|European Under 19 (Division 2) Championship: Belgium, August 2009|
The Isle of Man keep its unbeaten record; Italy and Belgium remain in contention
With Belgium having the bye on Friday, the Isle of Man strengthened their grip on the Under 19 Division 2 championship with a commanding victory over Germany in Lasne.
Italy and Belgium have a game in hand over the Manxmen, but the crucial match will be Saturday’s clash between the hosts and the leaders at Wilrijk – and only if Belgium win that one and Italy beat Germany will Sunday’s final game between Italy and Belgium have an effect on the outcome. Should the Isle of Man beat Belgium and finish their schedule undefeated, then the Belgians would need to beat Italy to have a chance of second place.
Italy kept their hopes alive on Friday with a very convincing win against Gibraltar, in a match which largely followed the same course as that between the Isle of Man and Germany. The surprise of the day was France’s victory over Israel in Mechelen, which gave the French their first win of the tournament.
The effectiveness of the Manx top order has been one of the features of the week, and openers Jack Rowlands and Max Stokoe surpassed their previous efforts with a stand of 161 against the German attack, which received an early setback when Abdul-Wase Basit bowled three beamers in as many overs and had to be removed from the attack.
Not until the thirtieth over did Germany achieve a breakthrough, when Stokoe, on 74, hit a return catch to Nishath Nallawagnsa. His partner was bowled by Kashif Mahmood for 56 almost immediately afterwards, and this was the trigger for a middle-order collapse which saw the Isle of Man subside to 219 for seven, having lost seven wickets for just 58 runs.
Only a late flourish from Andrew Brown and Adam Killey, who added 35 for the eighth wicket, enabled them to finish with an imposing 260 for eight.
But this always seemed likely to be beyond the capacities of the German batsmen, and when Daniel Hawke and Alex Stokoe picked up two wickets each to reduce Germany to 52 for four any thought of a contest had disappeared.
The rest of the German batting showed improved resilience, however, with Kashif Mahmood playing a classic skipper’s knock in making a 69-ball 38, and it was not until the 42nd over that Hawke was able to claim the final wicket to end with three for 40 as Germany were dismissed for 136.
Italy’s left-handed opener Roshendra Abeywickrama is another top-order batsman who has shown consistent form, and he, too, put up his best performance of the week, batting throughout his team’s innings for 82 not out, made off 120 balls with nine boundaries.
He and Wakeel Ahmed put on 70 for the first wicket, and he then added another 52 in a third-wicket stand with Mainul Islam (32). The Italian wickets tended to fall in pairs, but assisted by poor ground fielding and indifferent catching, their batsmen were able to give Abeywickrama plenty of support.
He was becalmed for a time soon after reaching his half-century, but then recovered his momentum, and eventually saw Italy through to a total of 232 for eight. Gibraltar skipper Vivek Sadhwani took three for 40, and Robbie Skinner had three for 41.
Abeywickrama still wasn’t finished, and he took the first two wickets to reduce Gibraltar to 7 for two. The Gibraltar batsmen found the Italian seamers rather too sharp for their taste, although Karan Sadhwani again resisted for a considerable time, making 29 from 55 deliveries to make his side’s top score.
And the middle order had equal difficulty with the Italian spinners, Mainul Islam taking two for 24 and Lositha Kankanamage two for 19 as Gibraltar battled their way to 105 all out.
Meanwhile in Mechelen, Israel collapsed to 130 all out after having won the toss as the French, who began the tournament with solid performances against Belgium and the Isle of Man only to see their efforts rewarded with defeat, finally put it all together with a fine team effort.
There were two wickets each for seamer Rory Gribbell and spinners Jon Houghton and Robin Murphy, and Israel were 48 for five at one stage before recovering somewhat, due in part to a stand of 34 for the sixth wicket between Gilon Samuel and Nir Dokarker.
Murphy and Houghton gave their side a great start when France replied, putting on 59 before Murphy departed for 32, and Houghton continued to bat well despite a fighting performance from Israel’s Gabi Schachat who took three wickets in four balls to give his team some hope.
It was too little too late, though, and even when Houghton was finally bowled by Safania Nagavkar for 60, made from 62 deliveries with nine boundaries, Zain Zahir and Shahzeb Mohammed knocked off the 14 runs that were still needed to complete the win with more than 21 overs to spare.