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Bermuda the only blight

Will Luke gives marks out of ten to the top six Associates in the World Cup Qualifiers

The final four places for the 2011 World Cup weren't decided until the last, exciting round of matches. Much was expected of the top six three weeks ago. How did they perform?

The previous top six

(Marks out of ten)

Biggest surprise William Porterfield's tenacious, confident batting and calm leadership.
Best player Porterfield and Eoin Morgan. And Phil Simmons's aura as coach
The future is bright; the future's green. Good young players and a solid development programme, allied to greater financial investment, equals a promising outlook. But still their best players will be pick-pocketed by England.
In one sentence Not at their best, yet were still the envy of opposing coaches.

Biggest surprise That they maintained consistency and didn't rely on the (injured) John Davison.
Best player Khurram Chohan. Consistent and economical.
The future is hazy but the sun is breaking through. Investment from Scotiabank is rumoured to continue, but they urgently need some athleticism in the field and younger native-born players coming through.
In one sentence A solid performance throughout, befitting their status, but lacking in eye-catching displays.

Biggest surprise That they limited their renowned ability to implode to just two matches when they slipped to heavy defeats against Canada and Namibia
Best player Kennedy Otieno. 346 runs at 57.66 (pre play-offs)
The future is exciting but nerve-wracking. Andy Kirsten has gelled with the squad and opposing coaches are envious of the obvious talent. If only they didn't switch off so randomly.
In one sentence World-beaters on their day and, with Ireland, comfortably more accomplished than any other team, but Ireland are now the Associate team to beat - and they know it.

Biggest surprise Edgar Schiferli who topped the wickets tally and made so many crucial top-order incisions.
Best player Schiferli for his bowling, Alexei Kervezee for crucial runs and a maturity beyond his years.
The future Who knows? Ryan ten Doeschate preferred to play for Essex rather than Netherlands, and likewise Kervezee will play more and more for Worcestershire. Schiferli can't bowl for ever.
In one sentence A surprisingly adept performance, with regular contributions from key players, they deserve their World Cup placing.

Biggest surprise - That they played so consistently poorly and were, at times, embarrassingly disappointing. Ryan Watson, one stone lighter, had a shocker.
Best player Neil McCallum. Several key innings (416 runs @ 59.42) and one of their best fielders.
The future is confusing. They only reached the top six by the thinnest of net run-rate margins. The inquest into their performance will determine their four-year future. Watson could call it quits, and Craig Wright (their best bowler, but feeling his age) too.
In one sentence Their batting was remarkably brittle, and their bowling and fielding was notably poor, much to the turf-kicking chagrin of their wicketkeeper.

Biggest surprise That they won any matches.
Best player Gus Logie for his honesty; David Hemp for topping the averages.
The future is deservedly dismal and they urgently need to re-think their approach to grassroots cricket if they are to ever compete on the world stage again. Where has all the money gone? Why would they rather play domestic cricket than internationals? More questions than answers.
In one sentence An eye-sore for the ICC who can now concentrate on another Associate nation who actually wants to progress.

The new No.6

Biggest surprise The depth of talent. Two quality opening bowlers, and Karim Khan is an absurdly gifted allround cricketer (normally a wicketkeeper, he injured a finger and subsequently picked up 11 wickets).
Best player - Karim Khan, though he loses points for a couple of overly aggressive incidents. Nowroz Mangal batted beautifully.
The future is tricky to determine but tremendously exciting. The extra funding will transform their lives, as long as it falls into the right hands, but cricket in schools is still reliant on equipment from charities and the MCC. Shapoor Zadran and Hamid Hassan are natural bowlers and highly gifted. How long before ICL or IPL suits spot themselves a bargain?
In one sentence The most enjoyable Affiliate nation to watch for years, a side simmering with talent and belief, but they cannot afford to rest on their admittedly humble laurels - particularly playing four-day cricket in the ICC Intercontinental Cup.

Will Luke is assistant editor of Cricinfo