ICC Inter-continental Cup starts tomorrow

Published: Wednesday, March 22, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Dubai:The ICC Inter-Continenteal Cup, featuring the non-Test playing nations, will get underway tomorrow with a challenge match between Nepal and hosts Namibia.

The two teams are battling after the tournaments format was revamped at the end of last season. It has now been cut from 12 teams down to eight. Namibia and Nepal are fighting for the eighth spot.

''It is so important for us, it is just critical,'' said Namibian Cricket Board President Laurie Pieters.

Namibia have the advantage of not only hosting the match but also needing only a draw to progress by virtue of the fact they are ranked above Nepal when the two sides form in multi-day and one-day cricket is combined.

And, as Nepal coach Roy Dias pointed out, those factors, amongst others, present significant hurdles for his players to overcome this week.

''It is a huge task for us,'' he said.

The bad weather in the host cuntry has meant Namibias players are short of match practice but they will still start as favourites thanks to home advantage and the experience they can boast in their 13-man squad.

It features ten players that took part in last years ICC Intercontinental Cup -- Namibia lost out to Kenya for a place in the semi-finals -- and eight players that took part in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003.

Nepal include eight players from their ICC Intercontinental Cup campaign of 2005, including captain and opening bowler Binod Das and vice-captain Shakti Gauchan, a top-order batsman who also bowls spin.

The winners of the match will go forward to play in a group that includes Scotland, defending champions Ireland and the United Arab Emirates -- the side that qualified for last years semi-finals ahead of Nepal.

The other group comprises Bermuda, Canada, Kenya and the Netherlands and the final, set to take place in early 2007, will be between the two group winners.

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