Sweden retain their unbeaten record at Slovenia's expense
Unbeaten Sweden left hosts Slovenia facing an uphill struggle to qualify for the ICC European Division 2 Twenty20 championship, and put themselves in the box seat in the process, by registering a six-wicket victory at Velden on Thursday afternoon.
Having effortlessly disposed of Turkey in the morning, Sweden were briefly on the back foot in the afternoon when Slovenia, having won the toss and elected to bat, set off at a gallop, Lasantha Karunatilake and Mark Oman taking 17 from the first over.
But then Karunatilake holed out at long off attempting to smash Aman Zahid over the boundary, and when the same bowler removed both Oman and Robert Crawford, the Slovenians found themselves on 38 for three.
Then followed a moment of drama, when Primoz Pustoslemsek came to the wicket. It was quickly realised that he had by mistake been omitted from the side the Slovenians declared at the toss, and that he therefore should not be batting.
After consultation among tournament officials he was ruled to have been retired out, and 38 for three became 38 for four.
Captain T om Furness and Nejc Zupan battled their way back from these reverses with a determined sixth wicket stand against some accurate bowling from Azam Khalil and Azam Mohammad, and after Zupan departed Furness continued to hold the side together.
Two run-outs contributed to the Slovenians’ woes, but Furness went onto the attack as the end of the innings approached, hitting three consecutive fours in the penultimate over to get his side up to the psychologically significant total of 120.
Bradley Eve began with another fine spell when the Swedes replied, removing Sunny Sharma with the first ball he received and conceding just 12 runs in his four overs.
But at the other end Urban Blaznik conceded 17 from his only over, and Sweden were never behind the required rate – or the Duckworth/Lewis par score as thunder rolled around the Velden ground.
Sanaullah Habibzai rode his luck in hitting a 21-ball 29, including four fours and a six before falling to Simon Kaucic, but at 77 for six there was suddenly a chance that Slovenia might fight their way back into the game.
Sadat Sidiqi and Shahid Mustafa had other ideas, however, and their unbroken stand of 45 saw their side home with 13 balls to spare. Mustafa’s 17-ball 23 removed any remaining pressure, but it was Sidiqi who finished the match with a boundary to ensure that Sweden go into the closing stages of the tournament needing just one point from two games to be certain of booking their tickets to Belgium.