One match left and all to play for
The final round of matches in the Super Eight stage of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers are the most important in the four-year cycle of Associate cricket.
The top four countries will gain entry to the 2011 World Cup, the top six will gain ODI status for the next four years as well as entry to the 2009-2010 ICC Intercontinental Cup. These six teams will also make up the ICC World Cricket League Division 1 in 2010. The top ten teams have already qualifed for the ICC High Performance Programme grant funding in 2009 and 2010 (the Super Eight plus Bermuda and Uganda).
So what is at stake for the eight sides on Friday and what do they need to do?
Ireland - nothing but glory at stake for them against Kenya, although defeat would mean they could still be pipped at the top of the table by Canada, although they are guaranteed to be in the 1st/2nd play-off and a place at the 2011 World Cup.
Canada - a win over Netherlands will guarantee them at least second place and World Cup qualification. Such is their NRR that a loss would still see them finish in the top four unless there were some remarkable results elsewhere and they were to lose heavily.
Kenya - it will be interesting to see what the effect of Wednesday's humiliation at the hands of Namibia will have, and from what seemed like a stroll to the World Cup, they now have to beat Ireland to ensure they make it. If they lose, then it is quite likely they will miss out, although their ODI status seems safe barring another catastrophic performance.
Netherlands - a win will almost ensure them a top four finish as Kenya and UAE, the only sides who could overtake them, have considerably inferior NRR. If they lose then they will be left sweating on other results, but they are at least guaranteed ODI status for the next four years.
UAE - the crucial match, against Scotland. If they win, they are guaranteed ODI status, and if one of Netherlands or Kenya lose then it's a World Cup place as well. But so narrow is the margin that if they lose then their NRR is so bad that they are likely to miss out on even ODI status.
Namibia - if they lose to Afghanistan then they miss out altogether. If they win then they need two out of Kenya, Netherlands and UAE to lose to bring it down to NRR for the remaining World Cup place, but ODI status would be assured.
Afghanistan - after a remarkable year, they are within one win of completing the fairytale. A loss to Namibia and it's all over, but a win and, like Nambia, they need two out of Kenya, Netherlands and UAE to lose to bring it down to NRR for a World Cup place. Theirs is not as good as Namibia's, however, and the win will need to be convincing. But the headlines would still be made as they would gain ODI status.
Scotland - the real surprise, and for all the wrong reasons. Such is their NRR that a World Cup place is almost certainly beyond them, but if they beat UAE then they will salvage their ODI status at least. A loss and their dreams of professionalism, not to mention lucrative ODIs against England and other touring sides, will disappear for the next four years. Whatever happens, the inquests are likely to start almost as soon as the players leave the field.
The rules and regulations
In the event of teams finishing on equal points at the end of the Super Eight stage, the order of finishing will be decided in the following order of priority:
- The most wins in all of the matches throughout the competition against the other Super Eight stage qualifiers will be placed in the higher position.
- If there are teams with equal points and equal wins in the Super Eight stage then in such case the team with the higher net run rate in all matches played against the other Super Eight qualifiers (in both the Group stage and Super Eight stage) will be placed in the higher position
- If still equal, the team which was the winner of the head to head match played between them will be placed in the higher position.
- If there are teams which are still equal, then the team with the higher number of wickets taken per balls bowled in the Super Eight stage in which results were achieved will be placed in the higher position.
- In the highly unlikely event that teams cannot be separated by the above this will be done by drawing lots.
Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa