Fernando hundred enlivens a day of rain

Tue, Aug 21, 2007 5:22 PM

The weather took a hand on the second day of the European Division 3 championship in Belgium, with all matches being affected by some degree by prolonged periods of rain.

The two games in the Antwerp region, the Group A encounter between Spain and Finland at Rumst and the Group B match between Belgium and Cyprus in Mechelen, were able to start on time, but in both cases the innings of the side batting first was broken off before the fifty overs could be completed, and their opponents were set a revised target.

In Brussels to the south-east and Gent to the south-west, however, the rain and consequent ground conditions delayed the start for more than five hours, leading to much reduced matches being started late in the afternoon.

At Antwerp CC's Rumst ground Spain won the toss and elected to bat, and after the early loss of Chris Harris two half-century partnerships enabled them to reach 159 for two. Opener Shafique Ali led the way with an aggressive 68, made off 66 balls with 7 fours and two sixes, and he was given excellent support by Pedro Venus Valiente (35) and captain Graham Howe (32).

Ali stayed until the fortieth over, but once Howe was dismissed, the first of three wickets for Petteri Moilanen, the momentum of the Spanish innings began to fall away. By the time the rain drove the players from the field Spain had reached 186 for six off 43 overs.

Play could not be resumed until 17:30, which meant that Finland would have 34 overs to make 148. This was a clear advantage to the side batting second, but the Finns were unable to capitalise on the situation.

Moilanen and Chris Shaw gave them a good start, and Shaw (31) and Nadeem Quereshi (23) saw their side through to 81 for one. But both these batsmen and Stephen Viola were dismissed at that score, and suddenly Finland were 81 for four.

Venus Valiente had collected two of the wickets, and went on to take two more, finishing with four for 29 as Spain, helped by three run-outs, dismissed Finland for 119, giving them a margin of 28 runs.

There was a similar story in Group B, where Cyprus ran up 229 for eight in 42.4 overs before the rain came. Their innings was dominated by Sanjeewa Fernando, who had missed Sunday's opening game and who celebrated his inclusion in the side by recording the tournament's first century.

Well supported by Pelawatha Janaka (32) in a fourth-wicket partnership of 123, his knock of 102, made off 92 balls with 11 fours and four sixes, enabled Cyprus to bring up the 200 in the 36th over, and they were on course for a big total before the Belgians counter-attacked. Five wickets fell in the space of seven overs after Janaka departed, and by the time the players were forced from the field the Cypriots seemed certain to be dismissed within the 50 overs.

After the resumption the Belgians were set a revised target of 225 from 42 overs, and this was soon further reduced to 213 from 40 after another interruption to allow water on the pitch to be removed.

Nirvam Shah and Shahid Muhammad gave their side a great start with a 68-run opening stand, Muhammad hitting 42 from 35 balls before he was bowled by Janaka. From then on the wickets fell steadily, Singha Arthanayake the pick of the Cypriot bowlers with four for 38.

Javed Iqbal gave Belgium hope with 52, but his dismissal made the score 173 for six, and 40 were still needed from four overs. It was too much to ask, and the home side were all out for 190 with ten balls remaining to be bowled.

At Royal Brussels CC's ground at Ohain, steady rain followed by intermittent showers meant that a start could not be made in the Group B match between the Isle of Man and before 16:15. That left time for 25 overs a side, and after skipper Robert Webber had won the toss and elected to bat the Manx batsmen immediately took the attack to the Maltese bowlers.

37 runs came off the first five overs, and openers Peter Richards and Gareth Morris maintained the attack until the fifteenth over, putting on 94 for the first wicket before Morris was bowled by Mike Caruana for 62, made from 53 balls with two fours and four sixes.

Richards continued the onslaught, and although wickets fell at the other end, Ronnie Sacco taking four for 17, his innings lasted until the penultimate ball of the Isle of Man's 25 overs, when he was well caught in the deep by Grant Williams.

The Manxmen had made 170 for six at nearly seven an over, and this was a huge score for Malta to chase. They had the worst possible start when John Callus was caught fending off a sharply rising ball from Garreth Roome in the second over, and they were soon 19 for three.

Once six were down for 54 in the 14th over it was obvious that any chance of a Maltese victory had evaporated, and the batsmen's attention turned to protecting their Wicket/Run Ratio by not losing any further wickets. The final 11 overs produced just 24 runs, but Caruana and Sacco ensured that Malta suffered no further loss, the innings ending on 78 for six.

Even less play was possible in Gent, where Croatia and Portugal played a ten-over match. Portugal managed 58 for eight in their innings, Muhammad Asif the only batsman to reach double figures with 20 from 17 balls.

Croatia had little difficulty in knocking off the runs despite the loss of Chris Pivac off the third ball of their innings, the brothers Vujnovich adding 55 and bringing their side to the brink of victory before Paul was run out. Although the winning run was not scored until the penultimate ball of their ten overs, the Croatians were always in control with plenty of wickets in hand.

Tuesday is a rest day, with the final round of group matches scheduled for Wednesday.

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