One Associate to feature in 2016 Asia Cup
One Associate team will get the opportunity to take part in the main draw of the 2016 Asia Cup T20, with a four-team qualifier tournament set to take place in November. According to multiple sources, those four teams will be Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Oman and the hosts UAE.
Afghanistan participated in a five-team Asia Cup in 2014, notching a win over Bangladesh when the tournament was held under a 50-over format. The same five-team round-robin is expected to be used again in 2016, with the winner of the Associate draw moving on to play the region's four Full Members in the main draw, which will be held between March 1 and 10, just prior to the start of the World Twenty20.
The qualifier for the Asia Cup T20 is set to be held in November, scheduled around fixtures for the ICC Intercontinental Cup and WCL Championship. Hong Kong are scheduled to travel to the UAE to play the hosts in a four-day match from November 11 in Dubai, before contesting two ODIs on November 16 and 18. Afghanistan, meanwhile, will play Papua New Guinea in a four-day match at Sharjah between November 21 and 24.
The dates for the qualifier tournament are yet to be confirmed, but from a logistical sense, the event will most likely take place towards the end of November to give Hong Kong and Afghanistan a few days off after their I-Cup and WCLC fixtures. Tim Cutler, the chief executive of the Hong Kong Cricket Association, praised officials for making a valuable playing opportunity possible ahead of the World T20 in March.
"We are excited for the opportunity to get vital preparation for the World T20 in India by taking on a group of strong Associates," Cutler told ESPNcricinfo on Friday. "Major credit should go to the ICC and the Asian Cricket Council for their support in the competitive development of Hong Kong and the other Associate teams who will participate.
"We are eager to play our way into the Asia Cup in March for a chance to take on India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh but as a whole, these fixtures in November will be a great build up to our first ever home ODIs and T20Is on Hong Kong soil in late January against Scotland as part of our overall preparation for the World Twenty20."
Cutler also said that he is seeking to arrange other possible T20I fixtures, against Zimbabwe and Pakistan, in early December. Pakistan play England in three T20Is from November 26 in the UAE before also hosting India in the UAE beginning in December. The dates for the India tour, however, are still to be confirmed.
Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna