THE focus of African Cricket moves to Botswana this week, for the ICC World Twenty20 Africa C Qualifiers.
Lesotho, St Helena, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Malawi join the hosts as the seven teams competing for the last two spots at the Africa Finals next May. Already, there have been two tournaments that have seen Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda play their way into the 2019 qualifying tournament, to be hosted by Uganda.
In the ICC World Twenty20 Africa A qualifier tournament held in Nigeria, the strength of West Africa came to the fore, with neighbours Ghana and Nigeria standing head and shoulders above the rest.
Simon Ateak of Ghana was player of the tournament, showing calm under pressure, while Nigeria's captain Chimezie Onwuzilike was the top scorer at the event.
The ICC World Twenty20 Africa B qualifier tournament, hosted by Rwanda, was a showcase of excellent batting from several sides. The pre-tournament favourites, Kenya, brought a strong reputation with them, and they immediately lived up to their billing.
The East Africans scored freely, with a target of 241 on the opening day testing their nerve. They memorably got over the line, and set the tone for the rest of the tournament. Uganda upset Kenya by 80 runs in the finale, thanks to a fine century by Dinesh Nakrani, but Kenya's passage to the final qualifiers had already been secured.
The tournament saw three centuries notched, which was testimony to the excellent batting surfaces churned out by the team at the Gahanga Cricket Stadium in Kigali. Uganda's Riazat Ali Shah was named as player of the tournament.
Namibia and Botswana will enter the tournament in Gaborone as the highest ranked teams in the region, and both will be expecting to feature prominently. Namibia had an ideal tune-up, playing in the recent Africa T20 Cup tournament in South Africa.
Botswana, as hosts, can expect the lion's share of support, and they will be a hard side to beat. The hosts will kick off the tournament on Sunday, 28 October, when they take on Mozambique, with Swaziland and Namibia also locking horns in the opening morning fixtures.
The teams arrive in Gaborone today, ahead of what should be another intriguing week of cricket.
"This tournament is one that we have been looking forward to for a long time," enthused Botswana Cricket president Chico Bhamjee.
"We have looked on as Nigeria and Rwanda hosted the other regional qualifiers, and we are ready to put our best foot forward in Southern Africa. We welcome all of our visitors warmly, and wish them all the best. Of course, we would love to see our own boys do well, and qualify for next year's final qualifier in Uganda."
Sunday 28th October
9:30am BCA 1 Botswana vs Mozambique
BCA 2 Swaziland vs Namibia
1:50pm BCA 1 Namibia vs Malawi
BCA 2 St Helena vs Swaziland
Monday 29th October
9:30am BCA 1 Swaziland vs Lesotho
BCA 2 Malawi vs St Helena
1:50pm BCA 1 Lesotho vs St Helena
BCA 2 Mozambique vs Namibia
Tuesday 30th October
9:30am BCA 1 St Helena vs Botswana
BCA 2 Malawi vs Swaziland
1:50pm BCA 1 Lesotho vs Mozambique
BCA 2 Botswana vs Malawi
Wednesday 31st October
Thursday 1st November
9:30am BCA 1 Mozambique vs Malawi
BCA 2 Namibia vs Lesotho
1:50pm BCA 1 Botswana vs Swaziland
BCA 2 Malawi vs Lesotho
Friday 2nd November
9:30am BCA 1 Mozambique vs St Helena
BCA 2 Lesotho vs Botswana
1:50pm BCA 1 Swaziland vs Mozambique
BCA 2 St Helena vs Namibia
Saturday 3rd November
10:30am BCA 1 Namibia vs Botswana