SPAIN PLAY HOSTS TO THE ICC DIVISION 3 CHAMPIONSHIPS
With less than a week to go before the start of the ICC Division 3 Championship CE takes a look at the six teams competing in this years tournament, that is being co-hosted by La Manga and Sporting Alfas cricket grounds.
Two associate teams and four affiliate teams make up the tournament and each team will play each other once with the winners facing Croatia in Zagreb, in October for promotion to Division 2.
Israel, are officially the highest ranked team in the tournament and their squad selection shows a shift towards youth, with five players who have come through the ICA system. Perhaps, the pick of their youngsters is Gabi Schacat, who was player of the Under 17 tournament in Germany last year, and three of the squad have recently participated in the ICC European Under 19 tournament in Belguim. The 14 man team is to be captained by Herscel Gutman, and they will be looking to return straight back to Division 2, after being relegated last time, having lost the relegation/promotion play off on home soil with Croatia.
Belguim are the only other associate team in the competition. They will be hoping for a better performance than 2 years ago, when in the same competition, they failed to make any real impact, despite being hosts. In that tournament the finished bottom of Group B, losing to the Isle of Man and Cyprus in very close matches, and they had a no result against Malta due to rainy day in Mechelen. In the 5th-8th play off they beat Finland by 69 runs to remain in Division 3. With good showings in recent Under 17 and Under 19 tournaments the signs for Belgian cricket look good, and it will come as no suprise to anyone if the improve significantly on their performance from two years ago.
Malta are very much the dark horses of the tournament but are always capable of springing a suprise or two. In the tournament last time they finished second in their group to the Isle of Man, before being beaten in the semi final by Croatia by 9 wickets. John Callus, who scored runs in Belgian is again with the squad, and in the Spitero borothers, Frankie and Angelo they can be a match for any team in this competition on their day.
The Isle of Man will be considered by many to be one of the favourites of the tournament. Under the guidance of manager Gareth Dawson they have been working on drills to combat the expected heat of La Manga and Albir. Several of their players have emerged through their youth ranks, most notably the Stokoe brothers, and in Gareth Roome the have a match winning left hand medium fast bowlr that can trouble all the batsmen on show.
Portugal will be looking to emulate their successes of the 1999 an 2001 tournaments and forget about their dissapointing result in 2007 when they came bottom of group A. Remaining in this division after a play off victory against Cyprus, Spain´s Iberian rivals can now call on more players, as teams from the Algarve and Almoster now play in the national league, alongside the Lisbon based clubs. With much restructuring and development in Portuguese cricket over the last couple of years, it is hard to gauge their chances of winning the tournament.
Spain will be hoping to go one better than last time when they went agonisingly close to winning the tournament, losing in the final to Croatia by a meagre 4 runs. The squad on paper, looks stronger in depth than at Belguim and under new coach Bobby Denning the hosts are confident of a good showing. New captain Mark Spencer, will be able to call on the experience of the ex captain Graham Howe and his vice captain Pedro Venus, and with home support and good sized crowds expected at La Managa, and especially Albir the hosts could be the team everyone has to beat to take home the trophy.