Croatia take a thriller in Tel Aviv
Croatia added to their growing reputation as masters of the tight finish in Tel Aviv on Sunday, producing a five-run victory over hosts Israel to secure promotion to the European Second Division.
They had qualified for the play-off by beating Spain for the Division 3 title in Brussels back in August, when they dismissed their opponents for 216 to win by four runs with four balls to spare.
There was a remarkable similarity this time, as they successfully defended a total of 152 for seven, made off 45 overs, again claiming the final wicket off the second ball of the last over.
Captain John Vujnovich was again the top scorer with 51 after he had won the toss and elected to bat, well supported by his brother and fellow-opener Paul and then by Pero Kastelan, while Phil Siljeg chipped in with 27 not out as the Croatians added 52 in the final five overs to get to a defendable total.
Wickets were shared for Israel, with Isaac Talkar, Isaac Massil and Herschel Gutman picking up two each.
Israel were soon in trouble at 2 for two and then at 7 for three, but Gutman (44) and Massil (29) added 62 for the fourth wicket to bring their side back into the match. The required rate never got above six per over, and with skipper Stanley Perlman at the crease the home team seemed to have the edge.
But once they tried to raise the tempo the wickets inevitably began to fall, and with five overs left there were 27 needed but only three wickets in hand.
Two more dismissals came in the next three overs, but 20 runs meant that just seven were needed from the final twelve balls, with one wicket needed by Croatia.
One run came from the 44th, so that left six required off the last. But the Croatians held their nerve, and Siljeg claimed the wicket they needed to ensure their place in Division 2. He finished with three for 23, while John Vujnovich took three for 27.
The win means that Croatia’s next international engagement will be the Division 2 tournament in Guernsey next July, where they will take on the hosts, Jersey, Germany, Gibraltar and France. Israel will go into the Division 3 competition scheduled for 2009, where their opponents will include Spain, the Isle of Man, Malta, Belgium, Portugal and Cyprus.