Ten teams, including two-time World champions West Indies, will battle it out at next month's ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier for the two remaining places at the mega-event in 2019. Zimbabwe will host the qualifiers from March 4 to 25. The Windies, along with Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe, had missed out on automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup by finishing outside the top eight on the 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 will be confirmed in Namibia from 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 World Cup.
Eighty-three teams had embarked on the road to the 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 progress to the World Cup, 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.
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 will take on the runners-up from the Namibia tournament at the Queen's Sports Club, Bulawayo, while West Indies will square-off against the winners of the Namibia tournament on March 6 at Old Hararians Cricket Club in Harare.
ICC Chief Executive David Richardson said: "This will undoubtedly be a competitive and hard fought tournament with two tickets for the World Cup up for grabs as well as ODI status. Seeing four Full Member sides up against our best Associate Member teams who have progressed through qualification will make for some exciting cricket."
Fixture (1st round):
March 4: PNG v WCL Div.2 winner; Ireland v Netherlands; Zimbabwe v WCL Div.2 (runners-up); Afghanistan v Scotland.
March 6: PNG v Ireland; Windies v WCL Div.2 (winner); Zimbabwe v Afghanistan; Scotland v Hong Kong.
March 8: Netherlands v WCL Div.2 (winner); Windies v PNG; Scotland v WCL Div.2 (runners-up); Afghanistan v Hong Kong.
March 10: Windies v Ireland; PNG v Netherlands; Zimbabwe v Hong Kong; Afghanistan v WCL Div.2 (runners-up).
March 12: Windies v Netherlands; Ireland v WCL Div.2 (winners); Hong Kong v WCL Div.2 (runners-up); Zimbabwe v Scotland.
March 15: A1 v B1; A3 v B3; A5 v B4 (play-off); A4 v B5 (play-off).
March 16: A2 v B2.
March 17: 9th/10th position play-off; 7th/8th position play-off.
March 18: A2 v B3.
March 19: A1 v B2.
March 20: A3 v B1.
March 22: A1 v B3; A3 v B2.
March 23: A2 v B1.
March 25: Final at Harare Sports Club
(With PTI Inputs)