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Spain kept their qualification hopes very much alive at the ICC European Division Two tournament when they timed a potentially difficult run chase to perfection to defeat Hellas by seven wickets at Mechelen.
A slow start from Hellas meant they were always on the back foot, and it took a late surge from Georgios-Chry Stogiannos to take their total up to 142 for 6. The belligerent right hander scored 45 from just 21 balls.
The early wickets of Mehmood Ahmed and Anastasios Manousis, both without scoring, meant Hellas required a period of consolidation. That was provided by Andreas Koutsoufis (26), Oliver Hutton (25), and Stavros Nikitaris (29).
In reply, Hellas were given an early boost by the run out of Sajad Ali, but a second wicket partnership of 65 between James Morgan (22) ans Shafique Ali settled the nerves. Shafique Ali scored exactly 50 from 34 balls, before being well caught on the deep midwicket boundary by Iordanis Kontarinis off the bowling of Mehmood Ahmed.
Tanveer Iqbal then proceeded to blast Hellas out of the game, hitting five sixes, two of which sailed out of the ground, to finish unbeaten on 39, as the win was secured with 15 balls remaining.
Spain now take on Belgium tomorrow at Royal Brussels, in a crucial game which will go a long way to decide on who tops the group.
In the bottom of the table clash at Royal Brussels in Group A, Luxembourg defeated Cyprus by 41 runs (D/L) to earn their first win of the competition. An unbroken fourth-wicket partnership of 101 between Taral Desai and Nishith Gandhi was the bedrock of their victory. Desai top scored with 56 from just 42 balls, while Gandhi made his unbeaten 29 from 25 balls.
Luxembourg captain William Heath had earlier made 31 from 23 balls, having come in when early wickets fell. Babar Ayub (1 for 22), Michalis Kyriacou (1 for 23), and Yasir Nazir (1 for 27), were the wicket takers for Cyprus as Luxembourg scored 141 for 3 in 18 overs – two overs being lost due to a rain shower.
On the resumption, the Duckworth-Lewis target for Cyprus was 143 in 17 overs, but in reality they were never in serious contention. That was due to the bowling of Piran Merkl (3-14), and Taral Desai (2 for 16) who blew away the Cyriots top order, reducing them to 36 for 5. A middle order rally saw them to a respectable total of 101 for 7, with Yasir Nazir scoring (26no), and Nimal Durayalage 23.
Malta’s batting woes continued at Ghent, when they were skittled for just 48 runs in 18.5 overs by Sweden. Only wicket-keeper John Grima, batting at number ten, managed double figures, as they had no answer to the accurate and penetrative Swedish attack. Usman Azim (4 for 14), and Azam Mohammad (2 for 12) claimed the bowling honours in their comprehensive victory.
Earlier, a consistent batting display, which saw six of the seven batsmen score double figures, saw Sweden post 160 for 5. Sunny Sharma (29) and Bilal Zaigham (28) shared an opening partnership of 54, while Piyal Rahman (37no) and Christopher Tebbutt (29) added 41.
Andrew Naudi and Michael Caruana each took two wickets, while Ronnie Sacco (1 for 26) also bowled well.
Malta finish the group stage with a game against hosts Belgium, while Sweden take on Austria.
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.