"We have shown the cricketing world what we are capable of and we as a team are very excited to play and showcase our skills in another ICC event" - Anshuman Rath Getty

The ICC's decade-long 50-over competition for Associate members, the World Cricket League, will see its final tournament play out at Windhoek this week, making way for the new Cricket World Cup Leagues, which will provide the structure for international one-day competition from this year forward.

For 26 of the 32 participants in the new structure (including, for the first time, the ICC's 12 Full Members) their place in the new order is already decided. For the six teams at Windhoek - Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Namibia, Canada, Oman and the United States - five games each over the next ten days will decide which four join Scotland, the UAE and Nepal in CWC League 2 (effectively the replacement for the old WCL Championship), with the bottom two teams dropping down to the CWC Challenge Leagues for the coming cycle.

The Format

The tournament will follow the standard template for most World Cricket League events - a round robin followed by a final and placement playoffs. The main business of the tournament will be settled through a simple six-team group stage, with all the teams playing each other once.

After the group stage, the top two teams on points (with net run rate as the first tie-breaker) progress to the final, whilst the third and fourth-ranked teams contest the third-place play-off and the bottom two teams face off for the wooden spoon. The cut-off for promotion to CWC League 2 is at fourth, however, so the final games will essentially be played for pride.

With three matches played simultaneously on every game-day and only two rest/reserve days on the 22nd and 25th, the 18-match tournament lasts just eight days in total. Though the six teams, all having a long pedigree in WCL events, will be well used to the intense schedule of the format, the breakneck pace leaves little room for recovery either physically or psychologically from early setbacks, and any early upsets could wreck even the fortunes of the favourites.

What's at Stake

Context and consequences have long been the hallmark of Associates cricket in general and the World Cricket League especially, but baring perhaps the final WCL Championship there has never been a WCL tournament with higher stakes than this, the league's last hurrah. The top four finishers will win promotion to the new CWC League 2, where together with Scotland, the UAE and Nepal they can look forward to a total of 36 fixtures over the next cycle. Not only will the games at League 2 be full ODIs, but the 7 participating teams will also be accorded ODI status until at least the next World Cup Qualifier, bringing the number of ODI nations to 20. League 2 also affords the chance at placing directly for the next WC Qualifier through a top 3 finish, whilst the League 2 champion has a shot at qualifying for the 13-team Super League the following cycle, by outperforming the 13th team at the WC Qualifier.

For the bottom two teams, the CWC Challenge League will look rather more familiar. The two six-team groups will run in parallel, with the fifth-placed team from Division 2 pencilled in to join Singapore, Denmark, Malaysia, Vanuatu and Qatar in Group A, whilst the bottom-placed team meeting Kenya, Uganda, Jersey, Bermuda and Italy in Group B. The draw is understood to remain subject to tinkering, however, in part due to the format. Each competition will comprise three single-venue six-team round-robin tournaments reminiscent of WCL Divisional events and at least three suitable hosts will presumably have to be found in each group. The format thus affords each side 15 fixtures across the cycle, with the games given List A status, and the champion of each will progress to a six-team tournament entitled the "Challenge Play-off" which will effectively serve the same function as the current Division 2.

The Conditions

In the distant past, the wickets in Windhoek might have justified the blanket term "Southern African conditions," but the days of pacey batting tracks in Namibia seem to be long gone. The last two editions of WCL Division 2 were both held at Windhoek, but saw just one 300+ score across the two tournaments.

Trusco United has always been a tough ground for batsmen - generally slow and low and sometimes somewhat two-paced, and offering turn for spinners, especially in the second innings. Both Affies and Wanderers have tended to be more batting-friendly, Wanderers generally the fastest and bounciest of the three in recent years, though Affies' shorter boundaries can reward sides willing to take risks with the bat.

April in Namibia is generally drier than February when the previous edition was held and saw numerous rain interruptions and even a couple of wash-outs, but morning mist and afternoon thunderstorms are still not unheard of. The former has assisted early swing in the past, but the switch from the Dukes ball to the Kookaburra is likely to limit the lateral movement that was seen in the mornings last year. Expect slow-bowlers and the cannier seamers to dominate, together with batsmen capable of putting their own pace on the ball.

Above all, with temperatures upwards of 30 degrees forecast and little time to recuperate between games, expect the best-conditioned to get the best out of the conditions as the tournament progresses.

The Teams

Papua New Guineaand Hong Kongwill both be looking to bounce back from a disappointing World Cup Qualifier, where disappointing groups stage showings saw the pair contest the game's 4,000th ODI for the wooden spoon before forfeiting their status. Both had previously been in contention for the top spot at the last World Cricket League Championship before being pipped to the post by the Netherlands, and both will be keen to show their relegation from the top table of Associates cricket was a mere blip.

For hosts Namibiaand Canada, who narrowly missed out at the last nail-biting edition of Division 2 the tournament offers a final chance at reversing their slow slide down the rankings. The hosts struggled to hold their own against better-funded sides with deeper talent pools to draw on through the last WCLC, where they finished last, and now find themselves underdogs in their own yard. Home advantage shouldn't be underestimated at such short, intense tournaments. Canada meanwhile missed out on the last WCLC entirely having dropped as far as Division 3 in 2015. They return for this edition with a side bolstered somewhat by newly-eligible players, not least skipper Davey Jacobs.

Coming up from Division 3 this time, both Omanand theUSA have benefited still more from the more relaxed eligibility criteria as they have risen through the Divisions. Oman's eclectic squad has perhaps not entirely gelled yet, but with recent wins against ODI nations Ireland, Scotland and Oman under their belt, they have shown their ability to turn over stronger sides, and are the only past Division 2 Champions in Windhoek. It's the Americans who will start as favourites though, in large part due to the sense of purpose and unity that the cosmopolitan side seems to have developed under "Associate super-coach" Pubudu Dassanayake.

What they said

Namibia captain, Gerhard Erasmus: "Being the only African country still in the running, we have a duty to represent and grow the game in our country and region. We've started our journey with a new Head Coach, Pierre de Bruyn as from January which has resulted in a culture change. That coupled with the return of some senior names in our squad should put us in good stead for the tournament. Preparation-wise we have had a brilliant tour to Pretoria in which we played six limited-overs matches and got some good results and information on where we are at."

PNG Captain, Assad Vala: "We were very disappointed in losing our ODI status last year in Zimbabwe, so it has been our goal to get it back and get the opportunity to play more international cricket. Preparation for the tournament has been good, we just hosted and won the ICC T20 World Cup EAP Final and are travelling to Pretoria, South Africa for a training camp before arriving in Namibia."

Hong Kong captain, Anshuman Rath: "It would mean quite a lot to us if we finish in the top four. We have shown the cricketing world what we are capable of and we as a team are very excited to play and showcase our skills in another ICC event. We have just had a five-day tour to Malaysia where we got three matches in against Malaysia playing XI. Just prior to Namibia we will have a 10-day long tour to South Africa."

Canada captain, Davy Jacobs: "A top-four finish will change everything for cricketers back home, and will have a substantial impact on cricket in the country. The expectation is real, we need this. So we will throw everything we have into that tournament in Namibia".

Oman captain, Zeeshan Maqsood: "It would be a dream come true and a big achievement for Oman to finish in the top four. We have had great preparation playing two matches against UAE and will have four matches ahead of the tournament in Pretoria."

USA captain, Saurabh Netravalkar: "Qualifying for ODI status means an entry into a completely new world of top-level professional cricket. It would be a ray of hope for the aspiring youth of the country to consider cricket as a potential full-time career. It gives the opportunity for us to build a solid domestic cricket structure as well as the power to try and promote the game bottom up, right from the school and university levels to the national and international levels."


Canada: David Jacobs (captain), Cecil Pervez, Dilon Heyliger, Hiral Patel, Navneet Dhaliwal, Nikhil Dutta, Nitish Kumar, Ravinderpal Singh, Rodrigo Thomas, Romesh Eranga Don, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Saad Zafar, Srimantha Wijeyeratne, Bhavindu Adihetty [Varun Sehdev.]

Hong Kong: Anshuman Rath (captain), Aizaz Khan, Babar Hayat, Ehsan Khan, Tanwir Afzal, Kinchit Shah, Ahsan Abbasi, Scott KcKechnie, Ehsan Nawaz, Tanveer Ahmed, Jamie Atkinson, Mohammad Ghazanfar, Jhatavedh Subramanyan, Shahid Wasif.

Namibia: Merwe Gerhard Erasmus (captain), Stephen Julian Baard, James Milne Bredenkamp, Karl John Birkenstock, Jan Nicolaas Frylinck, Zane Edward Green, Zhivago Groenewald, Jean Pierre Kotze, Tangeni Joseph Lungamene, Bernard Martinus Scholtz, Johannes Jonathan Smit, Christoffel Viljoen, Craig George Williams, Helao Nafidi ya France.

Oman: Zeeshan Maqsood (captain), Khawar Ali, Suraj Kumar, Fayyaz Butt, Kaleemullah, Khurram Khan, Bilal Khan, Sindo Michal, Muhammad Nadeem, Jay Odedra, Baadal Singh, Jatinder Singh, Aaqib Ilyas, Sandeep Goud.

PNG: Assadollah Vala (captain), Anthony Dogodo Vare, Chad Aiwati Soper, Charles Jordan Alewa Amini, Damien Apa Ravu, Eisa Eka, Hiri Hiri, Jason Kila, John Boge Reva, Kipling Doriga, Lega Siaka, Norman Oreta Vanua, Nosaina Pokana, Sese Bau, Simon Kwalahu Atai, Tony Pala Ura.

USA: Saurabh Netravalkar (captain), Jaskaran Malhotra, Steven Taylor, Jan Nisar Khan, Roy Silva, Monank Patel, Timil Patel, Aaron Jones, Hayden Walsh Jr., Elmore Hutchinson, Muhammad Ali Khan, Nosthush Kenjige, Xavier Marshall, Jessy Singh.


Saturday, 20 April - PNG v Namibia, Wanderers; Canada v Hong Kong, WAP; Oman v USA, Trustco UNITED

Sunday, 21 April - Namibia v USA, Wanderers; Canada v Oman, WAP; PNG v Hong Kong, Trustco UNITED

Tuesday, 23 April - Hong Kong v Oman, Wanderers; PNG v USA, WAP; Namibia v Canada, Trustco UNITED;

Wednesday, 24 April - PNG v Canada, Wanderers; Namibia v Oman, WAP; Hong Kong v USA, Trustco UNITED

Friday, 26 April - Canada v USA, Wanderers; Namibia v Hong Kong, WAP; PNG v Oman, Trustco UNITED

Saturday, 27 April - Final, Wanderers; 3rd v 4th Playoff, WAP; 5th v 6th Playoff, Trustco UNITED

All matches start at 09h30 local time.