World Cup minnows to tour New Zealand
New Zealand will get a preview of Cricket World Cup action in October with three countries touring here as part of their tournament buildup.
Afghanistan, who have just beaten Zimbabwe twice in a tied series in Zimbabwe, will play four matches against provincial sides, while Ireland and Scotland will each play three provincial sides and a New Zealand XI.
The tour, with all games being 50-overs matches, is being organised by the International Cricket Council's Higher Performance Program (HPP).
The teams will also tour World Cup co-hosts Australia, along with fellow qualifier, the United Arab Emirates.
The New Zealand matches will be played at Blake Park (Mount Maunganui), Seddon Park (Hamilton), Bert Sutcliffe Oval (Rangiora) and Hagley Oval in Christchurch.
The Auckland, Northern Districts, Canterbury and Otago teams will provide the opposition in what will be worthy preparation for their own national one-day competition.
''Helping cricket's top emerging nations to perform on the global stage is a key part of the ICC's High Performance Programme, and these tours will provide a great opportunity for the four teams to gain valuable knowledge and experience of the conditions they will face during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015,'' Dave Richardson, the ICC chief executive, said.
Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan captain, welcomed the initiative, believing it would provide an ideal buildup to the World Cup.
''Not only will we be able to familiarise ourselves with the conditions that we will face during the tournament, but we will also be able to seek guidance from former legends of the game and utilise world class facilities on offer in Australia and New Zealand,'' Nabi said.
Therese Walsh, head of New Zealand for ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, believed the tour would provide some real impetus heading into a summer where the tournament, starting in February, will be the highlight.
''This tour will provide an early start to what will be a massive summer of cricket, and I hope kiwi fans will take the opportunity to welcome and support these teams as they prepare for World Cup in February and March,'' Walsh said.
''World Cups are made much more special when fans adopt a second team and I see Ireland, Scotland and Afghanistan being popular choices for Kiwis when the Black Caps are not playing.
''The New Zealand XI fixtures, on October 15 against Scotland and October 18 against Ireland, will also be used by the Black Caps as warm ups for the three match ODI series against South Africa starting in Mount Maunganui on October 21.
''These New Zealand XI matches give us the opportunity to face World Cup sides which we rarely get the opportunity to play. It's another important step in the Black Caps' preparation and one we're excited about,'' said New Zealand Cricket boss David White.
ICC High performance Program Qualifier Tour, New Zealand (all games 50-overs) World Cup
AT A GLANCE
Thursday, Oct 2: Afghanistan v Auckland, Mt Maunganui
Saturday, Oct 4: Afghanistan v Auckland, Mt Maunganui
Tuesday, Oct 7: Afghanistan v Northern Districts, Mt Maunganui
Thursday, Oct 9: Afghanistan v Northern Districts, Mt Maunganui
Wednesday, Oct 15: Scotland v New Zealand XI, Rangiora
Thursday, Oct 16: Ireland v Northern Districts, Hamilton
Friday, Oct 17: Scotland v Canterbury, Christchurch
Saturday, Oct 18: Ireland v New Zealand XI, Hamilton
Monday, Oct 20: Scotland, TBC, Rangiora
Tuesday, Oct 21: Ireland v Canterbury, Rangiora
Wednesday, Oct 22: Scotland v Otago, Rangiora
Thursday, Oct 23: Ireland v Otago, Rangiora