Associate teams looking to show they belong

London, June 01: Ireland, Scotland or the Netherlands are unlikely to win the Twenty20 World Cup, but anyone tempted to dismiss them as easy opponents needs only look at the impact that lower-profile teams have had in recent 50-over tournaments.

Ireland reached the Super 8 stage at the 2007 World Cup after tying with Zimbabwe and beating Pakistan to knock its opponent out of the competition. In 2003, Kenya reached the semifinals after defeating Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe on its way to the last four.

Of the three teams, Ireland has the best chance of reaching the Super 8 stage, thanks to a kind draw. Few expect the Irish to beat India, but Bangladesh can be beaten, according to Ireland batsman Kevin O`Brien.

"(Bangladesh`s) best chance to win a game in the group and get through to the Super 8s, and it`s our best chance as well," O`Brien said. "We`ll go out there and do what we did, and hopefully we can get a few more games out of it.”

“Bangladesh and India are in our group and they bring such great crowds and such a noise, we have to just live for those two games because you might never play in front of 28,000 again."

The perennial problem for all associate nations is being unable to field their best players. With no opportunities to play professional cricket domestically, Ireland`s best players, like Ed Joyce and Eoin Morgan, gravitate toward the English county circuit, and Morgan has opted to play for England this time round.

Yet the associate nations also benefit from a trickle of players discarded by the Test-playing nations.

Scotland are captained by former England international Gavin Hamilton, while the Netherlands` squad includes Victoria fast bowler Dirk Nannes, who was overlooked by Australia despite being regularly preferred to Glenn McGrath by the Delhi Daredevils during the recent Indian Premier League.

Nannes, who has also played for English county side Middlesex, has 53 wickets in Twenty20 cricket at 17.58, while the Netherlands can also call on Essex`s Ryan ten Doeschate, who averages 42 in Twenty20.

It will take a major upset for either the Netherlands or Scotland to progress. The Dutch, who open the tournament when they play England at Lord`s on Friday, will have to beat either the hosts or Pakistan to reach the Super 8s.

Scotland has a similarly daunting task to get out of Group D, where it meets New Zealand and South Africa.

"This event will be a huge test for us all, playing some fantastic sides on the biggest stage cricket can offer. We have made some positive steps forward in the last couple of weeks and the squad is looking forward enormously to testing ourselves against the world`s best," Hamilton said.

Bureau Report