Scotland are boosted by the return of Gavin Hamilton
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Mental strength and endurance are the qualities which will determine the winner of this week's ICC Six Nations tournament, starting in the United Arab Emirates tomorrow.
That's according to the management of the two more fancied teams, Scotland and Holland, who fittingly play each other on the first day in Dubai. Tony Judd, Scotland's Australian coach, and Hans Mulder, Holland's manager, both agreed that the mental strength and physical fitness needed to endure a tough schedule for mainly amateur cricketers will be crucial.
"The sides are so equal in terms of strengths and weaknesses, mentally it is going to be demanding," Judd said. "Fronting up five days out of seven is going to be a big ask, but if you've done the preparation it shouldn't be a problem."
"Form on the day, five days in seven days and adjusting to situations quickly will be important," added Mulder. "Any team can win this tournament - it's going to be very tough."
Judd also said that the evenness of the teams in the competition would provide a thorough test of strength. "All of these sides have good players, so on the day it's going to be the least known players who have the biggest impact on this tournament. It won't be won for a team by just one or two."
Scotland come into the tournament with arguably their strongest squad ever. They are bolstered by the return of Dougie Brown and Gavin Hamilton, the county players. Since arriving last Wednesday, the Scotland squad have played a trial match against a local side, DNATA, winning after some jitters in the batting.
Holland, meanwhile, are banking that two weeks spent in South Africa, where they played four matches, winning two and losing two, has provided sufficient preparation. "It went well because everyone contributed," Mulder said. The batting was headed by Bas Zuiderent, who scored 84 and 90 against a Western Province Academy XI.
In terms of preparation, Namibia have had possibly the strongest build-up, competing well against Bangladesh in a one-day series earlier this month, and after beating Zimbabwe A 3-1 last month. Francois Erasmus, their manager, echoed Judd and Mulder's sentiments regarding consistency. "Against Test playing countries like Bangladesh you learn that five overs is all that it takes to win or lose a match. We lost both the first two matches rather than them winning them."
Jan Berrie Berger, who struck 160 off 156 balls against Zimbabwe A is likely to be their batting cornerstone. His talent first became evident when he hit 85 in the 2003 World Cup against England. Rudi van Vuuren is fit to play in the tournament, shrugging off niggling injuries which limited his appearances for Namibia in the Rugby World Cup.
Canada won their lead-up match against Consolidated Shipping, one of the better local teams, by 35 runs, with Joe Harris, the captain, scoring 50. Bryan Mauricette, their coach, said he was confident his team could perform well, despite training indoors for the last couple of months. They will be without six members of their World Cup squad, including big-hitting John Davison, who is currently playing with the South Australian team.
The United States, with a number of West Indians, including Clayton Lambert, the former Test batsman, remain a threat, despite three players being in their 40s.
The United Arab Emirates, along with the home advantage, have also been boosted by a recent series against the MCC, winning a one-day match, and drawing a two-day game.
Scotland tour of United Arab Emirates
United States of America tour of United Arab Emirates
Netherlands tour of United Arab Emirates
Namibia tour of United Arab Emirates
Canada tour of United Arab Emirates
ICC Six Nation's Challenge