Whom did you associate with most this cricket World Cup?

Initial promise from cricket’s smaller nations has given way to predictable results. Paul Radley reviews their performances.

The UAE’s Shaiman Anwar, right, and Ireland wicketkeeper Gary Wilson were involved in one of the best games of the cricket World Cup early on in the tournament. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
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WELLINGTON // At the midway point of the UAE’s opening World Cup game against Zimbabwe, the Netherlands national team captain took to social media to voice his support.

“Never in my life thought I would be cheering for the UAE #associatearmy,” Peter Borren wrote on Twitter.

It has been one of the recurring themes of the competition, particularly in countries beyond the lucky 10 who play Test matches.

The opening exchanges in Australia and New Zealand were coloured by the exploits of the four non-Test nations.

Each of them has their work cut out to make it to a stripped down, 10-team event in England in four years time.

Ireland beat the West Indies. The UAE played out the game of the competition to that point against Ireland, which was then bettered less than 24 hours later by Afghanistan and Scotland.

The momentum was arrested when the UAE had an eight-wicket loss to India, while Ireland and Afghanistan had scores in excess of 400 put up against them. The feeling of goodwill was punctured.

With the chances to state their case running out, which of the Associate nations has done most for the cause?


The Afghans provide great publicity for cricket. Their rise from the refugee camps to the World Cup is one of the best sport stories ever told. Will this be where it ends?

Not exactly. Of all the non-Test nations, Afghanistan are likely to get the most invites to play the elite because they get people watching, which helps advertising sales.

It is one of the reasons the Asia Cup, where they play against the four Asian Test nations, was expanded to fit them in.

The same invitation was not extended to the UAE or Hong Kong when they earned full one-day international status last year.

Positive The Afghans know how to celebrate. As such, when they beat Scotland to claim their first World Cup win, it brought with it some of the most memorable images of the World Cup.

Shapoor Zadran, the No 11, hit the winning runs, then peeled away jubilantly, before falling to his knees, arms outstretched – and he is not the most exuberant player in this side.

Also, they were a match for Sri Lanka, the former world champions, who provide a good template for all nations aspiring to join the big league.

Negative Australia notched the record highest World Cup total when they scored 417 for six against Afghanistan in Perth. The margin of the defeat, 275 runs, was also a record.

Bermuda, who held the record before them, against India in the Caribbean in 2007, were a terrible side who were unworthy of World Cup cricket.

Afghanistan are nothing like that, but they missed the chance to prove it in Perth. Limiting the damage when things do go wrong is the challenge the Associate nations have.


The leading side from beyond the Test sphere have regularly complained about the 10-team “garden party” plan for the next World Cup.

Rightly so.

They have done much to show they deserve to play at this level. Three wins, against West Indies, the UAE and Zimbabwe, in Australia and New Zealand confirms what most people already knew. Other, it seems, than the World Cup’s organisers.

Positive That win against West Indies. The Irish team did not regard it as a shock. They had plenty of pedigree, having beaten Pakistan and England in the two previous World Cups. Plus, they would suggest the capabilities of their players are a match for the side from the Caribbean, anyway.

Ireland also beat the UAE, but it was much closer than most of their recent meetings. Their victory over Zimbabwe could hardly be deemed a surprise, either.

Perhaps more than anything else, the matches involving Ireland have generally been the most compelling at the ­competition.

Negative They were powerless to stop South Africa to score over 400. Plenty have struggled against the likes of Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and company before but Ireland might have been expected to be resourceful enough to find a way to stem their flow. It may have just been a bad day, but they were unquestionably ragged.

The Irish seam attack, without the exiled Boyd Rankin, the retired Trent Johnston and the injured Tim Murtagh, looks weak.


When they started their final preparation for the World Cup, at the start of this year in Dubai, Preston Mommsen, the captain, acknowledged his side were playing catch-up.

The side who were probably the least prepared of the four qualifiers before the competition have performed capably, albeit without forcing a win.

Positive Scoring 318 against Bangladesh. Test nations regard 300 as par in one-day internationals, but for Associates it is a fine achievement. As the UAE found to their cost against Zimbabwe, defending on such a flat pitch at the Saxton Oval is tough and Scotland subsequently fell to defeat.

Negative Their decisive loss to England. Any neutrals watching would think the Scots must be useless if they lost to England at all, let alone by 119 runs.

Apart from the Battle of Britain, positives have been minimal for Scotland, although, just as Australia did later, they did manage to show that New Zealand have problems chasing low scores.

That was no mean feat against the tournament favourites. Scotland’s struggles in defending against Bangladesh were an obvious flaw, but that is the sort of thing that could be solved by more games against the major teams.


Mohammed Tauqir, the captain, rejected the idea that the fact the UAE had qualified to play at the World Cup meant they deserved to be there.

“I would not agree that just because you have qualified you belong here,” he said after the 129-run loss to Pakistan. “You need to put up a decent performance as well. Our performance against India was not up to the mark. We discussed that, against the Test nations, we need to put up a good performance.”

Positive They are a good news story. Many spectators have been taken by the “plucky amateurs” narrative.

Seeing a Dubai sales representative, Shaiman Anwar, topping the run-scorers list ahead of Chris Gayle, Hashim Amla et al was an everyman story for all to enjoy.

Also, they got rid of one unsightly record from 1996. Chris Gayle’s double-hundred for West Indies against Zimbabwe went past the World Cup best of 188 not out Gary Kirsten made against the national team 19 years ago.

Negative The plucky amateurs narrative. The national team started the tournament full of brio. As Aaqib Javed, the coach, had demanded, everyone looked the part and played like it, too.

Their first two matches were exciting. Whether it was because they fell the wrong side of the results against Zimbabwe and Ireland, or the taxing duration of the trip, their standards have generally fallen away since, albeit against higher-standard opposition.

Had they been professional players, conditioned to spending all their time playing cricket, they might have been better equipped to cope with both.


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