The ICC European Division 2 Championship gets underway on Monday in Guernsey. Six countries - Croatia, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Guernsey and Jersey - will compete for the title, and their finishing positions will determine their potential entry into the proposed expansion of the World Cricket League.
This will be the second major European tournament to be held on the island after Guernsey hosted last year's Under-23 Division 2 Championship. The current holder of the Division 2 title is Norway, who triumphed in Glasgow in 2006 by defeating Jersey in the deciding encounter. As a result Norway were promoted and took part in this season's European Division 1 Championship in Dublin.
Jersey is the highest-ranked team and the tournament-favourites, having finished as runner-up to Afghanistan in the World Cricket League Division 5 tournament held in Jersey in May. Captain Matthew Hague leads a strong squad in which Peter Gough (averaging 104) and Ryan Driver (12 wickets at 8.25) were the outstanding individual performers back in May. The side has a very solid batting line-up and an excellent bowling attack in which Andy Dewhurst and Hague will play major roles.
Guernsey were disappointed by their European debut in Glasgow in 2006 when they were beaten by Germany and Hellas before going on to defeat Israel and France to claim fifth place. Lee Savident, the player of the tournament, and Matthew Oliver both impressed with the bat in Glasgow and young 16-year-old Timothy Ravenscroft shone in the ICC European Under-17 Championship in Belfast this year.
Germany - who possess a useful bowling attack - finished in third place in Glasgow and took seventh place in the World Cricket League Division 5 tournament, but their batting remains fragile. Meanwhile Gibraltar have a proud record in the Division 2 Championships, having taken the title in Glasgow in 2000 and going on to retain it in Belfast two years later. In 2006 it lost the third place play-off to Germany by 96 runs, and they are once again led by Christian Rocca, the 43-year-old opening batsman. However, eight of the squad are under 25.
France had only one success in 2006, albeit an excellent win by 7 runs against Jersey while Croatia come into the tournament with high expectations following their fine performance in last season's Division 3 tournament. The title was won in Brussels with a thrilling four-run victory over Spain in the final, John Vujnovich making 88 with useful contributions from Christopher Pivac and brother Peter Vujnovich.