The first of the final round of qualifiers for the 2024 Men’s T20 World Cup are upon us. With the removal of the Global Qualifier round and the expansion of the World Cup, the regional finals take on a whole new dynamic.
And the first to run is the European round, where seven teams will compete for two berths at next year’s tournament. Twenty-one matches will be played across nine days in Edinburgh, Scotland, with the top two on the table advancing to the World Cup in the USA and Caribbean in June 2024.
Seven teams will take to the field in Edinburgh to battle it out for two spots at the World Cup, two of whom played at the 2022 T20 World Cup: Scotland and Ireland. Scotland were eliminated in the first round, whilst Ireland managed 5th place in their Super 12s group. Neither was enough to qualify directly for the 2024 tournament, either on field or via rankings, meaning both fall back to the qualifiers
Two teams qualified by virtue of making the global qualifiers in the last cycle: Germany and Jersey. Both would have been relegated to the regional finals under the old system, but the switch to a regional-only qualification system means they remain one step away from the finals.
The final three teams, Denmark, Italy, and Austria, won their subregional rounds in 2022, played in Finland and Belgium. Denmark and Italy return to the regional qualifiers having made the tournament in 2021, whilst Austria have made the regional round for the first time after overcoming Guernsey and Norway.
There’s lots to dig into in the squad news but the headlines are taken by Italy, who have assembled an imposing array of professional players with Italian heritage. The South Australia based Manenti brothers, Ben and Harry, are set to make their debuts for the Azzurri, with the former having played for Sydney Sixers in the BBL.
Grant Stewart and Wayne Madsen have been released from their county contracts, alongside stalwart and player-coach Gareth Berg. Madsen is also due to debut for the Azzurri having recently made himself available for Italy, whilst Stewart returns to the side for the first time since the 2021 T20 Qualifiers. Both Madsen and Stewart will only be available from Sunday’s fixtures onwards, as they remain with their counties for this week’s fixtures.
The other teams have been less successful at releasing their county professionals. Scotland remain without Josh Davey and Michael Jones, though Brad Currie is in line for his Scotland debut after being released by Hampshire. Oli Hairs, Adrian Neil and Gavin Main also received recalls from the squad that missed out at the ODI qualifiers, with pacer Chris Sole missing out with injury.
Ireland’s Paul Stirling leads his team into an ICC event for the first time after taking white-ball captaincy duties from Andrew Balbirnie. Gareth Delany misses out after suffering a broken wrist, as one of three changes for Ireland from the squad that finished 7th at the ODI qualifiers. Uncapped Theo van Woekrom is called up, alongside Ross Adair and Neil Rock.
Germany are without opening batter Justin Broad, but retain the services of former professionals Dieter Klein and Michael Richardson. Finally, Jersey, Denmark and Austria have been able to name near to full strength squads.
Scotland and Ireland, as the most experienced teams, carry the obvious favourites tags coming into the tournament. However, Ireland’s recent struggles in the ODI World Cup Qualifiers, and their tendency to start slow in tournaments is expected to give Scotland an edge. Pushing Ireland and Scotland for a spot at the World Cup will be Jersey, Germany and Italy. Jersey have dominated within that trio over recent years with a youthful team growing in experience, and had success in the build up with wins over Guernsey and Netherlands ‘A’. Germany arrive on a 6 game winning streak after series against Austria and Belgium, whilst Italy will be bolstered by the addition of their heritage players.
Threat of rain
It simply wouldn’t be cricket in Scotland without the threat of rain, and with the entire UK suffering a cool, wet July, these next 9 days will be no exception. Short, heavy spells of rain could interrupt play on any day, but the forecast for the weekend is worse, with heavy rain forecast for Saturday and Sunday. Whilst Saturday is a scheduled rest day, Sunday’s games could be a washout, and could even spill over into Monday. With no reserve days scheduled, Duckworth-Lewis-Stern and no-results could be a influential factor on the tournament.
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