Finland stay in the hunt with victory over the Isle of Man
The battle for the semi-final places from Group B remained too close to call on Thursday morning as Finland ensured that their afternoon showdown with Hellas would decide the outcome, when they dismissed the Isle of Man for 82 and went on to win by six wickets.
The Manx began quietly against the Finnish new ball attack of Tariq Sarfraz and Bilal Khan, but once Sarfraz removed Max Stokoe in the fifth over with the total on 11 wickets fell at regular intervals, and with only Alex Stokoe and Philip Littlejohns reaching double figures they were in deep trouble at 40 for seven.
Madhu Bhandari was the main destroyer for Finland with four for 12 from his four overs, and then Obaidullah Sadiqui took over, taking three for 11. The total would have been even lower but for a quick 21 from Garreth Roome, batting at No. 10, who made 21 from 10 deliveries to get his side up to 82.
F inland lost three quick wickets when they replied, and when Arne van den Berg removed Jonathan Scamans they were still in some peril at 32 for four. But skipper Amrik Bhatia and Bilal Khan added 52 in an unbroken fifth-wicket stand which took them past the winning post with three overs left. Bilal made 35 from 20 deliveries, while Bhatia finished on 23.
Hellas kept their slim hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive, and put an end to those of Cyprus, by securing a 7-wicket victory in the first-ever meeting between the two sides at Messonghi.
A Cypriot total of 138 for seven was largely due to a fine half-century by Muhammad Mohsin, whose 55 came from 40 deliveries with three fours and four sixes, while captain Michaelis Kyriacou gave his side a steady start with 32 from 34 balls, sharing an opening stand of 44 with Syed Hussain.
Aslam Mohammad bowled a useful spell of medium pace, removing both openers and finishing with two for 21, but it was left-arm spinner Mehmood Ahmed who cleaned up at the end, taking three wickets, all caught in the deep, in the final over of the innings to finish with three for 29.
Aslam then began the Greek reply at a gallop, reaching his half-century from just 22 deliveries and enabling his side to reach 78 without loss from the first six overs. He and Anastasios Manousis put on 89 for the first wicket before Aslam, having made 60 from 24 balls, skied Gurbhej Singh to cover.
Singh and Mohsin now put on the brakes, picking up a wicket each and conceding only five runs in four overs as the Greek juggernaut briefly ground to a halt. Singh even had the rare distinction of bowling a wicket maiden, in which he took a skied return catch after bowling a full toss to Manousis.
But Hellas had plenty of overs in hand, and Nik Pothas and Mehmood Ahmed gradually got the momentum going again, Pothas ending the game with a six over midwicket with more than four overs to spare. He finished on 30 not out, from 17 deliveries with two fours and two sixes.
At Ropa Valley No. 2 Spain made sure of a place in the semi-finals by inflicting a 10-wicket defeat on Malta.
Maltese captain Andrew Naudi was again his side’s top-scorer with 29 in a total of 119, while his opposite number Mike Spencer Mark Spencer was the main wicket-taker for Spain, cleaning up the tail to finish with three for 10.
But the early damage was done by Talat Ali, Mohib Hussain and Sajad Ali, who claimed two wickets apiece at a cost of 33, 22 and 17.
And then Armaghan Khan and Tariq Ali knocked off the runs in just 11.2 overs, with Khan finishing on 51 and Tariq on 58, each facing 34 balls. Khan’s innings included four fours and three sixes, while Tariq his three fours and five sixes, bringing his aggregate for the group phase to 383 runs, made at a strike rate of 211.60.
Rain intervened for the first time in the tournament as Portugal set a substantial total of 165 for five against Luxembourg. Opener Tariq Aziz batted throughout the 20 overs, making an unbeaten 85 from 65 deliveries with four fours and five sixes, and sharing in a stand of 59 for the fourth wicket with Rizwan Khaliq (32 from 15 balls) and an unbroken one of 52 with Paulo Buccimazza in the closing overs.
Spinners Chris Evans and Piran Merkl picked up two wickets apiece, at a cost of 21 and 24 runs respectively.
But then a spell of heavy rain caused a five-over reduction in Luxembourg’s allocation, with a consequent revision of their target to 131. It was always going to be a difficult task, and despite a 33-ball innings of 40 from Joost Mees the chase fell 12 runs short. Nadeem Nazar was the most successful of the Portuguese bowlers with two for 27.