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ICC Trophy - Group B Division 1 preview and prospects

2001 is perhaps make or break year for Irish Cricket

Dave Liverman
Group B
  • Ireland (2)
  • Denmark (3)
  • Hong Kong (6)
  • Bermuda (7)
  • USA (10)
  • PNG (11)
by Gerry Byrne
2001 is perhaps make or break year for Irish Cricket. The ICC Trophy in Toronto is a huge challenge and anything less than qualification for the World Cup in South Africa will be regarded as a massive disappointment. In Malaysia, Ireland finished third and just failed to qualify.
This time two of those who finished ahead of them are already prequalified for South Africa (Bangladesh and Kenya) and yet there are still three slots available. The problem, however, is that the Irish side is a weaker one than played in Malaysia. We have lost batsmen of the quality of Alan Lewis, Justin Benson, Angus Dunlop, and all rounders such as Garfield Harrison and Uel Graham. The only newcomer to the batting line up that compares with those is Ed Joyce, presently under contract with Middlesex, and while there are one of two promising younger players the competition may be coming a year too early for them in terms of experience. Dominick Joyce, younger brother of Ed, came into the squad after a good Namibian tour.
A key element of our team in Canada may be the slow bowling department with the evergreen Matt Dwyer, skipper Kyle McCallan, Dekker Curry, and newcomer Andrew White. As well as being good spinners, they are all recognised batsmen. On the other hand the quicker bowling department is weak with Mark Patterson and Ryan Eagleson both recovering from long term injuries.
Coach Ken Rutherford has high hopes of a World Cup spot, and Ireland will still be the team to beat in Group B.
Denamrk is a young team, markedly different from that which finished 5th in Malaysia in 1997. Seeded third this year, Denmark will be a contender for a World Cup spot. The Andersen brothers return, this time with Morten as captain - and he will be a useful all-rounder. The side's strength will be in its bowling, with Thomas Hansen's left arm fast medium leading the way. Hansen has brief first-class experience with Hampshire, and he'll be joined by youngster Amjad Khan, born in Copenhagen but making his first-class debut with Kent this year. together they may form the best opening attack in the tournament, matched only by Blain and Brinkley for Scotland. They'll be supported by Vestergaard and the Andersens. Backed by a strong fielding side, runs will be hard to get against the Danes.
The batting is weaker, but their wicket-keeper Frederik Klokker looks to be a promising talent. A left-handed opening bat, he is just 18, he scored well on Denmark's South African tour, and captained the Danish under-19 squad last year. The top 5 or 6 in the batting order need to take charge and produce the runs required for Denmark to contend.
Coach Ole Mortensen thinks they have a good chance of qualifcation despite a lack of experience, but they will have to improve markedly from the European Cricket Championships last year when an under-strength squad lost every match, including an embarrassing defeat by Italy.
Hong Kong
Hong Kong bring a team that in the opinion of their evergreen captain, Stewart Brew, is one of the strongest he's seen. The Queensland-born Brew brings his experience of two previous ICC Trophy competitions, as well as his elegant batting, and useful medium pace bowling. The batting will rely much on him, and Rahul Sharma. Sharma, who played briefly for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy, had an outstanding Asian Cricket Council Trophy in Sharjah, making 95 and 145; and 78 in the final. Mohammad Zubair, who along with opening bat Saleem Malik and Tabarak Dar spent time last year at the Australian Cricket Academy, will lead the bowling.
Andy Moles will act as coach, replacing Adam Hollioake, who coached Hong Kong during their run to the final of the Asian Cricket Council Trophy last November. There, they established themselves as a strong all-round side, winning their group unbeaten, demolishing Nepal in the semi-finals, and losing narrowly to UAE in the final. This qualifed them for the Asia Cup one-day tournament in Karachi, alongside Test-playing nations India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. In Toronto they will hope to push Denmark for second place in their group.
Bermuda have come close to World Cup qualification several times though the ICC Trophy - losing in the final in 1982 and losing a 3rd place play-off to Holland in 1994 - but were a disappointing 9th in 1997. Their batting is strong and experienced. The captain, Charlie Marshall, is a reliable left handed run-scorer, and Clay Smith, entering his third ICC Trophy, is also likely to score heavily. Both are useful with the ball. Albert Steede can also contribute, and Janeiro Tucker is a talented all-rounder.
They gained experience of Toronto conditions at the Americas Cup, where they survived a scare against the surprising Cayman Islands, beat Argentina, and then defeated Group B rivals USA with ease before losing to Canada in the final match.
Under new coach Mark Harper (who has recently replaced Roland Butcher), they will push hard for a second round place, and are more than capable of upsetting higher ranked rivals.
United States
The US team brings a blend of experience and youth to the ICC. They have the player of the highest quality in the tournament in Faoud Bacchus. Bacchus played 19 Tests for the West Indies, including in those a memorable 250 against India, and is familiar with Canadian conditions having formerly played there. Bacchus is now 47, and age may be taking its toll, but he is a high-class bat, and will be devastating against weaker bowling. He'll be supported by youngsters David Wallace and Rohan Alexander who form a promising opening partnership; and middle-order bat and captain Richard Staple, who played 20 first-class matches with Jamaica in the early 1990s. The other player with first-class expereince is Joy Zinto, who took 57 first-class wickets for Gujarat in the 1980s with his slow left-arm spin. He is also a useful bat with three first-class fifties. Zinto will head the bowling, which on paper at least is less impressive than the batting.
The Americans had a disappointing Americas Cup, only beating the Cayman Islands thanks to a last wicket partnership, and lost to both Canada and Bermuda. The squad for the ICC Trophy is considerably stronger, however, and may be able to surprise Bermuda or Hong Kong. Syed Abid Ali will coach, and they will have to perform well to make it to the Super League.
Papua New Guinea
Lowest seeded in Group B, Papua New Guinea will struggle to advance to the Super League. Their cricket is slowly emerging from a period of internal administrative strife that at one point threatened to remove some of their best players from the national squad. They lost to Fiji in the Pacifica Cup semi final, but finshed overall in 3rd.
National team captain, Navu Maha believes batsmen John Ovia and Daniel Faunt will be key players, while Toka Gaudi and leg-spinner Ross Vagi are also expected to stand out. Maha himself is an exciting left-handed bat and useful spin bowler. Keimelo Vuivagi's father played in the ICC Trophy in 1982, and he himself is one of five who represented PNG in the 1997 tournament.