The Asian Cricket Council Premier Cup will pit 10 of the region’s best emerging teams in 50-over action in Nepal as the final step in qualification for the Asia Cup 2023.
The 10 teams are split into two groups for the tournament starting on April 18, and will battle it out in Kathmandu for a spot in the semi-finals followed by a final that will decide the last remaining qualification spot at the Asia Cup 2023.
The qualifying team will meet India and Pakistan in group action at the Asia Cup, guaranteeing two high-profile matches later in the year.
The Premier Cup includes three teams – Nepal, Oman and the United Arab Emirates – that will also have one eye on fine-tuning for the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier to be played in Zimbabwe from June 18.
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Hosts Nepal will be aiming to carry on with the form that saw them race up the League 2 table earlier in the year to snatch third place and an automatic spot at the Cricket World Cup Qualifier.
The team Nepal beat in a last-gasp DLS victory to complete their fairy tale run, the United Arab Emirates, feature on the other side of the draw, though Rohit Paudel’s team strong competition from Oman in group play.
Oman finished second in the League 2 standings and may be a little rusty having not played an ODI since June, though the team are well-set as a unit and will be boosted by the return of high-class batting all-rounder Aqib Ilyas after a long lay-off with a foot injury.
UAE rediscovered their winning formula in the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia, galvanised by the late-order hitting of ICC Player of the Month nominee Asif Khan, and are favourites in Group B.
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Joining Oman and Nepal in Group A are Qatar, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, with recent results suggesting the Qataris may be best-placed to challenge the top two.
Mohammed Rizlan’s Qatar outfit finished third in their Cricket World Cup Challenge League group, while Malaysia were not as successful in the third-tier of international one-day competition, finishing fifth in the same group.
Saudi Arabia qualified for the Premier Cup through Challenge Cup qualification to show they are on an upward arc in terms of international standing, though drubbings of Bahrain and other teams in qualification suggest the men in green could scare more well-renowned teams.
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UAE will be challenged by a resurgent Hong Kong in Group B, a side who look strong on the batting side and with a knack of performing in ACC events.
Left-hander Anshy Rath looks in form after his return to the national team now led by Nizakat Khan, with Babar Hayat able to hold things together and up the run rate if required.
Nizakat’s side were too good for Kuwait in a recent series in Hong Kong, a side who have beaten group rivals Singapore and UAE in the T20I format.
Kuwait beat Bahrain in warm-up action, albeit by one wicket, and should challenge a depleted Singapore for at least third place in their group. Led now by Aritra Dutta, Singapore are not only now without T20 maverick Tim David (who now represents Australia), but also missing Amjad Mahboob and Aryaman Sunil.
Matches between teams with ODI status will be regarded as full One Day Internationals, with the Tribhuvan University ground sharing hosting rights with the Mulpani ground on the other side of the Nepal capital.
The finalists and the winner of the third-placed play-off at the tournament also qualify for the 2023 ACC Emerging Teams Asia Cup, an eight-team tournament that also includes ‘A’ teams of Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.
News Source: https://www.icc-cricket.com/news/3161596