After a lengthy delay at the hands of the Covid pandemic, the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League resumes in Uganda this week.
Part of the qualification ecosystem for ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 in India, the Challenge League features 12 emerging nations around the world, with each team playing 15 matches across three legs.
Group B of the competition continues on Friday at the Kyambogo and Lugogo grounds in Kampala, with the Cricket Cranes hosting Hong Kong, Italy, Jersey, Kenya and Bermuda in Kampala.
Buoyed by both a T20I and a One Day win over Namibia on their recent tour, Brian Masaba’s side are also top of their group, unbeaten a third of the way into the tournament.
What is the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League?
Effectively the third tier of One Day International cricket, the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Challenge Leagues sits below the Cricket World Cup Super League and League 2 competitions.
Twelve teams are split into two groups of six (League A and League B), with teams playing three round robin legs.
Teams must finish top of their six-team group after the three legs to move to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off and keep their dream of India 2023 alive.
Matches in the Challenge League are classed as List A fixtures.
How would a Challenge League team qualify for India 2023?
It’s a long path, but Challenge League sides are three steps from ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023.
After finishing first in the Challenge League group, it’s off to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off, a six-team competition that also contains the bottom four finishers at Cricket World Cup League 2.
The top two of the Play-off then move to the Cricket World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe next year. A ten-team competition, the Qualifier also contains the top three from League 2, and the bottom five of the Super League.
The top two from the Qualifier take up the final spots at India 2023.
Where can I watch the Challenge League?
Just like Cricket World Cup League 2, all Challenge League matches are live and FREE on ICC.tv in selected regions.
What happened last time in Group B
Moved from Hong Kong in December 2019, Oman played host to the first leg of the competition, and Uganda wrote the early headlines with wins over Jersey and Kenya.
Ronak Patel’s 86 set the base of the Cranes’ chase, with Masaba and cult hero Frank Nsubuga completing the chase in the final over. Uganda then completed the series sweep, chasing Hong Kong’s 147.
Hong Kong finished the series with three wins from five matches, with Italy denied the chance to join them when their match with Bermuda was rained off.
What’s the latest from Kampala?
Jersey and a Uganda A side have traded victories in warm-up action, while Kenya were too strong for Kampala club side Ceylon Lions. Hong Kong, second after the first leg of action, arrive at the competition having lost to Namibia in three One Day matches at the United Ground.
Italy have recruited Kevin O’Brien as an assistant coach for the tour, after he was again left out of Ireland’s T20 squad to take on India.
The hosts look good value to continue their run even in spite of the length gap in the competition, coming off a strong tour of Namibia, and with their young brigade making an impression at the Under 19 Men’s Cricket World Cup.
Speaking to icc-cricket.com last month, Namibian skipper Gerhard Erasmus was full of praise for his African neighbors.
“We as a team definitely felt that the Ugandan team rose their level and their performance definitely has taken a big rise as of the last couple of years.
“The vibe they’ve created is sort of reminiscent to how we made that change in 2019.
“It’s a big period for them, so we’re definitely hoping for our African brothers to put the region’s cricket on the map.”
Both the Kyambogo and Lugogo grounds in Uganda are tipped to take spin, particularly as the week goes on.
What about League A of the Challenge League?
The other side of the Challenge League draw, League A resumes in Canada in late July.
The hosts of the upcoming leg currently top the table with four wins from five, edging Singapore on net run rate, with Qatar (six points) in third. Denmark sit in fourth, with Malaysia and Vanuatu sat at the bottom with a win apiece.
After the Canada leg, Group A’s attention turns to Malaysia for the final leg in December.
League B fixtures – Uganda leg
Uganda v Jersey: 17 June
Hong Kong v Italy: 18 June
Kenya v Bermuda: June 18
Kenya v Jersey: 20 June
Hong Kong v Uganda: 20 June
Uganda v Bermuda: 21 June
Jersey v Italy: 21 June
Kenya v Italy: 23 June
Hong Kong v Bermuda: 23 June
Hong Kong v Jersey: 24 June
Uganda v Italy: 24 June
Kenya v Uganda: 26 June
Jersey v Bermuda: 26 June
Bermuda v Italy: 27 June
Kenya v Hong Kong: 27 June