Americas Qualifier Preview: Teams seek T20 World Cup debut

The winner of the four-team tournament will make their T20 World Cup debut at next year's event

Canada beat PNG by 90 runs at the 2023 Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off

Four teams arrive in Bermuda this week, knowing that one of them will go on to make their T20 World Cup debut next year. Alongside the host nation, Canada, Panama and the Cayman Islands will compete in the Americas regional final with one berth at next year’s T20 World Cup up for grabs.

That this tournament will give us a T20 World Cup debutant is the result of both the expansion of the World Cup to 20 teams, and the removal of the Global Qualifying round, making the regional finals the last step before the World Cup. And with USA qualifying automatically as hosts, and making their T20 World Cup debuts themselves, a path is cleared for a second debutant from the Americas region at next year’s tournament.

It’s a reflection on the region that until now, no Americas associate has qualified for a T20 World Cup. This despite Canada making every global qualifier since the tournament’s inception, and USA and Bermuda both making the final qualifying round 5 times out of 8. Across the eight events, the closest an Americas team has got to a T20 World Cup was USA in 2022, who lost a winner-takes-all game against Netherlands. Canada and Bermuda have never got within a game of the T20 World Cup.

But two will debut at next year’s event, with the second decided by an 8-day, 12-match tournament taking place between 30th September and 7th October on the North Atlantic island of Bermuda. The four teams will play a double round-robin with the table topper booking their place in the main event in the USA and Caribbean.

Although yet to make their T20 World Cup bows, Canada and Bermuda are no strangers to World Cup tournaments. Canada have featured at four editions of the ODI World Cup, in 1979, 2003, 2007 and 2011. Bermuda, too, made their one and only World Cup appearance at the 2007 ODI event, which was also hosted in the Caribbean. For the other two sides, Cayman Islands and Panama, this is the closest either has got to an ICC global tournament.

Canada arrive at the tournament as heavy favourites, both as the highest ranked side in the event (19th) as well as being unbeaten in T20Is against their opponents in the tournament. Their last meeting against Bermuda, at the equivalent event in 2021, was a comfortable 46-run win. Their squad is led by left-arm spinner and all-rounder Saad bin Zafar, who will also be a central player in Canada’s campaign. Behind him are a number of experienced players, including Navneet Dhaliwal and Jeremy Gordon. On top of Canada’s strong T20I record in recent times, the team also regained ODI status at the World Cup Qualifier playoff earlier in 2023, offering both a funding and moral boost to the team. 

Bermuda have had a rougher ride over the last 4 years. After defeating USA twice to make the Global Qualifiers in 2019, Bermuda lost every game at that tournament. A difficult regional campaign followed in 2021, where they lost to Canada and the USA and missed out on the global qualifiers. In the meantime, they lost all but one of their games in the Challenge League – a no result – and will have to fight to retain their place on the 50 over ladder next year. However, they dominated the subregional earlier in 2023, going unbeaten, to inject some momentum back into their international campaign.

Behind that rise was the return of Delray Rawlins as captain. The former Sussex allrounder pairs up with Kamau Leverock to form a formidable duo with bat and ball. However, the rest of the squad carries much less experience and the islanders will be reliant on their two stars and home advantage to push Canada.

For Cayman Islands and Panama, their chances are slimmer still. Although the Cayman Islands were 2nd in the sub-regional round with a 3-1 record, their three wins were comparatively slim compared with their margin of defeat to Bermuda. Panama qualified in 3rd but with only one win, edging out Argentina and Bahamas on net run rate. The two teams can expect to be competitive with each other but will need extraordinary circumstances to challenge the other two.

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