Dubai: Two places in this year's ICC World Twenty20 will be up for grabs when 16 teams vie for honours at the UAE qualifiers which gets underway at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Tuesday.
The ICC World Twenty20 is scheduled to be held in Sri Lanka from September 18 to October 7 and 16 Associate and Affiliate Member nations will have the chance to fight it out for the two available places during the UAE qualifiers.
Afghanistan will open its title defence against Papua New Guinea in the opening match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, while Ireland will square-off against Namibia next door at the ICC GCA No. 2 ground.
A total of 72 matches will be played at five venues across Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah from March 13 to 24, with free entry for spectators for all matches.
The first qualifier will emerge on March 22 after the 61st match while the winner of the 71st match, to be played on the final morning of the tournament, will decide the second qualifier.
The two qualifiers will then lock horns in the tournament finale on the final evening and the side that wins the match will not only lift the trophy but will also join Australia and the West Indies in Group B.
The losing team will complete Group A which also includes defending champion England and 2007 winner India.
Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, Netherlands and Scotland have earned direct qualification into the ICC World Twenty20 UAE qualifier by virtue of finishing in the top six of the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier South Africa 2009.
The remaining 10 sides have come through the 12 regional qualifying tournaments. No less than 88 affiliated member countries featured in these regional tournaments.
The 16 sides have been divided into two groups of eight, with defending champion and top seed Afghanistan topping Group A and number-two seed Ireland heading Group B.
Other sides in Group A are Netherlands, Canada, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Hong Kong, Bermuda, Denmark and Nepal while Group B also includes Kenya, Scotland, Namibia, Uganda, Oman, Italy and the United States of America (USA).
Another key feature of the tournament will be the presence of five-time ICC Umpire of the Year, Simon Taufel, who is one of the 12 umpires who will be officiating in the tournament.