcher the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 34, and then Andy Pycroft's 82 helping them to a five-wicket win with six overs to spare. Zimbabwe qualified for the 1983 World Cup finals.

1986
Venue England
Winner Zimbabwe
Runner-up Holland
Teams 16
Format Two groups, one of seven one of nine, top two into semi-finals
In contrast to 1982, the third ICC Trophy was played in good weather with only the final at Lord's affected to any degree, the game spilling over into a second day after a four-hour rain delay. Again Midlands-based, the fine conditions favoured the batsmen. Simon Myles (Hong Kong) smacked a record 172 on the opening day of the tournament, one of 20 hundreds, and Papua New Guinea amassed 455 for 9 against Gibraltar (on the same day Holland made 425 for 4 against Israel). But there were few surprises in the results. Zimbabwe powered through their group unbeaten, while Holland, Bermuda and Demmark all reached the last four. In a repeat of the 1982 final, Zimbabwe crushed Bermuda by 10 wickets, Grant Paterson (123*) and Robin Brown (81*) putting on 205 in 38.5 overs, while the other semi was won by Holland, whose five-wicket over Denmark was largely thanks to 127 not out from Guyanese-born Rupert Gomes. The final, for which Holland brought more than 1000 spectators, was a good game. Zimbabwe posted 243 for 9, a good recovery from 101 for 4 in an innings which the rain delay robbed of momentum. Brown played the anchor with a 51-over 61, while Andy Waller injected much-needed acceleration at the end. Holland looked in a strong position on 109 for 1 after 30 overs before they lost five wickets for 30. They remained in the hunt until Steve Lubbers seriously damaged his ankle and had to retire, and the tail lacked the firepower to mount a serious challenge.

1990
Venue Holland
Winner Zimbabwe
Runner-up Holland
Teams 17
Format Four groups, then two groups of four in the quarter-finals, top two into semi-finals
The first sponsored tournament produced a repeat of the 1986 final, and again Zimbabwe triumphed over hosts Holland, in front of 3000 spectators at the HCC ground in the Hague, their well-paced chase being led by Andy Flower (69*). The early stages produced little remarkable, but it was apparent early on that Zimbabwe were a class apart. As expected, they eased into the final with an 84-run win over Bangladesh, while Holland beat Kenya thanks to P-J Baaker's 6 for 41 (he had returned from county duty).

1993-94
Venue Kenya
Winner UAE
Runner-up Kenya
Teams 16
Format Four groups, then two groups of four in the quarter-finals, top two into semi-finals

The first tournament held outside Europe, and once again and open event with three-time winners Zimbabwe elevated to Test status. The start of the matches brought an end to a two-month drought, but thereafter the climate was ideal. The most contentious matter was the eligibility of players, the UAE attracting the most criticism as their squad of ex-pats contained only one home-grown cricketer - Sultan Zarawani, the captain. It was, in view of that, rather disappointing that they won the Trophy. The group stages produced little in terms of upsets, although group B was close, with two teams of ex-pats, the UAE and USA, battling with the home-grown Bangladeshis. The USA had the talent but lacked any discipline and they lost out. In the semi-finals, Kenya's batting proved too much for Bermuda, their 318 for 5 led by Maurice Odumbe's unbeaten 158, while UAE eased to a six-wicket win over Holland. Kenya seemed to have posted a winning total when they reached 281 for 6 in the final, Odumbe again top scoring with 86 and adding a hundred for the second successive match with Steve Tikolo. But UAE timed their chase to perfection, winning by two wickets with five balls in hand. Holland won the third-place play-off to book the third and final berth in the 1996 World Cup.

1997
Venue Malaysia
Winner Bangladesh
Runner-up Kenya
Teams 16
Format Four groups, then two groups of four in the quarter-finals, top two into semi-finals
The sixth ICC Trophy was bedeviled with problems, the most serious being that the Malaysians' assurance that turf wickets would be in place was not fulfilled and so matches were played on artificial wickets. The outfields were also less than perfect, and overall the conditions were not up to the expected standard. To add to the difficulties, the weather was increasingly dreadful and one of the semi-finals, the third-place play-off and the final were all played over two days. On the field, the gulf between the big boys and the minnows was all too apparent, but Singapore came close to beating Kenya and Hong Kong beated Bermuda, one of the favourites, by three wickets. There was also a near-farcical protest when Islamic fundamentalists turned up to disrupt the Israel-Gibraltar game - the authorities had been tipped off and switched venues with the Canada-Holland tie, although the demonstrators refused to believe the authorities and started bonfires on the outfield causing the game to be abandoned. The quarter-finals onwards were disrupted by the weather, with Holland's hopes hammered by a D/L loss to Hong Kong while other games were washed out. Kenya had an excellent half-century from Maurice Odumbe (who averaged 98.60) to thank for bailing them out after Ireland had them tied down, and then Ireland came within seven runs of beating them. In the other match, Scotland were well beaten by Bangladesh, whose large traveling support gave them excellent support. Kenya looked likely winners of the two-day final, with the previously out-of-form Steve Tikolo hammering 147 and adding 138 for the fourth wicket with Odumbe (43) as they reached 241 for 7. But rain and D/L reduced Bangladesh's target to 166 in 25 overs. The chase was frantic, and they started the last over needing 11 with two wickets in hand. It all came down to the last ball, and Hasibul Hussain missed but scrambled a leg-bye. The third-place play-off, which decided the third qualifier for the 1999 World Cup, was won fairly comfortably by Scotland.

2001
Venue Canada
Winner Holland
Runner-up Namibia
Teams 22
Format Four groups, then a Super League, top two into final
The largest competition yet - even allowing for the late withdrawal of Italy and West Africa - with a new format involving a Super League. As was to prove the case in the main World Cup two years later, the early matches were often one-sided, and the system of carrying forward points to the second stage was far from popular and gave the two group winners - Holland and Namibia - a distinct advantage, although Scotland ran them close. In fairness, Namibia were the surprise package, and only when they met Holland in the final did their inexperience show. In a low-scoring match, Holland were 106 for 6 with 13 over remaining, chasing 196, but a 51-ball 58 not out from Jacob-Jan Esmeijer guided them to a two-wicket victory off the last ball. Scotland, who had effectively thrown away their final Super League match, were livid that third place in that had not secured them an automatic World Cup berth, were soundly beaten by Canada in the play-off.

2005
Venue Ireland
Winner Scotland
Runner-up Ireland
Teams 12
Format Two groups of six, top two into semi-finals, others play-off for position
The ICC's decision that the top six finishers would qualify for the 2007 World Cup and be awarded full ODI status from January 1, 2006 made this the most important tournament so far. Staged in Ireland in mid summer, the conditions gave the European teams a distinct advantage. There was some good, competitive cricket and the minnows in most instances held their own. Uganda, who were tipped by many as one of the up-and-coming sides failed to ignite, although they lost matches against PNG and Oman by one and six runs. The USA were a major disappointment, their on-field performances reflecting their own board's chaos. Ireland and Scotland topped their respective groups to cruise into the semi-finals, and there they beat Canada and Bermuda. But the real drama came in the sixth-place play-off between Netherlands and UAE, with the winners getting the last World Cup/ODO slot - the match, dubbed the $500,000 decider, was an anti-climax as Netherlands won by 145 runs. There was no home win, however, as Scotland piled on 324 for 8 and although Ireland mounted a game chase, they fell 55 runs short.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo

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