After action in Group B last month, attention turns to Group A of the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League, with the second of three legs beginning on Wednesday in Canada.
As part of the qualification pathway for ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 in India, the Challenge League features 12 emerging nations around the world, split into two groups and with each team playing 15 matches across three legs.
Just outside of Toronto, the Maple Leaf North-West facility in King City hosts the current leg.
Canada claimed the first match of the leg, defending 219 against Denmark for a 74-run victory.
Dillon Heyliger’s 5/34 (8) prevented any Danish response, with Nicholas Kirton (48) and Saad bin Zafar (43) earlier setting the game up with the bat on a slow surface.
It means the Canadians go clear at the top of the Group A table on ten points (five wins), with second-placed Singapore (eight points) playing their first match of the leg on Thursday.
Qatar (six points) is in third place, with Denmark’s defeat meaning they remain in fourth. Malaysia and Vanuatu (two points) take up fifth and sixth respectively.
What is the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League?
In what is effectively the third tier of 50-over international cricket, the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League sits below the Cricket World Cup Super League and League 2 competitions.
Twelve teams are split into two groups of six (League A and League B), with teams playing three round-robin legs.
Teams must finish top of their six-team group after the three legs to move to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off and keep their dream of India 2023 alive.
Matches in the Challenge League are classed as List A fixtures.
How would a Challenge League team qualify for India 2023?
Challenge League sides are three steps from ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.
After finishing first in the Challenge League group, it’s off to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off, a six-team competition that also contains the bottom four finishers at Cricket World Cup League 2.
The top two of the Play-off then move to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe next year. A ten-team competition, the Qualifier also contains the top three from League 2, and the bottom five of the Super League.
The top two from the Qualifier take up the final spots at India 2023.
Where can I watch the Challenge League?
Just like Cricket World Cup League 2, all Challenge League matches are live and FREE on ICC.tv in selected regions.
What happened last time in Group A?
Singapore pulled back Canada on the last day of the first leg, meaning the teams finished the first leg together on eight points.
Winning a rain-affected match by just four runs, it was the off-spin of Tim David that did the damage, claiming 3/26.
After a remarkable defence of just 65 against Malaysia, Vanuatu were denied back-to-back wins, with Qatar claiming a tight five-run victory, again after a DLS calculation.
Denmark made a slow start to the competition, losing to Malaysia and Singapore before registering wins over Vanuatu and Qatar.
What’s the latest from King City?
The biggest news arguably comes on the coaching side, with Pubudu Dassanayake taking the reins as Canada coach on the same day he resigned from the Nepali men’s role.
Earlier in the month, Canada began their Challenge League leg build-up with a two-match one-day series against Nepal, while Sandeep Lamichhane’s side were in North America for Cricket World Cup League 2 duty. The first match was washed out, though the Canadians claimed the second match in spite of the perceived underdog tag, winning by 83 runs.
Elsewhere, visa problems have forced player shuffles for multiple sides.
Danish pair Monty Singh and Jino Jojo are still yet to arrive in Canada, with Abdullah Mahmood and Adam Leigh in as replacements. Vanuatu’s Patrick Matautaava, who is currently playing club cricket in Denmark, is also at a roadblock. Rival Samson has travelled as a reserve should Matautaava be unavailable.
After a disappointing T20 World Cup Qualifier B campaign, Singapore at least travel to Canada with some game time under their belt, and the same goes for Malaysia, who have enjoyed recent international success albeit against lower-ranked opposition.
Mohammed Rizlan leads a Qatari side that may need to shake off rust at the tournament, with their last official outings way back in October last year.
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League A fixtures – Canada Leg
Canada v Denmark: 27 July – Canada won by 74 runs
Singapore v Qatar: 28 July
Vanuatu v Malaysia: 28 July
Denmark v Vanuatu: 30 July
Canada v Singapore: 30 July
Canada v Malaysia: 31 July
Denmark v Qatar: 31 July
Vanuatu v Qatar: 2 August
Singapore v Malaysia: 2 August
Singapore v Denmark: 3 August
Canada v Qatar: 3 August
Canada v Vanuatu: 5 August
Malaysia v Denmark: 5 August
Malaysia v Qatar: 6 August
Vanuatu v Singapore: 6 August