The standard may be modest but hosting the World Cup qualifying tournament is good news for New Zealand Cricket.

Ten teams are playing 34 games from January 13 to February 1 dotted around some of the more picturesque locations in the country to find the last two qualifiers for the main event in early 2015, to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

Admission is free, as it should be. But there is a distinctive appeal in this tournament. The game cannot survive on the test-playing 10 alone.

This is not to say any of these teams will ever be good enough to play five-day cricket, or in most cases, would have it as a serious ambition, but there's more to the game than that.


This is their opportunity to mix it with the big boys and find out what they're made of.

Ireland have taken one qualifying place, so too Afghanistan, which is a remarkable story in its own right.

The favourites from the qualifying tournament will be the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates, but there's no denying a touch of romance associated with some of the other match-ups.

Try Papua New Guinea against Uganda at New Plymouth's stunning Pukekura Park. Scotland against Hong Kong in Queenstown; or the Netherlands against Namibia at Mt Maunganui.

New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White yesterday called it a "great opportunity to showcase how well we can deliver international events".

It is that, and it's also a chance for organisers to dry run aspects of the operation ahead of the following year's World Cup.

Pool A is being played in the South Island - using Queenstown, Rangiora, Hagley Oval, in its international debut, and Lincoln, which will host the final on February 1 - with Mt Maunganui and New Plymouth hosting pool B.

The Mount is hosting 10 games between its two ovals while the last round of Super Six games and the final are in the South Island.