While the entree to the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2014 at the Bay Oval has been served and enjoyed, we are now ready for the main course, with the first game today between The Netherlands and Uganda.
The 10 sides taking part in the ICC CWCQ NZ 2014, formerly known as the ICC Trophy, have been split into two groups of five teams each, with top ranked United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Group A alongside 2005 winner Scotland, 2009 finalist Canada, Hong Kong and Nepal. Group B includes 2001 champion Netherlands, two-time finalist Kenya, 2001 finalist Namibia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Uganda.
The top three sides from each group will progress to the Super Six stage, where they play teams from the opposing group.
The top two sides progress to the February 1 final, at Bert Sutcliffe Oval at Lincoln. The finalists will join the 10 full members as well as Afghanistan and Ireland in the ICC CWC in Australia and New Zealand, in February and March 2015.
The Bay Oval is hosting five Group B sides in the next ten days.
The Netherlands is the top-ranked team in Group B and is vastly experienced having previously played in the ICC Cricket World Cup in 1996, 2003, 2007 and 2011.
It also has a proud record at the ICC CWCQ when it was the runner-up in 1986 and 1990, finished third in 1994, won the event in 2001 and was third in 2009 when the tournament was staged in South Africa.
Captain Peter Borren, Mudassar Bukhari, Daan van Bunge, Pieter Seelaar and Eric Szwarczynski are the survivors from the Netherlands 2009 campaign. Borren, who also represented New Zealand in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2002, was one of the two batsmen to show form in the recently concluded ICC WCLC when he finished with 280 runs at an average of 35.
Kenya, which finished sixth in the ICC WCLC, is looking for a change in fortunes under new player-coach Steve Tikolo and new captain Rakep Patel.
Kenya has many campaigners in its squad from the ICC CWCQ 2009.
Only Ragheb Aga, Duncan Allan, Irfan Karim, Shem Ngoche and Nelson Odhiambo didn't feature for the side in South Africa.
Kenya is the only team in the tournament to have played in five successive ICC Cricket World Cups - 1996 to 2011. It also has a good record in the ICC CWCQ, having reached the semifinals in 1990 and were runners-up in 1994 and 1997.
Fifth seed Namibia finished seventh in the ICC WCLC, winning two matches out of 12. The African side is looking to qualify for its second ICC CWC, after having played the 2003 tournament which was staged in South Africa.
For Namibia, captain Sarel Burger, JB Burger, Louis Klazinga, Bernard Scholtz, Nicolaas Scholtz, LP van der Westhuizen and Craig Williams were all members of the squad that played in South Africa four years ago.
Namibia finished eighth in the last edition of the ICC CWCQ in 2009.
Their chances in this edition will hinge largely on the bowling form of Christi Viljoen, who took 23 wickets in the IC WCLC, and Raymond van Schoor, who scored 360 runs at an average of 30 in the same competition.
Papua New Guinea has earned the right to play in this event by finishing third in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 2 2011, while Uganda has qualified for the event after finishing second in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division 3 2013.