ICC European Division 4 Championships heads to the Mediterranean

Fri, Sep 4, 2009 10:38 AM

Cyprus host their first international cricket tournament when it stages the second ICC European Division 4 Championship.

For the winners of the six-team tournament it is automatic promotion to the Division 3 tournament in 2011 and the hosts, who played in the last championships at that level, will be keen to make an immediate return. They will have five opponents with Finland, the other team relegated from Division 3 in 2007, likely to be their chief rivals, plus Luxembourg, Slovenia, Austria and Switzerland.

At the inaugural Division 4 tournament in Belgium three years ago, Finland beat Cyprus but missed out on outright victory because they surprisingly lost to Luxembourg. Cyprus beat Slovenia and Luxembourg that year to win promotion and then got their revenge over the Finns with victory in the Division 3 tournament the following year - although it was only to decide seventh and eight place, both countries having been relegated.

This year Cyprus has seven players from Belgium 2007 and will be looking to make home advantage count. Michael Kyriacou, a 27 year old South African by birth but one of five nationals in the squad, captains the team. He is joined by new immigrants from Sri Lanka and Pakistan and an Indian.

Finland have only five of the team that lost their place in Division 3 two years ago but have the nucleus of the squad that hosted the European Indoor Championship in Kuortane last year. They have also appointed their youngest ever captain, Jonathan Scamans who only turns 20 the day before the tournament begins and, in all, have selected nine players who are 25 years of age or younger. Scamens, significantly, is the one Finland-born player in the squad.

Luxembourg will be looking to build on their surprise result three years ago but they have gone with experience. Brian Field is 60 years old and they also have four other players, 40 or over. The captain is 37 year old William Heath, who has lived in Luxembourg since he was two. He takes over from Romesh Paul, the skipper three years ago at the inaugural Division 4 Championship and is one of seven hoping to do better.

Mark Oman captains Slovenia for the second successive Championship and still has seven of the team that won only once in 2006. The national team has been playing tournament cricket since 2000 but its top club side plays in the Austrian League. No fewer than eight of the 13-man squad were born in Slovenia although their leading run scorer from three years ago is English-born Tom Furness.

Austria returns to the international fold after an absence of six years. The squad last played in the 2003 ECC Trophy when they finished runners-up but then opted out of European tournaments. They boast an exciting mixture of youth and players with vast experience who are keen to reassert Austria's standing in European cricket. Home-bred Timothy Simpson is the captain.

Switzerland also took part in ECC tournaments at the start of the decade but, due to financial limitations from 2004 decided to devote their available resources to youth development. The week in Cyprus will be a good indicator as to how far they have come with the tournament marking their return to the big stage. Azeem Nazir, one of eight Pakistan-born players, captains the team. They have been thrown in at the deep end as far as the fixture schedule is concerned with their first match against the hosts while Austria meet Finland, the other team expected to be vying for an immediate return to Division 3. All the games will be played on the three adjacent pitches at Happy Valley, just outside Limassol, with every team playing on all five days of competition in a round-robin format. Friday is the rest day.

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