EMERGING NATIONS VIE FOR PLACE IN THE ICC CHAMPIONS TROPHY 2004

ICC New Release, United Arab Emirates, 27 February 2004

The strongest nations in cricket outside the full international level will be chasing the chance to take on the powers of the game when the ICC Six Nations Challenge kicks off this Sunday, 29 February in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The week long tournament will see three teams that took part in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003: Canada; Holland; and Namibia take on Scotland; the UAE; and the USA for the right to play Australia and New Zealand in the first round of the ICC Champions Trophy in September this year.

Scotland captain, Craig Wright, believes that a win in the UAE would go a long way to erasing the memory of missing out on a place in the World Cup. "We missed out on the World Cup last year which was really disappointing so this would be a great chance to get Scotland back on the international stage," said Mr White.

Canadian Team Manager, Mike Henry, said that the chance to go to the ICC Champions Trophy later this year was a huge incentive for his team. "The ICC Six Nations Challenge means a lot to Canadian Cricket as we strive to continually improve upon our performances in last year's World Cup. Our aim is to win this event, with the opportunity of playing against Australia and New Zealand in the ICC Champions Trophy a big motivation," said Mr Henry.

The tournament is a 50-over round robin format with matches in both Sharjah and Dubai before the final round on Saturday 6 March. The opening round will pit Canada against tournament hosts the United Arab Emirates, Holland shape up against Scotland and Namibia take on USA. Amongst other fixtures there will be a rematch of the ICC Trophy 2001 final between Holland and Namibia on Wednesday 3 March, and Scotland will have an opportunity to avenge its defeat to Canada in the play-off final of the same tournament on Thursday 4 March.

The Six Nations Challenge is part of the ICC's overall High Performance program for the leading "Associate" countries and five of the six nations taking part in the tournament are beneficiaries of this dedicated program that aims to narrow the gap between developing and test playing nations.

Former South African coach, Bob Woolmer, is the ICC's High Performance Manger and believes that the standard of cricket outside the Test level is continuing to improve. "We are seeing a high standard of cricket being played in a number of countries outside the elite level," said Mr Woolmer. "The performances of the Associate level countries at the World Cup were highly encouraging and this tournament provides another platform on which they can show their progress as well as giving them the essential international competition needed to allow them to continue to improve"

The High Performance program is part of the ICC's Global Development Program which has help take the sport to more countries than ever before. Since 1997 the number of ICC Members has grown from just 47 to 89 in 2003. The ICC works with cricket bodies around the world including regional bodies such as the Asian Cricket Council to develop and fund cricket programs for individual countries.† This is the second ICC Six Nations Challenge, but the first featuring six ICC Associate Member countries. The inaugural tournament in Namibia was contested by Canada, Holland, Kenya, Namibia, Sri Lanka ĆA' and Zimbabwe ĆA', and was won by Kenya.