|European Division 2: Guernsey, August 2008|
Division 2 title up for grabs
The 2008 ICC European Division 2 Championship will be held on the island of Guernsey from 18th to 24th August. Six countries - Croatia, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Guernsey and Jersey - will compete for the title. However, it is not just the title itself which is of importance to the teams but also their finishing positions will be of great significance in the proposed expansion of the World Cricket League.
This will be the second major European tournament to be held on the Channel Island, Guernsey having successfully hosted last year's Under 23 Division 2 Championship.
The current holder of the Division 2 title is Norway, who triumphed in Glasgow in 2006 by defeating Jersey in the deciding encounter. As a result Norway was promoted and took part in this season's European Division 1 Championship in Dublin.
Of the eight teams that took part in 2006 neither Israel nor Hellas will appear in Guernsey, the former having been defeated by Croatia in a play-off for the final spot.
Jersey is the highest-ranked team and will start as most people's favourite to win in Guernsey, having finished as runner-up to Afghanistan in the World Cricket League Division 5 tournament held in Jersey in late May. Captain Matthew Hague (right)leads a strong squad in which Peter Gough (average 104) and Ryan Driver (12 wickets at 8.25) were the outstanding individual performers back in May. The side has a very solid batting line-up and an excellent bowling attack in which Andy Dewhurst and Hague will play major roles.
Guernsey was disappointed by its European debut in Glasgow in 2006 when it suffered first phase losses at the hands of both Germany and Hellas before going on to defeat Israel and France to claim fifth place. Lee Savident (the Player of the Tournament) and Matthew Oliver both impressed with the bat in Glasgow and young 16 year old Timothy Ravenscroft was well to the fore in this year's ICC European Under 17 Championship in Belfast.
Germany finished in third place in Glasgow and took seventh place in the World Cricket League Division 5 tournament. The German batsmen struggled to score runs in the latter tournament with only captain Abdul Bhatti making more than 100 runs in total. However, the bowlers were much more successful with Ehsan Latif, Farooq Ahmed and Javed Igbal taking over 40 wickets between them.
Gibraltar has a proud record in the Division 2 Championships, having taken the title in Glasgow in 2000 and going on to retain it in Belfast two years later. In 2006 it lost the third place play off to Germany by 96 runs. The team from 'The Rock' will be led again by the evergreen 43 year old opening batsman Christian Rocca - however, eight of the squad are under 25. Rocca's batting line-up will include both Kieron Ferrary (who was selected for the ICC European Academy in India earlier this year) and Richard Buzaglo who featured strongly in 2006.
France had only one success in 2006, albeit an excellent win by 7 runs against Jersey. Wicketkeeper batsman Waseem Bhatti will again captain the side, while his vice-captain Arun Ayyavooraju, one of the most consistent performers in European cricket, will be expected to spearhead the batting effort once again. It is a much-changed squad from two years ago and has an average age of over 30.
Croatia will come into this tournament with high expectations, based on an excellent performance in last season's Division 3 tournament. The title was won in Brussels with a thrilling four run victory over Spain in the Final - John Vujnovich (right) making 88 with useful contributions from Christopher Pivac and brother Paul Vujnovich. Croatia recorded victories in all five matches in Belgium, with Phillip Sileg, John Vujnovich and Pivac all performing consistently with the ball. They have a squad well capable of upsetting the more established countries in the tournament.
Three excellently-appointed grounds will be used in Guernsey - KGV Playing Fields, Rovers AC and Elizabeth College Playing Fields.