|European Under 17 (Division 1) Championship: Northern Ireland, July 2008|
European Under 17 Division 1 gets the ball rolling
The 2008 outdoor ICC European tournament season begins on Monday 14th July with the Under 17 Division 1 title being decided over four days at venues in and around Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Normally the four teams vying for the trophy are Denmark, Ireland, The Netherlands and Scotland but this year sees the first appearance at this level of Guernsey and Jersey.
Scotland are the reigning champions, having narrowly pipped Ireland in last year's championship in Scotland - the matches in Dundee were two-day affairs (all six were drawn) but this year the format reverts to the usual 50 overs per side.
The six teams have been split into two groups of three, with the matches spread over three days, followed by a final day of cross-over play-offs to decide the final placings. Group A consists of Denmark, Guernsey and Scotland while Ireland, Jersey and The Netherlands make up Group B.
The best known name in the six squads is that of Paul Stirling, who has been a regular name on the Ireland senior team sheet throughout 2008, including an ODI appearance against New Zealand in Aberdeen at the start of this month. With home advantage and a long history of success at Under 17 level, Ireland will begin as favourites to lift the title.
In previous years it has been Scotland who have usually provided the strongest challenge to Ireland's dominance. Their side this year is captained by Calvin Burnett and they are coached by a well-known name in international cricket, ex-Scotland captain Craig Wright.
The two Channel Islands will enter the event with a fair degree of confidence following their excellent performances in last year's 2nd Division tournaments. In the nine-nation Under 19 tournament Jersey defeated Guernsey by five wickets in the deciding match, while in the Under 15 tournament in La Manga Guernsey defeated Jersey by 69 runs in the Final after both teams had won all four of their qualifying round matches.
Denmark will be captained by Taha Ahmed, who played in Dundee in 2007 along with four other members of that squad. It is 2003 since Denmark last won a match in the Under 17 championships and they will be striving hard to end that unsuccessful run.
Six members of the Dutch squad also appear for a second time, captained this year by Floris Kuigma. Having finished runners-up in 2006, the Dutch will be keen to regain that placing at least.
Six grounds in the Greater Belfast area will be used during the tournament, with the 1st-2nd decider taking place on Ireland's international ground at Stormont on Thursday 17th July.Full details of the tournament can be found on the ICC Europe website at http://www.icc-europe.org/ECC/DATABASE/2008/TOURNAMENTS/EUROU17/about.shtml