The inaugural ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier, which will take place in Belfast at the start of August, is the highlight of the Associates schedule for 2008 which was announced by the ICC today.
The three-day Qualifier will feature the six leading Associates - Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands and Scotland - with the winners going through to the ICC World Twenty20 in England in 2009. The two successful teams will also stand to gain US$250,000 each for qualifying.

"The inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa was a great success with two Associate teams - Kenya and Scotland - qualifying through the ICC World Cricket League Division 1," Matthew Kennedy, the ICC global development manager, said. "This event gives the top six Associates the opportunity to qualify for the 2009 World Twenty20 ... [and] will also give cricket fans in Ireland a great opportunity to see some thrilling cricket in this, the shortest and newest form of the international game."

"The Irish board is excited at the prospect of hosting this inaugural Associate World Twenty20 on home soil in Stormont," Warren Deutrom, the CEO of the board, said. "Three games a day for three days in this highly popular form of the game will surely attract the interest of the Irish public."

All leading Associates have busy schedules with high-profile matches against Full Member countries the cherry on the cake. "This schedule of matches for the top Associates has been developed and refined over the past six months," Richard Done, the ICC's high performance manager, said. "It provides a challenging programme for each of the teams as they seek to improve their overall standing in world cricket and to continue the process of making themselves consistently competitive when facing the next tier.

"Having been through an extensive consultation process this schedule has the full support and agreement of each of the participating countries."

The calendar will be closely examined by players from the Associates. An increasing number have been voicing concern about the increasing demands on their time and some have withdrawn from matches or even retired because they have been unable to balance work with playing for their countries.