The differences between the two teams that took the field at the Bready Cricket Club's debut match at the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier are stark.

Hong Kong has a population of seven million in a thriving metropolis that is the gateway to another billion people in China. Its gross domestic product is touching $400 billion and its airport is one of Asia's busiest transit hubs with more than 1000 flights daily.

Jersey has a population of 100,000 on a Channel Island just off the northwest coast of France. Their GDP is $5 billion and their airport takes in 50 flight arrivals a day from the UK and a handful more from Germany.

In cricket terms, Hong Kong are a top-six ranked ODI Associate alongside Ireland and Afghanistan with more than a million in ICC funding in the last year and seven players on central contracts. Just over a year ago, they toppled host nation Bangladesh for a famous win at the 2014 ICC World Twenty20.

Jersey are ranked in Division Five of the World Cricket League alongside Oman, Nigeria and Tanzania and receive less than half of what Hong Kong gets from the ICC for being outside the top six Associates. They have one player, Under-19 captain Jonty Jenner, on an English county contract. Just over a year ago, they lost to host nation Singapore - not to mention Malaysia, Oman and Denmark - and were relegated from Division Four.

But the two teams took the field as equals on Saturday. Three hours later, it was Jersey who looked like an Associate titan rather than the lowest seeded team on their ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier debut that was a prime candidate for the qualifier's wooden spoon.

As the game took on the shape of a dogfight, Jersey were willing to scratch and claw to save every run while Hong Kong never seemed hungry enough to bite back.

Performances such as this are what make this tournament such an entertaining spectacle for those lucky enough to witness it firsthand. In the last few years more efforts have been made to get higher level Associate cricket on TV - 14 of the 42 group stage matches at this tournament will be televised - but the majority of Associate cricket is played in the shadows. However, the passion and intensity is no less than Full Member contests that are beamed across television worldwide on a regular basis.

In fact, the desperation to perform is arguably even greater at Associate level. The opportunities to play are scarce and increased funding from the ICC is dependent upon positive on-field results for the few tournaments that are staged. Netherlands are a prime example of the unforgiving nature of the ICC's merit-based funding structures as one bad tournament can see your players go from professional status back to the ranks of amateurs in a single second-innings chase.

With the World Twenty20 going to a four-year cycle, several members of Jersey's youthful squad will have started and finished university by the time the next chance to reach a major ICC tournament comes around. The urgency to make the most of their time in Ireland was evident throughout their performance against Hong Kong.

Their bowlers were solid if unspectacular, but each one approached the crease with pinpoint focus on keeping things tight. The fielders hared around the outfield throwing their bodies to save boundaries with back-up fielders never far behind to relay the ball in. As the game took on the shape of a dogfight, Jersey were willing to scratch and claw to save every run while Hong Kong never seemed hungry enough to bite back.

Many Jersey players have come up through U-15 and U-19 ranks together over the last 10 years. The chemistry they have is obvious and it will be the envy of quite a few teams at this tournament.

While Nepal and Afghanistan may have the biggest group of traveling supporters at this tournament, Jersey won't be left out of the conversation either. The fans, mostly family members and a few others, have the tight knit bond that is expected of a small island posse. When Jim Perchard, groundsman at Jersey's Farmers Cricket Club and father of national team player Charles, was asked which player on the field was his son, he responded emphatically, "They're all my sons, every single one on the team. Let's go you boys in red!"

As Jersey was halfway to the target of 154 with captain Peter Gough and Edward Farley bullying the Hong Kong attack, the confidence grew not just to the players on the bench, whose cheers kept growing louder, but to the traveling fans as well. When it was remarked that this journalist had never seen Jersey play in person before, Perchard shot back, "Well you won't really have watched the whole team either today. We're only going to have two guys bat." He was nearly right.

It was fitting that Gough and Jenner were together at the end for the winning runs. The oldest player in the squad, a 30-year-old amateur with grey sprouting through his short, crew cut, in tandem with Jersey's youngest player - a 17-year-old professional with a thick, flowing mane - showed what the present and future of Jersey is capable of achieving.

Tim Anderson, ICC's head of global development, told ESPNcricinfo just prior to the ICC's confirmation of a 10-team World Cup for 2019 that, "I think there's a lot of respect in the Full Member world, at least at our board table, of the merit-based systems that happen in the Associate world." Given a chance to play on merit, the Jersey Boys showed Hong Kong what they're made of.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent. @PeterDellaPenna