The ICC Intercontinental Cup is about to begin in less than an hour from now (weather permitting) at Aberdeen, as hosts Scotland will try to overcome a stern challenge of the Netherlands. Scotland finished as the runners-up, losing to Afghanistan in the finals, in previous season (2009-10) of this tournament, which is the only place where the players from Associate and Affiliate nations of the ICC get to play First Class cricket as a part of their national team.The limited-overs leg of the tournament will also run alongside the First Class matches in the 2011-13 season. The first round fixtures are:
I would like to see more teams, in further rounds, do what Kenya and UAE have done - that is, schedule the Limited Overs leg before the four-day First Class match. It will be beneficial for the away team this way. But more than anything else, I am most interested in seeing how Afghanistan copes up with the pressure of expectations this time round.
Afghanistan had a dream run last time, winning 5 matches and drawing 1 to a Zimbabwe XI. They started with a draw against the Zimbabwe XI, and then had a close 1 wicket win over the Netherlands. It was more convincing after that as the three-time defending champions Ireland was beaten by 7 wickets, followed by a 6 wicket win over Canada. Former champions Scotland was then thrashed by 229 runs, and then Kenya too was thrashed by 167 runs. In the finals against the Scots, they prevailed again by 7 wickets, despite being 41 runs in the deficit after the end of the 1st innings in a low-scoring game.
They are on a 6-match winning streak at the moment, and it will be interesting to see if they manage to extend it against Canada early in August. Afghanistan came in playing their first Intercontinental Cup in the last season, and ended up winning it. They were, to an extent, a surprise package last time. But the teams will be better prepared to face them this season, and if any team had made the mistake of taking them lightly last time, it will not happen again!
I hope there is some good quality cricket played in this season of the Intercontinental Cup, and I will definitely be keeping an eye on all the matches and results. If anyone knows where I can get the streamings or the video highlights of these matches, please do let me know.