|European Division 5: Corfu, Greece, September 2009 2010|
Hellas stay unbeaten, but Sweden have the easiest win of the day
Hellas maintained their unbeaten record by beating Bulgaria at the Ropa Valley No. 2 ground on Friday, but they were far from having things entirely their own way, while Sweden secured a comprehensive victory over Turkey and the Czech Republic proved too strong for Estonia.
In another greatly improved performance with the ball, Bulgaria did well to restrict Hellas to a total of 184, bowling them out in the penultimate over.
The hosts contributed to their own difficulties early on with two run-outs, but then continued to lose wickets and were precariously placed at 97 for five despite a knock of 32 from Imran Haider. They were rescued by a fighting innings from George Toulantas, who made 45 despite an injury which necessitated the services of a runner, and shared in a vital partnership of 64 with skipper Costas Vassilas.
Both were eventually dismissed, however, by Bulgarian captain Saif ur Rehman, who took three for 50, while Vikram Tewatia cleaned up the tail, taking three for 36.
But the Bulgarian batting falls far short of the bowling, and they were soon in desperate trouble when they replied, Spiros Goustis achieving the first breakthrough and Man of the Match Dimitris Triantafilidis then took three more wickets at a cost of 10 runs as Bulgaria slumped to 16 for four.
Adil Hanif tried to hit his way out of this crisis, making a 38-ball 33 with five boundaries, but once he was bowled by Stamatis Giourgas matters rapidly came to a close, Mehmood Ahmed taking three for 5 in ten deliveries as Bulgaria were all out for 92.
Next door, the start was delayed for 45 minutes because of a wet patch along one side of the pitch, caused by seepage from the sprinkler system.
Once play got under way Turkey, who had won the toss and elected to bat against Sweden, were demolished by a tremendous spell from Imran Zaigham, who bowled unchanged through ten overs, taking six for 17.
Once he had finished Azam Khalil took over, capturing the remaining four wickets at a cost of 3 runs in just 15 balls as Turkey . Only captain Jonathan Clarkson reached double figures, facing 53 balls for 11.
The Swedes then needed only 10 overs to knock off the runs for the loss of two wickets, Clarkson trapping first Zaigham and then Aman Zahid with successive deliveries. But Muhammad Tajammul and Piyal Rahman saw them home to keep Sweden in second place, one game behind the hosts.
At Marina, the Czech Republic cruised to their third victory in four matches as they defeated Estonia by 81 runs.
They owe much of this to Scot Page (53) and Manjeet Malik (49), whose conversely patient and belligerent innings (Page faced 108 balls; Malik only 47) were the telling contributions in the Czechs’ total of 231 for 9.
For the Estonians, there were two standout performances with the ball: Murali Obilli got through a parsimonious spell for just nine runs (also claiming three-for), while Arunachalam Shivalingham swung the ball prodigiously to record Estonia’s first five-wicket haul of the week.
After lunch, Estonia’s pursuit was jeopardised immediately as wickets first fell early and then frequently, Bobby Soucek claiming 4 for 25 in a devastating new-ball burst to leave the Estonians reeling at 65 for 6.
Nevertheless, even from such dire straits victory was not impossible – if unlikely – and when Murali Obili remained at the crease hope sprung; the more so when Malik reprieved him at backward point, the score on 116.
Alas, when Obili fell in the next over for 60 – caught well this time by Malik as the ball spiralled once more – the Estonian demise was final. Perhaps it took longer than thought to arrive, but even as the Czechs rotated their back-up bowlers the end was only ever a couple of straight balls away.
That same end came in the thirty-seventh over when Scot Page cleaned up Kalle Vilslapuu, the innings closing on 150 and the Czechs thus guaranteed of a finish no worse than third in this year’s championship.
For his impressive all-round effort Obili was deservedly rewarded with the Hellenic Cricket Federation’s man-of-the-match award.