The countdown to the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier has begun, and the schedule is now announced. Fans are anticipating the thrilling group stage matches that could ultimately decide the two final spots for the highly anticipated tournament in India in 2023.

Teams participating in the qualifier are aware that a strong start in the opening group phase is crucial for securing World Cup qualification. Finishing as high as possible in the group standings will increase their chances, as points earned against other advancing teams will carry over to the tournament’s Super Six phase.

Before the first ball is bowled on June 18, let’s take a closer look at the pivotal match-ups that will pave the way to the Cricket World Cup.

West Indies vs. USA – June 18, Takashinga Ground

On the opening day, the USA will face off against the formidable West Indies, the giants of their region. Although the Americans will have a challenge ahead, they possess individual talents that could potentially overpower their more-fancied opponents. Keep an eye on Ali Khan’s opening spell to Shai Hope and the West Indies top order, as it promises to be an enthralling match-up. A fiery start from the speedster will undoubtedly provide an advantage to the group of USA spin bowlers during the middle overs. Furthermore, this match will mark the first official men’s ODI between the two sides, adding an extra layer of excitement.

Scotland vs. UAE – June 23, Bulawayo Athletic Club

Although there may be three teams separating Scotland and UAE in the tournament seedings, recent form and the potential XIs on paper suggest a closely contested match. Scotland clinched the League 2 title earlier this year, but they haven’t played an ODI since February and will be missing key players on County Cricket duty. On the other hand, UAE, despite their sixth-place finish in the seven-team tournament, found their rhythm at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off, and appear to be a stronger unit. Scotland’s ability to fend off the Emiratis will impact their chances of progressing to the Super Sixes from Group B, particularly if they drop points against Ireland two days prior. It is crucial for Scotland not to rely solely on a last-day victory against Sri Lanka, who will be relentless in their pursuit of carry-over points into the next stage. Similarly, UAE will consider this match a must-win, aiming to avoid the need for a victory against Ireland on the final day of the group stage.

Netherlands vs. Nepal – June 24, Takashinga

In their Group A clash, Nepal’s progress to the Super Six stage heavily relies on securing a win over the Netherlands, who currently occupy a higher position in the group seedings. Since Monty Desai took over as coach in February, Nepal has been in exceptional form, winning 11 out of their last 12 matches in League 2, claiming an automatic spot at the Qualifier. They also emerged victorious in the ACC Premier Cup on home soil, and secured a spot in the Asia Cup. In comparison, the Dutch team will face an able West Indies side in their subsequent match, making it crucial to accumulate points before confronting the strongest team on paper in the group. It’s worth noting that Nepal’s first ODI victory came against the Netherlands nearly five years ago, in a famous one-run win that saw Paras Khadka’s run-out heroics.

Zimbabwe vs. West Indies – June 24, 

Harare Sports Club

Mark your calendars for the highly anticipated clash between Zimbabwe and the West Indies on June 24 at Harare Sports Club. Both teams have undoubtedly circled this match in their tour programs, as it holds the potential to provide the winner with crucial points on the path to India and secure maximum carry-over points into the Super Six phase.

Interestingly, these two teams did not meet in the Cricket World Cup Super League; their last encounter dates back to the Qualifier tournament in 2018. During that contest, the West Indies emerged victorious with six wickets and an over to spare, also at the Harare Sports Club. It’s worth noting that only four players from the West Indies team that played in 2018 are part of the upcoming tournament squad, adding a fresh dynamic to the match.

Scotland vs. Oman – June 25, Bulawayo Athletic Club

On June 25, at Bulawayo Athletic Club, Scotland and Oman will face off in a crucial game that could determine their chances of making it to the Super Sixes. Oman’s potential run at the next stage of the tournament is heavily reliant on securing a win against their League 2 rivals, Scotland. Notably, Scotland had beaten Oman to claim the top spot on the table in their previous encounter. Scotland holds the upper hand in recent meetings between the two teams, with victories in the last four matches, excluding a no-result in 2021. Furthermore, Scotland had been missing several key players in their most recent clash in April 2022. Unfortunately, they won’t be able to participate in the Qualifier due to their commitments to County Cricket.

Sri Lanka vs. Ireland – June 25, Queens Sports Club

June 25 brings us another intriguing match between Sri Lanka and Ireland at Queens Sports Club. Not only are these teams the top-seeded pair in Group B of the Qualifier, but they also haven’t crossed paths in the Cricket World Cup Super League, adding an extra layer of excitement. It’s worth mentioning that their previous meetings were in the Test format, with the tour initially scheduled to include two ODIs, but the second Test took precedence.

Sri Lanka holds the bragging rights from the red-ball series, but Ireland’s relative strength in limited-overs cricket, coupled with the neutral venue of Bulawayo, sets the stage for a closely contested battle. Both teams will be eager to assert their dominance and secure a crucial win in their quest for World Cup qualification.

As the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier approaches, cricket enthusiasts around the world eagerly await these thrilling group stage matches that will determine which teams claim the final two spots for India 2023.

Groups for the Cricket World Cup Qualifier 

Group A: West Indies, Zimbabwe, Netherlands, Nepal, USA

Group B: Sri Lanka, Ireland, Scotland, Oman, UAE

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