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The most exciting game of the day came at the ICC European Division Two Championships came at Ghent, where Austria edged out Spain in Group B, by virtue of their point gained in a tied game with Hellas. They went into the game level on points with Spain, but knew they needed a positive result given their vastly inferior net run rate in comparison with the Iberian side.
It looked like rain might give them that point, but eventually the skies cleared to enable a 15 overs per side contest. Austria batted first and made 116 for 8, with Amar Naeem top scoring with 55 from 44 balls. He shared in a 3rd wicket stand of 52 with Satyam Subhash (21). Best with the ball for Hellas were Spyridon Goustis (2 for 15) and Stamatos Giourgas (2 for 21).
In reply, it was nip and tuck all the way, as Hellas recovered from the loss of early wickets to look poised for a win, thanks to a stand of 52 between Iordanis Kontarinis (42) and Stavros Nikitaris (16).
With seven needed off the last over, Hellas came agonizingly close, with Goustis run out coming back for the 3rd run which would have won the game. Nandeep Soggi (2 for 13) and Satish Kaul (2 for 18) both bowled well for Austria who now take on the Isle of Man at Brussels tomorrow.
Portugal won a rain affected contest against Cyprus at Mechelen, to edge out Finland in the battle for second place in the group. The final calculations were very tight, as Portugal has a net run-rate of 0.45, compared to -0.31 for Finland after both had finished on five points.
The game itself was somewhat marred by two rain stoppages, firstly when Cyprus were in full flow, at 103 for 5 off 14.5 overs. The stoppage broke their rhythm as they had scored 34 from the last 11 balls before the rain came, while only managing 13 from 13 balls when play restarted.
Nimal Durayalage smashed three sixes and two fours in his 33 from 16 balls. Cypriot openers Syed Hussain (31), and Andrew Mulkern (21) shared an opening stand of 59 in 64 balls, to lay the foundations for a late assault.
Zafar Ali (3 for 22) was the pick of the Portugal bowlers, although Muhammad Shoaib must be commended for his economy rate, conceding just 15 runs in his four overs spell.
Any nerves Portugal had chasing a revised DL target of 124 in 17 overs were soon soothed by skipper Nadeem Butt smashing 20 from the first over bowled by his Cypriot counterpart Michalis Kyriacou. Abu Butt, went quickly, and the skipper followed soon after to leave the game in the balance at 39 for 2.
The crucial phase of the game came when Rizwan Khaliq was dropped twice when he had scored only 5 and 9. He proceeded to score a match winning 53 not out from just 32 balls, which included 7 fours and 2 sixes.
Portugal had reached 86 for 4 off 9.2 overs when another heavy downpour meant no further play was possible. Their margin of victory being 20 runs on the D/L method.
Portugal will now face hosts Belgium, who earned their fifth consecutive win by beating Malta by 118 runs in a 19 overs per side game at Royal Brussels.
Batting first Belgium racked up an imposing total of 194 for 6, with teenager Jamie Farmiloe anchoring the innings, top scoring with 63 which included 4 fours and a six from 52 balls. He was well supported by Shaheryar Butt (45) and Simon Newport (43). Simon Newport provided some late impetus scoring his 43 from just 18 balls.
Isle of Man completed the group stages unbeaten, but only just after being pushed all the way by Portugal – just nine runs separating the sides at the end.
Gareth Morris went early for just four, and when Oliver Webster followed soon after, an upset looked a distinct possibility. Max Stokoe however held firm, and he made a run a ball 59 which included three boundaries. He shared in a stand of 68 with Peter Lewis (29), and helped by 18 wides, Isle of Man finished on 142 for 8. Babar Khan (3 for 31) the most successful bowler.
In reply, Portugal made a sedate start, and looked to have no chance when the run rate climbed to above double figures. That changed however when Zafar Ali came to the crease – he smashed 5 sixes and a four as he raced to 38 from just 17 balls, before falling to Jaco Jansen.
Daniel Hawke (3 for 20), and Arne van Den Berg (2 for 19) both bowled well, as Portugal fell at the final hurdle.
Rain played a major role in the game between Luxembourg and Finland at Kampong. Batting first, a well disciplined Finland bowling unit restricted Luxembourg to 86 for 8 in 17 overs, with Sebastian Finch making a top score of 17.
Rain meant that Finland would need 70 in 13 overs in reply, and that proved no trouble as they coasted to the easiest of 9 wicket wins with two overs to spare. Michael Shaw (22*) and Roholah Sadiqui (15) added 40 for the first wicket, while skipper Jonathan Scamans (17no), eased his team over the line.
The Austria versus Sweden game was a thrilling encounter, with the Austrians claiming a one wicket win as they chased down Sweden’s 154 for 6. Sunny Sharma (83) and Bilal Zaigham (35) shared an opening stand of 106 for Sweden.
Lakmal Kasthuriarachchige hit 47 from just 33 balls to get the Austrian innings off to a brisk start, but two wickets apiece from Khalil and Khawaja pegged them right back. Andrew Simpson-Parker (29) and Erwin Grasinger (23) got them close, before a late wobble.
Needing four for victory, they lost two wickets in quick succession, before Satish Kaul held his nerve to score the winning runs off the last delivery of the game, to spark off scenes of great celebration from his team-mates.
Belgium won the top of the table clash at Royal Brussels, beating Spain by 26 runs, in a result which would ultimately dash Spanish hopes of promotion.
Belgium produced yet another solid batting display in posting 169 for 6, with Sherez Sheikh making 38, and Shaheryar Butt 30. Skipper Andre Wagener chipped in with a quickfire 37 from just 27 balls, and that late surge was to prove crucial, Farhat Mahmood with 3 for 35 was the pick of the Spanish bowlers.
In reply, Spain were always up against the run rate, despite useful innings from James Morgan (27) and Muhammad Shafique (25). Talat Nadeem Ali offered some late resistance, hitting three sixes in his 26, before being the last man dismissed. Amir Iqbal had the excellent analysis of 4 for 29, while Andre Wagener completed a fine all-round performance by claiming 3 for 24.
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.