|European Division 5: Corfu, Greece, September 2009 2010|
First blood to hosts Hellas, Estonia and the Czech Republic
Hosts Hellas opened the inaugural European Division 5 tournament with a victory over Sweden at the Ropa Valley No. 1 ground in Corfu on Monday, but they were made to fight all the way by a spirited Swedish performance.
Sweden’s total of 137, though modest, was the best first-innings score of the opening round, with Piyal Rahman making 23 and Sanaullah Habibzai top-scoring with 31 not out. New-ball bowler Spiros Goustis took three for 20 for the Hellenes, with Mehmood Ahmed picking up three for 23.
The hosts then appeared to be coasting when they reached 72 for two in reply, helped by a generous contribution of wides by the Swedish bowlers. Imran Haider (15) and Iordan Kontarinis (20) had added 49 for the third wicket, but once the former was trapped leg-before by Sandeep Sharma, to be followed four runs later by his partner, the Hellas innings began to run into trouble.
Anastasias Manousis made a solid 28 in the middle order, but when he was sixth out 18 were still needed, and another breakthrough by Azam Khalil with the total on 123 gave the Swedes hope of pulling off a remarkable victory.
Slowly but surely, however, Stamatios Giourgas and Georgios Xenakis accumulated the remaining runs, although Sweden ensured that it took them until the third ball of the final over before Giourgas hit the winning boundary.
The encounter between Bulgaria and the Czech Republic on the nearby No. 2 ground was also a close-run affair, with the Czechs just holding on to secure a two-wicket win.
Benjamin Souček claimed three for 27 and Lawrence Acheson three for 25 as Bulgaria were dismissed for 123 in just 27.4 overs after winning the toss and batting, Parkash Mishra top-scoring with 28 as the last four wickets enabled the side to recover somewhat from a potentially disastrous 66 for six.
Bulgaria’s opening bowler Vikram Tewatia then put the Czechs under tremendous early pressure, taking four wickets to reduce them to an even shakier 37 for five.
Mikulas Stary turned the game around, however, adding 40 for the sixth wicket with Acheson, and remaining not out on 26 as the Czech Republic reached their target in the 35th over.
Meanwhile at the Marina Ground in Gouvria, Estonia registered a solid six-wicket victory over Turkey, largely thanks to a fine all-round performance from Murali Obili and a hard-hitting innings from skipper Tim Heath.
Obili’s seam bowling had the Turkish batsmen throroughly tied down, and he took three for 10 from his ten overs, while there were two wickets each for Kalle Vilslapuu, Heath and Shiva Arunachalam as the Turks, having won the toss and elected to bat, battled their way to 114 all out in 39 overs.
But then Sajjad Haider and Jonathan Clarkson in their turn had the Estonian top order in trouble, restricting them to 18 for three off the ten overs bowled before the lunch interval.
It looked at that point as if Turkey might be able to defend their modest total, but Heath and Obili took control after the resumption, and their fourth wicket stand of 98 – by far the highest of the day – brought their side to the brink of victory.
Obili was out stumped off Haider’s bowling for a stylish 32 with 7 still needed, but by this time Heath was in full spate, punishing the Turkish change bowlers and belting six fours and three sixes in his 45-ball innings for 68 not out as Estonia won with more than 27 overs to spare.