2017 Associates Team of the Year

Although, with Afghanistan and Ireland’s elevation to Full Membership, the year just passed in
the Associates world will likely be remembered more for developments off the field, there have been plenty of eye-catching performances outside of the Test-playing circle.

Below are our picks for the Associates team of 2017.

Anshuman Rath (Hong Kong)

Hong Kong’s young opener would be the first name on this list even if we weren’t going in batting order. 2017 has been a bumper year for the 20 year-old left-hander, bookended by two landmark international centuries.

His maiden List A ton came in the form of a blistering 134 against the Netherlands at Mong Kok in February, and his first ODI hundred – an unbeaten 143 against PNG in Dubai in December – set a new record for a Hong Kong batsman in ODIs and saw him finish top of the run-scoring charts in the World Cricket League Championship, with 678 runs at an average of 75.33.

Add to that a faintly ridiculous ODI average of 180 for the year (albeit from only two innings), 269 First Class runs at an average of almost 90 including a 98 not-out against the Netherlands, and captaining the HK side for the ACC Emerging Teams Cup where he was again the team’s top-scorer, few players can claim to have had a better 2017.

Kyle Coetzer (Scotland)

If his spectacular 156 against Bangladesh at the 2015 World Cup first brought Kyle Coetzer international attention, Scotland’s new captain has spent 2017 quietly proving that innings was no mere flash in the pan.

It was the Aberdonian’s centuries against Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe that helped Scotland claim their first wins over full members, the latter in a recognised ODI. His consistent scoring in the WCLC, capped off with another century against Kenya in Dubai in December, also saw Coetzer claim second place on the aggregate runs table and his side the runners-up spot behind the Netherlands, securing their place at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe in March.

Babar Hayat (Hong Kong)

Associate

Hong Kong’s big-hitting skipper’s excellent 2017 in limited overs cricket may have been overshadowed somewhat by Rath’s revelation of a year, but his unbeaten 214 against PNG in the Intercontinental Cup (surpassing his own 173 against the Netherlands earlier in the year) is likely to leave a more permanent mark on HK’s First Class record book, as well as ensuring he ended up top of the run tables in the competition with 712 runs from 11 innings.

Finishing the year on a high, he did manage to beat his young Hong Kong and Biratnagar Warriors team-mate into second place to claim top-scorer and player of the tournament at the second edition of Nepal’s Everest Premier League in December.

Sharad Vesawkar (Nepal)

For a side too often reliant on talismanic captain Paras Khadka and deputy Gyanendra Malla for runs, Vesawkar’s form has been a one of the few positives for Nepal in a disappointing 2017. His all-round performance saw them claim a rare WCLC victory against Kenya at home in March, taking 4-28 with his previously unheralded off-spin and sealing the game with a quickfire, unbeaten 24.

A composed century against Tamil Nadu A in a warm up match promised much, and though illness kept him out of Nepal’s fixtures against Hong Kong in October he came back to score a List A career-best 81* against the UAE in Dubai, albeit in a losing cause.

Roelof van der Merwe (Netherlands)

Associate

Quite incredibly for a player with such a long and successful career, 2017 was the year that saw Roelof van der Merwe score his maiden List A century.

As innings go, there can have been few more extraordinary than his brutal, match-reversing 165* for Somerset against Surrey in the Royal London One Day Cup, but his performances for the Netherlands will likely have more
lasting significance.

His near-chanceless 175 against Namibia in the Intercontinental Cup was his second big four-day hundred of the year for the Dutch, having struck 135 against Hong Kong in February, yet his adopted country will be more grateful for his steady contributions in the WCLC, not just with bat or ball but also the focus and intensity he brings in the field.

Probably most significant were his performances in February at Mong Kok, where a spell of 2-36 and a crucial catch at the death helped the Dutch hold off Hong Kong for a second time, and at Dubai in December, where he took three consecutive top-order wickets to keep Namibia on the back foot in the match that would see the Netherlands seal the WCLC title.

Matthew Cross [wk] (Scotland)

His place at the top of the dismissals table for the WCLC is a testament to his tidy glove-work, but it is above all Cross’ immaculate, unbeaten 106 against Sri Lanka at Beckenham in May that earns him his spot on our 2017 roster.

Having taken four catches and a run-out as Sri Lanka were held to 287, Cross could have claimed his share of credit for Scotland’s first win over a full member even had he played no further role. As it happened, he first put on a record 201-run opening stand with Kyle Coetzer and then pushed on to make a composed century and close out
the win with some seven overs to spare.

Though deprived of a maiden ODI century by that match’s unofficial status, and then falling 9 runs short against PNG at Port Moresby in October, one suspects a maiden ODI ton is just around the corner for Scotland’s young keeper-bat.

Peter Borren [c] (Netherlands)

Given what his side has accomplished over the last 12 months, establishing themselves as the arguably the top Associate in all three forms of the game, it should be no surprise to see the Netherlands’ Peter Borren leading our 2017 team of the year.

With bat in hand Borren’s most impressive achievements came on the domestic scene, becoming the first player this century to average more than 100 in a Dutch Topklasse season, but more importantly 2017 saw the culmination of a remarkable three-year campaign to lead the national side back from 2015 Division 2 to top the World Cricket League, reclaim their ODI status and bag the 13th spot in the ICC’s new ODI league from 2020.

Despite a couple of stand-out innings, most notably a fine century against a strong Zimbabwe A side in Harare in September and a determined 86* to see his side home against Kenya in October, Borren’s figures on the scoresheet undersell the pivotal role he played both on and off the field in dragging the Dutch back from the brink.

Patrick Matautaava (Vanuatu)

Performances in the lower divisions of the World Cricket League rarely make headlines, but Patrick Matautaava’s exploits for Vanuatu in 2017 are not so easily overlooked.

It was his man-of-the-match performance against Fiji in the de-facto final of the East Asia-Pacific Regional Qualifier, bowling an unchanged 10-over opening spell to claim 3-17 before striking an unbeaten half-century in Vanuatu’s reply, that secured them a berth at World Division 5 in South Africa – now the lowest rung of the World Cricket League ladder.

The pace-bowling all-rounder was again instrumental in Vanuatu’s triumph there, where his breakneck 139 from 76 balls against Germany was surely the highlight of the tournament.

Ehsan Khan (Hong Kong)

Though his spinning partner Nadeem Ahmed finished top of the WCLC wickets table, 2017 saw Ehsan Khan close the gap with a string of memorable performances.

He was Hong Kong’s stand-out performer at the Desert T20 in the UAE in January, picking up five wickets and
averaging 52 with the bat.

He went on to claim his first List A five-fer in the WCLC, running through Nepal to end with figures of 5-17 as Hong Kong closed out a comfortable win at Mong Kok in October, finishing the league with 18 wickets in seven matches at a strike rate of 18.7 – comfortably the best in the competition.

A maiden First Class five wicket haul followed against PNG at Dubai, taking 5-13 in the second innings to finish with match figures of 8-79 and clinching an innings victory for Hong Kong.

Bilal Khan (Oman)

Another stand-out performer for the lower echelons of Associates cricket, Oman’s remarkable rise from Division 5 to contention for a World Cup Qualifier spot owes much to the Peshawar-born left arm quick.

Having struggled to nail down a first team spot in the past owing to the more restrictive eligibility criteria that then applied in lower divisions, Khan cemented his place in the side with a fine showing at the Desert T20, taking 7 wickets at 16.7, and thoroughly repaid the selectors’ faith in him at WCL Division 3 with match-winning displays against Singapore and Uganda to see the Sultanate through to Division 2.

Vivian Kingma (Netherlands)

One of a number of promising pace prospects on the Dutch roster, Kingma’s return of 6-39 against Namibia, including a hat trick, in their final match of the WCLC was one of the most memorable displays of swing bowling that the competition has seen.

Kingma looked a force of nature as he dismantled the Namibian batting in that second game, but his opening spell in the previous match, in less swing-friendly conditions and under hugepressure, was arguably just as impressive.

Beginning with a wicket maiden to see off the dangerous Stephan Baard and conceding just ten runs from his next three overs – and that on a flat track with short boundaries – Kingma set the tone for the win that would see the Dutch claim the World Cricket League title and the coveted 13th ODI league spot.

With a big match temperament and a the ability to move the ball both ways at pace, it likely won’t be long before Kingma emulates his Netherlands team-mates, Somerset’s Paul van Meekeren and Essex’s Shane Snater (for whom a strong case for inclusion on this list could also be made), in attracting some interest from across the North Sea.

By Bertus de Jong