Croatia beat the rain - and Finland

Wed, Aug 22, 2007 5:20 PM

The appalling Northern European summer took its toll on the final round of group matches in the Division 3 championships in Belgium on Wednesday, with persistent rain ensuring that three of the four games were abandoned without a ball being bowled.

The abandonment of both matches in Group B meant that Cyprus and Belgium were deprived of any opportunity to redeem their week on the field, and Thursday’s semi-finals will be contested by the Isle of Man and Malta. The Isle of Man had won their first two games, while Malta had a superior wicket-run ratio to that of Cyprus. Belgium had lost both matches so far.

In Group A, the point from the abandoned match proved sufficient to take Spain into the semi-finals, where they will meet the Isle of Man. They would have missed out had Finland been able to overcome Croatia in the one match that was played, but defeat in that game meant that it was the Finns who will have to play off for the fifth to eighth places.

If the weather in the Antwerp region and in Brussels was terrible, things were somewhat better in Gent, where despite a late start there was time to play a 50-over match.

Finland put Croatia in, and must have wondered whether it was the right decision as the Vujnovich brothers put on 59 for the first wicket. Paul was eventually out for 22, but Chris Pivac then joined John, and they added a further 71.

Pivac went onto the attack immediately, hitting five fours and two sixes in a 55-ball innings of 47, while John Vujnovich was more circumspect, reaching the same score from 106 balls with just three boundaries.

At 128 for one with fifteen overs left the Croatians seemed to be set for a really big total, but Finnish skipper Timo Ilva had begun a remarkable spell by claiming the wicket of Pivac, and when Ekhpelwak Kuchey removed Vujnovich with just 4 added to the total the Croatian innings rapidly fell apart.

Ilva took five for 13 in seven overs as the last seven wickets produced only 35 runs, none of the later batsmen apart from Mate Marovic reaching double figures, and Croatia were all out for 167 off the first ball of the 49th over.

If this collapse was dramatic, it was as nothing compared with the start of the Finnish response, which got off to a bad start when Chris Shaw was run out with only 9 on the board, all of them extras.

Pivac claimed two wickets and Phil Siljeg one as the Finnish batsmen found the Croatian attack uncomfortably hostile, if a little wild at times, and the total was suddenly 17 for four. That became 31 for five, but then Nadeem Qureshi and Stephen Viola showed some resistance, exactly doubling the score before Siljeg came back to remove Viola and then to take another wicket in the same over.

Qureshi fought on, despite a thigh injury which forced him to bat with a runner, but he was eventually dismissed by Jason Butkovic, ninth out for 21 with the total on 72. The last Finnish pair added another 15, but Pivac returned to finish the innings in the 37th over, giving Croatia an 80-run victory.

Pivac ended with three for 12, and Siljeg with three for 13.

Thursday’s semi-finals with therefore be between Croatia and Malta at Mechelen, and the Isle of Man and Spain in Rumst. Finland will play Belgium in Brussels while Cyprus meet Portugal in the play-offs for fifth to eighth place.

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