|European Division 5: Corfu, Greece, September 2009 2010|
Hellas take the title, and Turkey record a first-ever win
Hosts Hellas took the inaugural European Division 5 championship at the picturesque Marina Ground at Gouvia on Saturday, completing a comfortable seven-wicket victory over the Czech Republic to retain their unbeaten record in the tournament.
It was another convincing performance by the Hellenes, after their opponents got off to a solid start after winning the toss, Scott Page and John Corness putting on 48 before Mehmood Ahmed was brought into the attack and claimed the wicket of Corness in his first over.
Mikulas Stary soon followed, but Page again displayed great tenacity in seeing the total through to 107 before he was fifth out for a well made, 112-ball 40, the second of three wickets for Anastasios Manousis, at a cost of 21 runs.
Then, as the Czechs crumbled, Dimitris Triantafillidis came back to claim three for 21 as well, while when Mehmood removed Craig Hampson to end the innings with the total on 133 he too ended with the same figures.
The Greek catching was again of a very high standard, with Stamatis Giourgas taking three including a fine running effort on the midwicket boundary to dismiss the dangerous Arif Javed.
There was time for Hellas to face six overs before lunch, but during the last of them Ahmed drove a Ben Soucek delivery to Robin Smith at short midwicket, and he took a sharp diving catch.
Chris Lagos and Imran Haider batted purposefully after the interval, putting on 58 for the second wicket, and it was not until Lawrence Acheson came into the attack that the Czechs were able to secure another breakthrough, Lagos going caught behind for 26.
Iordan Kontarinis now joined Haider, who became a second victim for Acheson when Page took a fine running catch at midwicket. Haider had made 37 from 50 deliveries, with seven boundaries.
But only 25 were now needed with plenty of overs left and Kontarinis and Manousis reached their target comfortably enough, the winning runs coming – inevitably, perhaps – in the form of wides.
It was an emotional occasion for Greek skipper Costas Vassilas, whose farewell match it was. He was given a guard of honour by his team at the start, and chaired from the field at the end.
Meanwhile, at Ropa Valley, Sweden guaranteed second place as they recorded a facile victory over the Estonians, 72 runs the margin in defence of 146.
Things hadn’t looked quite so comfortable hen Murali Obili and Vineeth Goving had both claimed a brace of wickets in the early overs, reducing the Swedes to 24 for 4, but a sterling effort from the Swedish order, led by man-on-the-match Azam Khalil (40 off 57 balls), soon dragged their team into respectability and thence realms of competitiveness on what has been a low-scoring ground throughout the week.
Captain Adnan Raza would shepherd the tail with an unbeaten 23, and as Obili and Goving returned to notch up three-fors for Estonia, both Tim Heath and Kalle Vilslapuu claimed a couple in the final overs.
With half an hour remaining until the scheduled lunch break, Estonia were obliged to bat, and when the umpires called time the game was effectively over, Aman Zahid and Imran Zaigham ripping out four of the Estonian top order in just six overs.
Obili’s late flurry (27, with one four and a six) almost got his team to half-way – and this was enough to secure fifth place overall on net run rate – but Khalil rounded off a superb day with 4 for 26 to settle the Battle of the Baltic in Sweden’s favour.
On the sister ground at Ropa Valley, Turkey thumped Bulgaria to not only avoid the wooden spoon and secure their first official international victory, but also to ensure that no side will leave Corfu winless this week.
There were two bowling heroes for the Turks: Sajjad Haider, whose away-swing did for each of the Bulgarian top five, and Mohammad Razak, who was rewarded with five wickets as the Bulgarians failed to cope with his unerring accuracy. The end result was that Turkey would need to chase only 48 for the win.
That such would be achieved was never in doubt, and even if the dismissal of Stephen Bryant – incredibly, the seventh batsman to fall lbw in the match – gave the Turkish camp a scare, Mohammad Aasim (22*) and Mohammad Razak (16*) took it to the close from there.
Despite their proud triumph Turkey still finish in sixth place; conversely, Bulgaria’s defeat does not mean that they relinquish fourth place, with both positions determined by net run rate.