Tuesday March 13, 2012,
In one of the biggest tournaments in the history of ICC's Development Programme, the 16 Associate and Affiliate Member (AM) sides will go head to head in the ICC World Twenty Qualifier UAE 2012 from Tuesday. At stake will be the two available places in the tournament proper to be staged in Sri Lanka from 18 September to 7 October.
A total of 72 matches will be played at five venues across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah from 13-24 March, with all matches free to watch for spectators. The first qualifier will emerge on 22 March after the 61st match while the winner of the 71st match, to be played on the final morning of the tournament, will become the second qualifier.
The two qualifiers will then lock horns in the tournament finale on the final evening and the side that wins the match will not only lift the trophy but will also join Australia and the West Indies in Group B. The losing team will complete Group A which also includes defending champion England and 2007 winner India.
The only time an ICC Development event of similar size, in terms of participating teams and matches, was staged way back in 2001 when 22 Associate member countries participated in the ICC Trophy 2001 (now known as the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier) in Toronto, Canada.
While Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland have earned direct qualification into the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier UAE 2012 by virtue of its ODI/T20I status (earned by finishing in the top six of the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier South Africa 2009), the remaining 10 sides have come through the 12 regional qualifying tournaments. No less than 88 AM countries featured in these regional tournaments.
The 16 sides have been divided into two groups of eight, with defending champion and top seed Afghanistan topping Group A and number-two seed Ireland heading Group B. Other sides in Group A are Netherlands, Canada, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Hong Kong, Bermuda, Denmark and Nepal while Group B also includes Kenya, Scotland, Namibia, Uganda, Oman, Italy and the United States of America (USA).
A perfect icing on the cake on what will undoubtedly be an event to remember will be the broadcast coverage of the final six matches of the tournament to be played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium (DSC) by the ICC's broadcast licensees.
This will be the first time an ICC Development event, featuring only the AMs, will be shown on a live global television broadcast. This represents a major breakthrough to expose cricket outside the traditional Test playing countries - and aligned with the ICC's Strategic Plan - is an important step in promoting cricket to become a bigger, better global game.
The six matches will be shown live online at www.espnstar.com/live and also in key territories via the ICC's official broadcasters. A full list of broadcasters will be released later during the tournament.
In addition to this live coverage, 14 matches from the ICC Global Cricket Academy (GCA) No.1 and No.2 will be live streamed by QuipuTV
Therefore 20 matches in total during the event will be broadcast live and will be available for cricket fans all around the world to watch.
Afghanistan will open its title defence against PNG in the opening match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium while next door at the ICC GCA No.2 Ireland will square-off against Namibia.
Another key feature of the tournament will be the presence of five-time ICC Umpire of the Year, Simon Taufel, who is one of the 12 umpires who will be umpiring in the tournament.
Mr Taufel said he was delighted to be working alongside the umpires from the international and associate and affiliate panels. "I really enjoy working with the associate and affiliate as well as international panel umpires as they bring fresh attitude and energy to umpiring that is inspiring, he said.
He added: "We last worked together in Singapore 2009 during an ICC World Cricket League tournament and it will be interesting to see how some of them have progressed. Our aim is to keep providing these umpires with access to updated training material, maintain a strong linkage to umpiring at the elite level and continue to support their development.
"This tournament is just as important to the umpires as it is to the players and teams. The umpiring team has prepared hard by attending a two-day conference and will now be seeking to perform well on the field by delivering a high standard of all-round match officiating. I'm really proud to be just one member of that umpiring team."
13 Mar - Afghanistan v PNG (1000-1300), Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City
13 Mar - Oman v Italy (1000-1300), Global Cricket Academy No.1, Dubai Sports City
13 Mar - Ireland v Namibia (1000-1300), Global Cricket Academy No.2, Dubai Sports City
13 Mar - Uganda v USA (1000-1300), Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
13 Mar - Netherlands v Canada (1400-1700), Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai Sports City
13 Mar - Kenya v Scotland (1400-1700), Global Cricket Academy No.1, Dubai Sports City
13 Mar - Hong Kong v Nepal (1400-1700), Global Cricket Academy No.2, Dubai Sports City
13 Mar - Bermuda v Denmark (1400-1700), Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Sharjah
According to the tournament format, the sides that top the two groups will feature in the 1st Qualifying Final at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Thursday 22 March at 1400 (local time) with the winner sealing a place in the ICC World Twenty20 Sri Lanka 2012 to be staged from 18 September to 7 October.
Meanwhile, the sides that finish second and third in the two groups will play cross-over matches. The two winners of those matches will progress to the Preliminary Final to be played on 23 March at 1000 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
The 2nd Qualifying Final - for the second spot in the ICC World Twenty20 2012 - will take place on the morning of 24 March at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium between the loser of the 1st Qualifying Final and the winner of the Preliminary Final.
The winners of the two Qualifying Finals will play in the tournament final on the evening of 24 March at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Background of ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier
The ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier has grown in stature since it was first held in Belfast, Ireland, in August 2008. That event comprised the then six top Associate Members - Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland.
Ireland and Netherlands shared the trophy when the final was washed-out without a ball being bowled. The two sides, along with Scotland which replaced Zimbabwe, qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 2009 which was staged at Lord's, The Oval and Trent Bridge in England. Pakistan won the tournament.
The UAE hosted the second edition in February 2010 which was contested by the top six Associate and Affiliate sides– Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland - as well as hosts UAE and United States of America (USA) who were specially invited by the ICC.
After 17 matches over six days at two venues in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Afghanistan and Ireland reached the final and qualified for the ICC World Twenty20 2010 which was staged in the West Indies and won by England. Afghanistan won the qualifying tournament when it defeated Ireland by eight wickets