2020 T20 World Cup Qualifier: UAE play host as 14 teams battle for six coveted spots

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The 14 teams are ready for battle in the UAE. Image - T20WC/Twitter.

The stage is all set for the 2020 T20 World Cup Qualifier which gets under way on Friday, with 14 teams including hosts UAE set to battle it out for the six spots on offer.

The top six teams from the upcoming tournament will join Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in Australia for the first round of the 2020 T20 World Cup, which begins a year from now. Four teams from the first round will then advance to the Super 12 stage where they will join the heavyweights such as Australia, India, England and Pakistan.

The stakes, as such, couldn’t be higher for the 14 teams in the UAE currently with T20 cricket fever set to grip Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the coming days.

FORMAT

League stage

The 14 participating teams have been divided into two groups containing seven sides apiece, as follows:

Group A: Scotland, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Singapore, Bermuda and Kenya.

Group B: UAE, Ireland, Oman, Hong Kong, Canada, Jersey and Nigeria.

Each team from a particular group will take on the six others in a league style format. Group A fixtures will take place in Dubai at the Dubai International Cricket stadium and the ICC Academy grounds while Group B matches will be held at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket stadium in Abu Dhabi.

After a total of 42 league games, the two respective group-toppers will secure a place in the first round in Australia while also advancing to the semi-final of the qualifying tournament.

Play-offs

The four other teams to join them in Australia will be decided through a series of five play-off clashes.

The teams which finish second in their respective group will take on the third-placed side from the other group in the first two play-off matches. The winner of the two clashes will also secure a place in the first round in Australia while advancing to the qualifying semi-final.

Then, the losers of those two clashes will take on the fourth-placed teams from both groups in a couple of play-off clashes. The winners of those two matches will become the fifth and sixth teams to book their tickets to Australia.

While the six qualifiers will have been decided by then, the tournament will continue with the semi-finals, final and third-place decider to come in Dubai. The final of the tournament takes place on November 2 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

How UAE are shaping up

With an ICC T20I ranking of 12, the hosts are the second-highest rated team in the competition with only Ireland ranked above them. As such, they will be the one of the favourites to top Group B and secure a direct place in the first round in Australia. It won’t be easy, however, with neighbours Oman making rapid strides in recent months while Hong Kong, Canada and even Jersey are potential banana skins.

That the team have lost the services of their skipper Mohammad Naveed, Qadeer Ahmed Khan and Shaiman Anwar Butt after they were charged by the ICC’s anti-corruption unit, just days before the start of the tournament, has thrown a spanner into the works.

The responsibility of leading the side is now on the shoulders of Ahmed Raza and the left-arm orthodox spinner definitely has his work cut out for him. Still, the qualification outlook remains rosy for the UAE despite the disruption,  with the side registering a morale-boosting win over a strong Scotland in a recent warm-up clash.

The side’s campaign opener against Oman could prove to be their toughest test in Group B and it is one they will be desperate to win. Ireland, despite their higher ranking, have not been in the best of form in the T20 format but they will still pose a big threat. Hong Kong have recently lost the services of their talismanic skipper Anshuman Rath and that will be a factor in the tournament.

UAE Key Players

All-rounder Rohan Mustafa and top-order batsman Ashfaq Ahmed now become pivotal to the UAE’s hopes in the tournament and both of them were in fine form when the side emphatically blanked Netherlands 4-0 earlier this year in Amstelveen.

UAE's Rohan Mustafa.

UAE’s Rohan Mustafa.

While Mustafa finished as the top wicket-taker in that series, Ashfaq was instrumental with the bat and averaged more than 50. The pair, along with skipper Reza, need to stand up big time if the UAE are to go deep in the tournament and qualify for Australia.

Other major contenders

Scotland, Ireland and Oman will definitely be up there in the tournament and should be able to progress to Australia alongside the UAE if they play to their potential. As for the dark horses, Singapore have been making all the right noises recently while Bermuda and Jersey are no pushovers either.

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