Ayyavooraju marathon sets up French victory
France bounced back from their opening day defeat with a much-improved performance against Gibraltar at La Manga 2 on Thursday, captain Arun Ayyavooraju leading the way with a fine innings of 95 as his side posted a much more competitive total of 215.
The tall righthander set the tone by driving the first ball of the match back past Ross Harkins and down to the sightscreen, and this the first of seven fours he hit in his 145-ball knock, which only ended when he was last out in the final over of the innings.
Ayyavooraju was given excellent support by Robin Murphy (36) in a second-wicket stand of 79, and by the time Waseem Bhatti was third out, with the total on 139, the French had already passed their first-day total of 135.
Intent on holding the innings together, Ayyavooraju took few risks, but with the assistance of the top order he was able to create a platform for a decent total.
But Kabir Mirpuri bowled well for Gibraltar, and when he removed Bhatti, Shahid Malik, Abdul Rehman Quereshi and William Singh in a valuable ten-over spell, at a cost of 44 runs, he brought his side back into the game, France teetering slightly at 179 for six.
Ayyavooraju was still there, however, and although he has in danger of running out of both overs and partners, he proceeded steadily towards what would have been a well-deserved century. The ninth wicket fell at 206 with the skipper still nine runs short, but last man Zika Ali stood firm, and the final over began with Ayyavooraju still needing seven.
He could only manage two more before he went for a big lofted drive off Mark Bacarese, and was caught at wide mid-on by his opposite number Iain Latin. Bacarese finished with three for 36.
There was time for Gibraltar to face eight overs before the scheduled lunch interval, during which they reached 22 without loss, but immediately after the break Quereshi made the breakthrough, removing Ross Harkins.
David Coram fell to Tom Liddiard soon afterwards, but then Kieron Ferrary and Mirpuri added 45 in what proved to be the best partnership of the Gibraltar innings.
Shahid Malik eventually removed both of them, and when Usman Khan had Latin caught behind by Bhatti Gibraltar were in serious trouble at 85 for five.
Further resistance was shown by Chris Phillips (23), but Gibraltar were falling behind the required rate, and their cause was not helped by a flurry of run-outs which saw them decline from 135 for six to 143 all out.
Zika Ali was the most successful of the French bowlers with two for 13, while Shahid Malik took two for 27 in a fine ten-over spell.