ECC Rep. Festival: Where to now for Norway?

Where to now? That's the question facing the Norwegian Cricket Board and its national team following its triumphant debut on the international scene at last week's ECC Representative Festival in Austria.

The emphatic nature of its tournament win over 'national' teams from Austria, Croatia, Finland and Slovenia has the NCB wondering it is ready for a bigger stage, such as next year's ECC Trophy, also in Austria.

However, NCB official, Bob Gibb, said this week, that while the national team may be ready for a tougher arena, the NCB was mindful of the protocol of cricket officialdom. "We will wait for the European Cricket Council to guide us on what we should do next," Gibb said.

Norway scored its runs at a rate of eight an over during its unbeaten path during the tournament. Its dominance was such that experimental moves to its makeup such as reversing the batting order and continual rotation of squad members did little to minimise its superiority.

The Scandanavian based team finished on 8 points from 4 matches, ahead of Austria and Croatia on 4 points, and Slovenia and Finland on 2 points.

Apart from Norway's general obliteration of the opposition, the main surprise was Austria's loss to Croatia, in what was regarded as the match of the tournament.

The Austrians needed a four off the last ball, chasing the Vujnovich brothers', err, Croatians' 222-1. Player-of-the-tournament, John, and Peter, smashed a 206 run opening partnership. In a rare display of Balkan unity, the Slovenian team cheered on the Croats as they steadily took Austrian wickets.

The Austrians were the only team at the meet with experience at a major tournament, having competed at previous ECC Trophies.

There was some disquiet through the tournament about the all-Pakistani composition of the Norwegian squad, although NCB officials pointed to three Norwegian-borns and eight Norwegian passport holders in its 14. The Norwegians are adamant they could meet ICC and ECC qualification rules at future tournaments. The qualification rules were relaxed due to the developmental nature of the tournament.

And as a developmental tool, the event was regarded by all teams and the ECC as a great success.

"Thanks to the tournament the team received sizeable media attention at home," Croatian official, Ivan Bilic said.

"A lot of interest was generated and tournaments such as this will be crucial for generating interest in the future, because it shows youngsters that cricket is for real and that cricket has a future," Bilic continued.

"There is nothing more exciting than competing against other countries from the continent and now people have a goal - to play for Croatia.

"The tournament was great fun and a good social event, but was also very, very competitive, which is what all players had hoped, I'm sure. Norway was however a class above the rest and nobody seemed to even have a chance against them."

Finnish Cricket Association official, Andrew Armitage, said the event provided a valuable stage for his players to make their international debuts.

"It was an excellent experience for our guys. It was the first time they had been able to play against opposition of that quality and they thoroughly enjoyed it."

Croatian officials were hopeful the indgenous nature of their team and their overall performance may gain them entry to next year's ECC Trophy. However, outgoing ICC European Development Officer, Nigel Laughton ruled this out. "Unfortunately they are not members and won't gain membership in time."

The other two main concerns were the heat (it reached 35 degrees) and the standard of the umpiring. The tournament referee allowed drinks to be taken after every 12 overs. The umpiring was initially marred by an overzealous application of the lbw rule, however, this reportedly improved. The umpires were provided by competing teams.

All regarded the organisation of the tournament of Karin Simpson-Parker as outstanding.