|European Under 19 (Division 2) Championship: Belgium, August 2009|
Isle of Man, Belgium and Italy win twice on Twenty20 day
The Isle of Man maintained their unbeaten record in the tournament with two wins on the Twenty20 day on Wednesday, but Belgium and Italy maintained the pressure on the leaders by also winning twice.
The Isle of Mans strong batting line-up stood them in good stead in their opening game against Israel, with captain Max Stokoe making a fine 54-ball 68 and sharing a crucial 48-run partnership with brother Alex as the Manxmen ran up a total of 158 for seven.
Israelīs inexperience showed as they quickly found themselves of 26 for four, those dismissed including danger man Gabi Schachat. Left-hander Nir Dokarker hit Shaun Kelly for two huge sixes over square leg, but once he was out the Israeli challenge faded and they were all out for 120 off the final ball of their 20 overs.
Runs were harder to come by when the Isle of Man took on Gibraltar, but this time it was Alex Stokoe who played the decisive knock with a not-out 63, made from just 37 deliveries with seven fours and two sixes. He dominated a 54-run stand for the fourth wicket with Harry Rothwell, and the Manx reached 134 for five.
And then Alex Stokoe bowled tightly, conceding 9 runs from his four overs to put pressure on the Gibraltar batsmen. They contributed greatly to their own problems with some ill-judged running between the wickets, and there were three run-outs in their innings, which ended in the 17th over on a disappointing 76. Only Scott Chipolina (23) and Kayron Stagno (25 from 13 balls) made a significant contribution.
Hosts Belgium racked up the highest score of the day, putting on 190 for seven against Germany in Mechelen. Openers Nirvam Shah (39 from 33 deliveries) and Shaival Mehta gave them a great start with a stand of 60, and then Shashank Kothari smacked 50 from only 27 balls, with three fours and four sixes, adding another 60 for the fourth wicket in combination with Vikas Sharma.
Germany were immediately in trouble when Akshat Sanghvi trapped Haris Bhatti leg-before in the opening over of their reply, and although Resuan Afzal made 30 and Shafraz Samsudeen a steady not-out 40, they never looked likely to get close to their target, finishing on 131 for eight.
The Belgians then moved to the Antwerp Indians ground, where they completed another good win against Gibraltar.
It was again the Gibraltar batting which let them down after their bowlers had done well to dismiss Belgium for 140, of which Akshat Sanghvi contributed a splendid 28-ball 38, putting on 56 with Edward Still in the best stand of the innings. Matthew Hunter followed up his three wickets against the Manx with an even more impressive three for 7.
But three more run-outs were a reflection of the panic in the Gibraltarian ranks, as they quickly subsided to 39 for six and were eventually dismissed for 68 in 17.3 overs. Karan Sadhwani hit four boundaries in an innings of 14, but he was the only one to threaten to take control, and other than that the Belgians were always in command.
Italy, who have a game in hand, kept their faint hopes of challenging of the title alive when, having already accounted for France, they finished the day at Mechelen with a strong eight-wicket victory over Israel.
Their stars were Roshan Abeywickrama and Lositha Kankanamage, who made 31 and 43 respectively and put on 54 for the second wicket as Italy made 149 for eight against the French. Abeywickrama then took one for 8 in three overs as France, despite an opening stand of 69 between Robin Murray (30) and Jon Houghton (41) could only manage 118 for five in reply.
And then, when Israel batted first in the final game, Kankanamage took three for 15, his partner Wakeel Ahmed claiming three for 24 as the Israelis recorded a comparatively modest 114 for seven.
This proved little problem for the Italian batsmen, Abeywickrama making 49 from 43 deliveries and seeing them through to 86 in partnership with Kankanamage (21) after his fellow opener Wakeel Ahmed was forced to retire hurt with a muscle strain.
Abdur Rahman Bhuiyan and captain Zain ul Abidin finished the job with two and a half overs to spare.
Thursday is a rest day, the 50-over programme resuming on Friday, with the Isle of Man taking on Germany, Italy meeting Gibraltar and Israel playing France. Belgium have the bye, but their match against the Manxmen on Saturday may be the crucial game in the tournament.