Associate review: More games required
The group stage is over, and we are saying goodbye to Associate involvement for another World Cup, and maybe we are saying goodbye to them forever.
The ICC's decision to reduce the 2019 World Cup to a 10-team affair has been met with massive condemnation from almost every quarter, and an online petition now has over 20,000 signatures opposing the move.
This is a fraction of the number that want Jeremy Clarkson reinstated after allegedly punching a co-worker, but it does show that there is a groundswell of opinion against the move.
As none of the four Associates made the quarter-finals, now is a good time to look back on how they have done and where they can improve.
It is impossible not to love Afghanistan. The back story is great, and the players are wholehearted cricketers that clearly love the game. They have dashing batsmen, wily spinners and quick bowlers who run in almost the whole way from the boundary.
The narrative they bring involves war-torn countries and cricket in refugee camps. They have face paint, passion and a joy for cricket and life that is so often missing in the uber-professional world that the sport now inhabits.
From a cricketing point of view, there was some success but a lot of the same issues as always – talented cricketers that too often act without thinking or get overrun with emotion. Shapoor Zadran, Dawlat Zadran and Hamid Hassan were great, but the real plus for the Afghans going forward is the way Samiullah Shenwari blossomed on this big stage.
His 254 runs at 42 included an excellent 54 made against a rampant New Zealand attack. What he needs is batsmen to stay with him, not get bored and start trying to blast sixes. It would make Afghanistan less adorable but a lot more successful if they could rein it in a bit.
Ireland finished the World Cup so close to a quarter final, and if the other results had gone differently for them in the group they could well have made the knockout stages. In fact. if head to head results, rather than net run rate, were used for a tie breaker for sides on the same points, then they would be heading to New Zealand to face the co-hosts.
They had the same number of wins as Bangladesh and West Indies, both of whom progressed. What really hurt Ireland was the big losses to South Africa and India, and the reason for the size of those defeats was their bowling.
In the absence of Tim Murtagh there was no real wicket-taking threat in this Irish lineup. It was a surprise that Craig Young didn't get a single game, especially when it became clear that John Mooney and Alex Cusack were not going to give them the cutting edge they needed with the two new balls.
The real excitement with the Irish came when you were watching them bat. They may have conceded over 300 against West Indies and Zimbabwe, but they scored well over 300 as well. William Porterfield, Ed Joyce and Andy Balbirnie all scored well over 200 runs, Niall O’Brien managed 199.
For Ireland to push on they need bowling depth, for England to stop pilfering their best talent, and games. They need to play cricket against the top teams.
The Scottish can only be disappointed with their performances in this World Cup. Before the tournament they were targeting the games against Afghanistan, England and Bangladesh as the matches were they could push for a win.
As it was, it was only the game against Afghanistan where they came close, and it really was close. A one wicket defeat in the final over was really a bum squeaker.
The highlight came in the game against Bangladesh where Kyle Coetzer's 156 saw them score 318. As it was, the Tigers chased it down with relative ease. The next highest score in that Scotland innings was 39, and if Coetzer had some more support it could have been different.
This group of Scottish players are not without talent but they lack the kind of experience to compete at this level. They could do with some games against the big boys in between World Cups as well.
Josh Davey's seam and swing saw him pick up 15 wickets at 20 apiece to leave him as one of the leading wicket takers in the tournament, but there were too many bad balls in amongst the wicket-taking ones. Scotland certainly didn't embarrass themselves, but they will now have a much better idea of what cricket at the highest level entails.
Many didn't give the UAE much of a chance in this World Cup, but those people can't have been watching what Aaqib Javed has done as coach. While they didn't win a game, their batting was better than what Afghanistan managed and their bowling was a lot better than anything the Irish had on show.
The stand out performer was Shaiman Anwar, who scored 311 runs at 51, including a brilliant hundred that was nearly enough to spoil Ireland’s run for the quarter finals before it had even begun. He also made fifties against Pakistan and Zimbabwe to leave him as one of the leading run scorers at the World Cup.
From a bowling viewpoint, Manjula Guruge bowled brilliantly with the new ball and was at times one of the quickest bowlers on show. His seven wickets at an average of 19 represent a fantastic return. Mohammad Tauqir was tidy enough in the middle overs with his off spin, performing better than many would have expected.
Ultimately, the issue for the UAE was one of not having quite enough class and, although they had the oldest squad at the World Cup, not having quite enough experience. If the Emirates Cricket Board can find a way to spark local interest while harnessing ex-pat talent, this won't be the last world event where we see the UAE.
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