JERSEY’S under-19 cricketers travel to the Netherlands this week seeking a spot at next year’s World Cup.
And while head coach Neil MacRae is under no illusions as to the task facing the U19s, he sees the European qualifier as a ‘great opportunity’ for the Island’s young cricketers to test themselves at a higher level – with the potential to reach the World Cup.
The European qualifier sees six teams face each other in a single round-robin tournament.
Just the top side advances to the ICC U19 World Cup in Sri Lanka and hosts Netherlands, as well as Scotland, are likely to be the two frontrunners for the spot, with Italy, Norway and Guernsey also competing.
But Jersey have beaten the Netherlands on three occasions at under-19 level and a similar result in the Netherlands would put them in the mix.
Much may rest on the performances of Charlie Brennan, who was part of the national squad which competed in the European T20 qualifier last week. Brennan was a key figure in Jersey’s final match win over Denmark, striking 43 off 30 balls.
MacRae said: ‘We have a good strong squad which has got a lot of experience of playing Premier League cricket in Jersey and some with experience from the national squad.
‘This is a big opportunity – as it always is in the U19 qualifier – for the players to test themselves at European level with the carrot of a World Cup at the end of the tournament. We have some excellent players in the squad and they are looking forward to testing themselves against some strong teams.
‘We have got five matches in the space of seven days, which is a lot of cricket in a short period of time, but the players have been preparing well and training hard over the past two years.’
Jersey travel to Northern Ireland today ahead of two warm-up matches against Ireland U19s on Wednesday and Thursday before heading on to the Netherlands for the opening match of the 50-over tournament against Norway.
MacRae added: ‘Scotland and Netherlands are major European cricketing nations but we have beaten Netherlands in each of the last three U19 qualifiers. We have to take on a strong Scottish side but they have just lost a series against Ireland and there are areas that I believe we can expose there.’
And MacRae said that, having such a strong youth development pathway, can only benefit the full Island side in their quest to reach an ICC World Cup.
On four occasions Jersey’s men’s squad have reached the final qualifier stage for the T20 World Cup only to fall agonisingly short, but with the likes of Brennan coming through and players such as Asa Tribe, Josh Lawrenson and Patrick Gouge progressing through the U19s to full international honours in recent years there is hope that the continued investment in youth will pay dividends.
MacRae added: ‘We have put a huge amount of time and resource into our youth pathways and we are seeing the results of that. We have had the likes of Asa and Josh emerge last year and Charlie Brennan most recently. It is great to have the pipeline producing players because that it is crucial for a small island nation like us.’
Sunday 6 August: v Norway (2pm)Monday 7 August: v Scotland (12pm)Wednesday 9 August: v Italy (4pm)Thursday 10 August: v Netherlands (12pmSaturday 12 August: v Guernsey (2pm)