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Belgium retained their unbeaten record in Group B at the ICC European Division 2 tournament on Wednesday morning with a seven-wicket victory over Hellas, largely thanks to an unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 67 between opener Nirvam Shah and Shahreyar Butt.
The Greek side had set a fairly testing target of 150, although the tournament hosts had done well to haul their way back after a rather higher total had seemed on the cards at one stage. Anastasios Manousis (37 from 32 balls) and Andreas Koutsoufis (34 from 24) had given their side a good start, and they were well placed at 72 for 3 at the half-way stage.
But their cause was not helped by three run-outs, and with leg-spinner Amir Iqbal bowling a fine spell to take 2 for 22 in his four overs and Abdul Rehman conceding just 17 in three, Belgium were able to restrict the scoring rate well in the third quarter. Captain Stavros Nikitaras struck a couple of fine blows towards the end, and Hellas finished on 149 for 9.
Amir Iqbal then started at a gallop when the hosts replied, striking five boundaries in the first two overs, and by the time he was bowled by Manousis for a 26-ball 33 the total had reached 55 from just 41 deliveries.
A bizarre incident followed, when Sheraz Sheikh was given run out, only to be called back because the keeper had not had the ball in his glove when he broke the wicket. So Sheikh returned, only to depart three balls later when he fell to a magnificent catch by Koutsoufis at forward square leg.
Shah continued, however, first in partnership with Simon Newport, and then with Butt. Accumulating steadily, Shah made 43 from 46 deliveries with four boundaries, while Butt characteristically went onto the attack, hitting two sixes and six fours as he reached a 22-ball 45.
In the other Group B match, Austria maintained their pressure on the leaders with a comfortable 80-run win over Malta in Ghent.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, the Austrians made 171for 7, with opener Lakmal Kasthuriarachchige smashing 22 from just 14 deliveries, and Amandeep Amandeep making a 38-ball 40. hen Qamar Abbas hit 29 from 19 balls, with five fours, and Ben Loader 30 from 21 as Austria piled on the agony in the closing overs.
Nowell Khosla was the most economical of the Maltese bowlers, conceding just 25 runs from his four overs, while Andrew Naudi took 3 for 26. Malta reached 23 before losing their first wicket, but they were unable to score at a rate which gave them a real chance of reaching their target, and as wickets began to fall the gap steadily widened.
In the morning Group A match, Portugal and Finland only managed six overs before the rain came down and the match was abandoned.
Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.