Eight of cricket's emerging nations will be hoping to take one step towards qualification for the 2011 World Cup when the World Cricket League Division 3 gets underway this Sunday (May 27) in Darwin.
The top two teams from this event will join UAE, Namibia, Denmark and Oman in Windhoek, Namibia at the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 November. The top four teams from the event in Namibia will automatically qualify for the ICC World Cup Qualifier in the UAE in 2009, while the two remaining teams will have a second chance to qualify for the UAE tournament at the World Cricket League Division 3 in early 2009.
The teams in Darwin will be divided into two groups. Group A includes Argentina, Fiji, Italy and Papua New Guinea, while Group B features Cayman Islands, Hong Kong, Tanzania and Uganda. The top two sides progress to the semi-finals, while the bottom two are included in plate semi-finals.
Argentina travel to Darwin with perhaps the strongest squad ever to have ever left their shores. With 12 of the 14 man squad being allrounders, and a solid blend of youth and experience, the team will be looking to build on its success of winning the ICC Americas Division 2 tournament. Despite not winning a game in the ICC Americas Division 1, the experience from that event will serve the side well and they will be looking for wicket-keeper batsman Alejandro Ferguson, opener Lucas Paterlini and frontline bowlers Gary Savage and Paul Ryan to star.
One of Fiji's strengths will be that the squad has played together in a number of matches, both against Vanuatu in a recent home series which they comprehensively won 3-0, and overseas in Brisbane last year when they took on the Cook Islands and Japan. Key players will be Josefa Dabea, Iniasi Cakaaka and Iliesa Navatu, while Kitione Tavo's and Jone Seuvou's left and right-arm bowling combination will pose a threat to opposing batsmen.
Following some disappointing performances at recent ICC events, under coach/captain Joe Scuderi, arguably the best ever Italian squad has been put together for this event. Nicola Puccio and Troy Crosland's experience of Australian conditions will be invaluable, while Cape Town quartet of Alessandro Bonora, Andrea Corbellari, Nicholas and Andrew Northcote will all be important squad members. Hemantha Jayasena will be looking to build on his excellent performances at last year's European Championships, with opportunities Din Alaud, Corbellari and Michel Minghetti to shine with the ball.
Papua New Guinea
Arguably the pre-tournament favourites for the event, PNG have performed consistently well in recent years, although perhaps their best achievement was their undefeated run in the World Cup qualifying event in 2005 in Malaysia. Among the key players to watch are captain Rarua Dikana, batsmen Jamie Brazier, John Ovia and wicketkeeper-batsman Ipi Morea. With paceman Toka Gaudi absent through injury, there will be pressure on new bowlers Inoa Baeau and Hitolo Areni to perform.
As an Associate member it recorded their first major victory in 2002 against Bermuda, although arguably their greatest triumph to date came last year when they beat Canada. Ryan Bovell, the captain, will look to Pearson Best, who scored 116* against Argentina last year, for runs, while fast bowler Kenute Tulloch, who took five wickets against the Bahamas in the Stanford Twenty20 tournament last year, will be one of the leading bowlers.
Hong Kong, runners-up at the 2006 ACC Trophy, boasts a squad that they think is capable of having a major impact upon this event. They will lean heavily on the experience of Rahul Sharma, fast bowler Afzaal Haider and allrounders Khalid Butt and Ilyas Gull for key performances. Skipper Tim Smart's leadership skills will be a vital asset, while promising teenagers Courtney Kruger and the Ahmed brothers Nadeem and Irfan will be hoping to make their mark upon the world stage.
Tanzania have prepared for the competition with a three week training camp in India in April, which saw them take on five local sides in warm-up matches. Hamisi Abdallah's side also gained valuable experience when they took on some of the Associate member countries taking part in the World Cricket League Division One in Nairobi in January, although they did suffer a 79 run defeat to Scotland.
Uganda will be looking to improve on their performances at the ICC Trophy 2005, here they impressed at times but ultimately finished bottom of the 12 team tournament. There is plenty of quality in their 14 man squad, including promising teenage batsman Roger Mukasa. They warmed up for the event with defeats to both Bermuda and Kenya, although they did defeat Kenya A thanks to five wickets from Richard Okia.