World T20 Qualifier 2015 July 8, 2015

Dominant Scotland and van der Merwe's second coming

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Della Penna: Rain could put a dent on opening round

Group B

The favorites

Scotland served their notice as a threat last month with a pair of wins over Ireland, the defending champions in the World T20 qualifier. Since the World Cup, they have been dominant against Associates in general, thumping UAE in a three-day match before securing first-innings points in a rain-marred draw against Afghanistan. In the last few days they scorched Namibia and Jersey in warm-up games.

A new name to keep an eye on is 22-year old opener George Munsey. He scored a half-century against UAE in a three-day match in May, earned a maiden call-up to the T20 squad and hammered 75 off 44 balls against Jersey. Among the more familiar faces, wicketkeeper Matthew Cross was superb against Ireland in June and will look to reprise that form.

Afghanistan haven't lifted the trophy at this tournament since their debut in 2010, and may find it difficult to break that dry spell in wet and windy conditions. Their pace bowling trio of Hamid Hassan, Shapoor Zadran and Dawlat Zadran will be formidable but their batting side has traditionally struggled in prior trips to the British Isles.

All eyes will be on the returning Mohammad Shahzad. He was left out of Afghanistan's World Cup squad in February, but has come back very strongly. He made 266 in a two-day match against MCCU in May, followed that up with 109 against Middlesex and then hammered 100 off 51 balls against Unicorns at Wormsley in June.

Battle for playoff spots

Netherlands received a timely fillip last week when former South African left-arm spinner Roelof van der Merwe switched allegiances. He made an impressive start in his second coming to international cricket, top-scoring with 40 not out and taking 2 for 27 in a loss to Nepal.

A loss to Hong Kong on Tuesday was another reminder of the gap left by Tom Cooper's absence. Fiery starts from Stephan Myburgh will be vital to keep opposition bowlers at bay.

Since the World Cup, Scotland have been generating a lot of waves in Associate cricket © Cricket Scotland

This event marks the first major tournament in 15 years that Khurram Khan won't be suiting up for UAE. He was a central figure in their qualification for both the 2014 World T20 and 2015 World Cup, which means pressure will fall on Shaiman Anwar to keep up his fine World Cup form.

The adjustment to the British Isles has not gone too well early on with heavy defeats to Scotland and Ireland in multi-day matches, while UAE split a pair of 50-over games with Kenya at Southampton. A win over Nepal on Wednesday was a much needed result and it will be up to the fast bowling unit of Mohammad Naveed, Manjula Guruge and Amjad Javed to make sure more such victories are delivered.

Pulling up the rear

Canada received a major wake-up call when they were throttled by a local Scottish district side on Tuesday in an eight-wicket defeat. The loss seemed to have rattled enough cages as captain Rizwan Cheema crashed 98 off 36 balls against Namibia on Wednesday. The Americas regional champs received a harsh scheduling assignment by having to play Scotland, Netherlands and Afghanistan on three consecutive days to end group play, a major hurdle to overcome just to reach the playoffs.

Similar to Canada, Kenya drew a short straw in terms of scheduling by having to play five times in the first six days of the tournament, the most cramped segment any of the 14 teams have to face. The stretch also includes three straight days playing against Afghanistan, Scotland and UAE. A loss to Jersey in the lead up to this tournament means Kenya's prospects for success are looking very grim.

In Munis Ansari, Oman have perhaps the only bowler who can match the Afghanistan pace trio in this group for raw pace. Beyond captain Zeeshan Maqsood at the top of the order, batting contributions are slim and they frequently slip from three down to all out in quick time. Oman are not without the capacity to spring an upset, but after losing all seven group games in their last appearance at the qualifier in 2012, it is hard to see them achieving great success in Scotland.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna