Weather delays Division 3 semi-finals

Thu, Aug 23, 2007 5:17 PM

The poor weather which has plagued the Division 3 tournament continued on Thursday, with both the semi-finals being postponed until Friday because of the condition of the grounds at Rumst and Mechelen.

The match between Croatia and Malta will stay at Mechelen, but the other semi-final, between the Isle of Man and Spain, has been moved to Gent because it seems unlikely that the Rumst ground will be fit for play even if there is no further rain.

The play-offs to determine fifth to eighth places are, however, played, although both had to be curtailed. They resulted in wins for Portugal and Belgium over Cyprus and Finland respectively, which means a quick return to Division 4 for the latter sides, both of which had been promoted to Division 3 this year.

Portugal and Belgium will now play off for fifth place on Saturday, while Cyprus and Finland will meet to determine who finishes seventh.

Put in the by Cypriots, Portugal made a steady start through openers Akbar Saiyad and Muhammad Asif, reaching 90 for one before rain interrupted the game and led to it being reduced to 42 overs a side.

Saiyad departed for 33 just after the resumption, but a stand of 115 for the third wicket between Nadeem Butt and Tariq Aziz, made in just fourteen overs, took Portugal past the 200 with eight overs still to go.

Butt was particularly aggressive, scoring 87 off 75 balls with six fours and four sixes, while Aziz made 47 off 46 balls with three boundaries. Thanks to their efforts, the Portuguese reached 234 for six.

Mike Kyriacou was the most effective of the Cypriot bowlers with two for 38.

Cyprus started their reply well enough, getting to 27 before losing their first wicket, but once Babar Khan had made the breakthrough the wickets started to tumble. The Cypriots were soon 53 for six, and although Anil Nair and Kyriacou batted with some determination, Portugal's grip on the game never seemed likely to be broken.

Khan finished with five for 20, Muhammad Shoaib came back to end the innings and take three for 33, and Carlo Buccimazza took two for 10.

Belgium's game against Finland did not get under way until a quarter to four, and was accordingly cut to 29 overs a side.

Finnish opening bowlers Khalid Shahzad and Nadeem Qureshi had the hosts, who had elected to bat on winning the toss, in trouble at 33 for three, before Wasiq Syed led the recovery. Another fine innings from keeper Shaheryar Butt, who made 44 off 31 balls with three fours and four sixes, turned the game back Belgium's way, and they were all out for 171 three balls before the end of their allotted overs.

Stephen Viola had three for 19 for Finland.

Petteri Moilanen went early when the Finns replied, but helped by some wayward bowling from Belgium Chris Shaw and Timo Ilva took the score to 70 without further loss, and with 13 overs left Finland were in with a chance.

But then Shahid Muhammad and Javed Iqbal slammed the brakes on, and after Muhammad had removed Shaw and Iqbal trapped Ilva leg-before a flurry of wickets followed. From 70 for one Finland slumped to 92 for nine, and although Shahzad and Michael Shaw were able to play out the final overs the Finnish score never looked like challenging Belgium.

Iqbal took four for 20 in six overs, while Muhammad had two for 7, also from six, as the Belgians ran out winners by 69 runs.

It is a striking fact that in the eleven matches played in this tournament so far, the side batting second has only won on two occasions, including Croatia's victory over Portugal in a ten-over game, and yet, due no doubt to the weather conditions, captains persist in putting their opponents in. It has not been a conspicuously successful tactic, and it seems that many of these teams don't cope well with the pressure of chasing.

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