TWO-TIME world champions Windies will be the star attraction when 10 sides converge on Zimbabwe next month for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, to battle it out for the two remaining places in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019.
The announcement marks 500 days to the ICC’s pinnacle 50-over tournament, which will be staged in the United Kingdom from May 30 to July 15.
Queen’s Sports Club and Bulawayo Athletic Club in Bulawayo, Harare Sports Club and Old Hararians Sports Club in Harare and Kwekwe Sports Club, Kwekwe, will share 34 matches from March 4 to 25, with Harare Sports Club staging the final.
The Windies, along with Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, had missed out on automatic qualification for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 by finishing outside the top eight on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings at the September 30, 2017 cut-off date.
These four sides have been joined by Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Scotland and Papua New Guinea, who finished in the top four of the ICC World Cricket League Championship.
The remaining two sides for the Zimbabwe tournament will be confirmed in Namibia February 8-15 when Canada, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, Oman and the United Arab Emirates will fight it out in the ICC World Cricket League Division 2, with the finalists getting a step closer to cherishing their dreams of playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup.
Eighty-three teams had embarked on the road to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 way back in 2013 through the ICC World Cricket League, introduced to give the teams outside the top 12 meaningful competition as part of the World Cup qualification.
The 10 teams taking part in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018 are split into two groups of five teams. The Windies, Ireland, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea and winners of the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 make up Group A, while Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Scotland, Hong Kong and runners-up of the ICC World Cricket League Division 2 form Group B.
Each side will play the other teams in their group once with the top three from the groups progressing to the Super Six stage. The teams each play three Super Six matches against the sides they did not meet in the group stage. All points won in the groups will be carried over to the Super Six stage apart from those gained against the bottom two from each group.
The finalists will both progress to the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, whilst the Netherlands (ICC World Cricket League Championship winners) and the three highest finishing Associate Members will earn ODI status till 2022 upon the conclusion of the event.
As such, only matches between Afghanistan, Ireland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, the Windies, Zimbabwe and potentially the United Arab Emirates (if they qualify) will have ODI status in the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018.
Hosts Zimbabwe will feature on the opening day of the tournament on March 4 when they take on the runners-up from the Namibia tournament at the Queen’s Sports Club, Bulawayo, while the Windies will square-off against the winners of the Namibia tournament on March 6 at Old Hararians Cricket Club in Harare.