A Free-For-All in Asia? (Two Spots)
With Europe and Africa getting the same representation at the 2024 World Cup as they did in 2022, the final expansion berth is awarded to Asia, who have two sides advancing from their regional final.
UAE are returning to the qualifiers after a 2022 tournament which saw them take their first win at a T20 World Cup, against Namibia, and threaten Netherlands. With a young team and one that is likely to develop over the coming 18 months, the Emiratis are favourites to qualify for the next edition too.
But who claims the second berth is anyone’s guess, with seven other teams contending. Among the favourites will be Nepal, looking to reach their first World Cup in 10 years. Nepal missed out on the 2022 event after finishing 3rd in Global Qualifier, losing to UAE in the all-important semi-finals. But since then, Nepal have lost star player Sandeep Lamichhane to suspension, and have slipped in both white-ball formats.
The other front-runner is Oman, who played at and co-hosted the 2021 T20 World Cup. Like Nepal, they missed out on the 2022 World Cup at the final hurdle, losing their semi-final to Ireland, and so should be firmly in contention for qualification. But Oman possesses an ageing side, and one that has not been able to recover its pre-pandemic form. They were outclassed by Canada in the Desert Cup T20, and lost a game to Bahrain, but finished 2nd overall.
Perhaps the final berth may come from outside of Asia’s ODI rostrum. Although unable to regain ODI status, Hong Kong have remained competitive in the T20I format, and qualified for the 2022 Asia Cup ahead of UAE. Likewise, Bahrain, an unknown quantity to many before 2022, have shown themselves capable of upsets, beating both Oman and UAE in this calendar year.
Two final teams will advance from the sub-regional rounds, and should Malaysia or Qatar advance, either could have an outside chance of qualification. Both have been competitive within their Challenge League group and maintained parity with Bahrain in a T20I Quadrangular series, with Malaysia winning both league stage fixtures but losing to Bahrain in the final.
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